The Power of Delight

What if we were doing it all wrong?

According to my genius friend and founder of Riddle & Co., Jeff Riddle, businesses are going about growth all wrong. They spend every waking hour and huge line items in their budgets on customer acquisition. Then, once a prospect becomes a customer, they all but forget about them. The common ethic, in fact, is to do the minimum necessary to keep an existing customer from leaving. That’s where the “sad state of affairs” bar has been set.

How messed up is that?

Not just from a feeling good about what you’re doing and how you’re treating others standpoint, but according to Jeff, it’s horrible for the bottom line, too. Analyzing large volumes of data, he was able to determine that 70-80% of new customers were generated not by formal acquisition and marketing initiatives, but by word of mouth from the 5% of existing customers who were most delighted with the product or service.

Newsflash – when you blow peoples’ minds in unexpected ways on a consistent basis, give them more than they expected and – check this out…actually treat them like you’d want your mom (assuming you love your moms) treated, guess what happens? They can’t shut up about you! And when they tell someone exactly what you’d say in an advertisement, it carries about 1,000% more credibility.

I’ve taken this approach in business over and over, it’s extraordinary how well it works. And how much more fun it is building a business based not just on the drive to acquire, but on the quest to delight. In my recently launched venture, Good Life Project, I have a line-item in my budget for delight. And I have a Director of Delight. Serve, solve and delight, in fact are among the core ethics in the culture I’m helping to cultivate, and it’s also one of the 10 Commandments of Epic Business.

But, here’s the thing, this isn’t just about business, it’s about LIFE! YOUR LIFE!!!

When we look at the key relationships in our lives, we often do the exact same thing. We spend all of our time, energy and money on acquisition, then once we’ve converted someone we shift into “minimum maintenance mode”…and wonder why everything falls apart.

Think about it. When you’re single, you really take care of yourself, you go to the gym, exercise, eat better, dress better, engage in activities that make you come alive. You leave little notes, text sweet messages, create surprise meetups, try things you’d never try in the name of finding new ways to connect, make time for dates, walks, hand holding and more.

You are in full metal relationship acquisition mode and you do everything you can to create the best marketing impression possible.

You start to attract interesting “prospects” and eventually “convert” one to boyfriend, girlfriend, lover, spouse or partner. You keep the same high level of engagement up for a bit, but then what starts to happen? You start to feel a little too secure. You take the relationship for granted. You stop thinking about how to attract and delight that person any more and just work on the assumption that everything’s pretty much locked and loaded.

Except, it isn’t.

Nobody likes being treated like a foregone conclusion.

We thrive on knowing that the person with whom we’ve chosen to dance WANTS us in their lives, thinks about us all the time, loves to be with us, cares about us and loves seeing us delighted. And not because we demand it, but because they light inside at the thought of making us light up inside.

So, what might happen if you repositioned “relationship acquisition” not as an end, but an invitation.

An opportunity to consistently surprise and delight the person with whom you’ve connected? In ways they’d never see coming? Even the smallest ones, just enough to let them know “I’m thinking of you, you matter to me, I appreciate you!”

In business, your marketing, sales and acquisition costs would plummet. In life, the quality, depth and duration of your relationships would take off.

And, rather than spending all your time trying to figure out how to get peoples’ attention, you get to spend your time plotting and scheming ways to blow their minds. And inspiring your teams and tribes to do the same. What do you think would happen to employee turn-over when the single overriding purpose of every person on your team is to serve, solve and delight?

Sounds cool, right?

But what about the habituation situation?

The what?

Habituation. Our stunning ability to absorb good and bad into a new equilibrium.

Picture this…

It’s a Friday night and the spouse brings home flowers unexpectedly. Wow, what a delight.

Same thing next week on cue, how lovely.

Same thing next week, nice color.

Same thing next week, whatever, put ’em in a vase.

What began as a delight has been demoted to an expectation.

Human beings have a remarkable ability to habituate both up and down. What elevates us in the beginning becomes baseline over time. So if we’re striving to always delight, doesn’t this create a bit of a hedonic delight treadmill, where we’ve got to keep raising the bar higher and higher to deliver the same hit?

And if so, how do we stop that from happening?

CAN we stop if from happening or do we have to just work with funny little quirk of human nature?

How can we make this all work in business and in life?

[Ed. Note. Jonathan Fields is a dad, husband, author, speaker, A-list blogger and serial wellness-industry entrepreneur. Fields writes about entrepreneurship and creativity at and interviews emerging world-shakers at His latest book, Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel For Brilliance, was named the #1 personal development book of 2011 by 800-CEO-Read.]