I recently had a chance to tour a small local college during an open house event, and noticed several ways that the coordinators and students who volunteered, deliberately created meaningful experiences for us around one goal – shifting many of the high school seniors from “on the fence,” to “I want to go here.” A tour of the campus, free dinner at one of the 3 “non-cafeteria style” campus locations, free tickets to a college basketball game, and the opportunity to discuss their future goals with advisors, professors, and deans were the hooks for the 4-6 hour event. But that wasn’t why this was so successful.

We were on the tour when a group of students passed us and a few of them under their breath said, “You should come here. It’s a great place!” and “if you want a great education and to hang out with cool people, come here.” When we were in the dorms looking at a “not so large” room, a student who was trying to navigate through 30 of us who were crowding the hallway said “oh my gosh, we never get his many visitors, but come back when the tour is over and say hi!” “We would love to see you here!” As we passed one of the administration wings, our tour guide mentioned she had struggled with her major in the past school season and had such a good experience figuring out her next step with her “careers” advisor, that she stayed in school and was doing great now.

Now I started to get what made this day so successful. The coordinators of this event found students and professors who had PASSION about what the college meant to them each individually, which included being encouraged to share why they had such a great experience while being honest about their journey. And it wasn’t just about the school name or mascot. They were real, talked in their own language, and cared. Not scripted. No tag lines. When we debriefed on the day, my daughter talked a little about the name or the facilities, and we didn’t stay for the meal or the basketball game, but she did mention the people and the culture of the students who were around us when we toured the campus. She was hooked!

  • Does your company set the expectation of what great experience looks like?
  • Does your company hire people who have passion for the brand?
  • Does your company give you the ability to connect with your customers on a meaningful level, and reward you for that?
  • Is your company genuine and honest with your customers, even if the situation isn’t a great one?
  • Does your company listen to your customers and change based on that feedback?

Chances are, that companies who talk a good game but fall short, aren’t starting with the things that mean the most and cost the least. Customer feedback and voice should guide the work, while the real marketing and loyalty (and new acquisition) comes from the real experiences and passions of the employees.