I was thinking the other day about a conference and trade show I attended a few years ago. When you register they give you this bag with a bunch of stuff in it. The bag itself is useful, I guess, if you need something to carry stuff around. Of course, most people who go to conferences bring their own bags, to carry the things that are important to them--so it's kind of like this bag is really just for the stuff they gave you in the bag. 

The bag is full of flyers, and postcards, and catalogs, and promos, and other swag. I guess you could call most of it marketing material. It's all about capturing your attention. 

Marketing people spend a lot of time trying to attract attention through email marketing, and blogging, and direct mail, and television commercials, and billboards, and print advertising, and a ton of other activities under the guise of marketing. The idea is to do whatever it takes to get enough people to pay attention that you might convince some of them to be customers.

The problem is, in my case, the effort to win my attention didn't matter, because these companies didn't have my affection.

But there's a better way.

Capture your customer's affection.

What if, instead, you focused on fostering your ideal clients' affection? Think about what might be different if instead of trying to get people to look at you, you focused your efforts on building an authentic relationship that resulted in genuine affection between you and your clients.

Think about the brands that do this well: Apple, IKEA, Starbucks, Crossfit, or Amazon. They aren't chasing your attention, they are capturing your affection.

Here's how you can do the same:

1. You are your brand's best asset.

I remember years ago when I worked for FedEx, I would walk into a prospect's location and talk about what we could offer. In almost every conversation, there was a moment when the person would ask something like, "But what about Mike?"

Mike is their UPS driver and he's been picking up and dropping off packages for the last 9 years. Mike's basically family. They were seriously concerned if they switched to FedEx, "What would happen to Mike?"

Your job is to be like Mike. Wait, not that Mike, the UPS-guy Mike. 

Every time Mike walks into a business, it's marketing because he represents the brand. In fact, every interaction you have with a customer is marketing. You are the best chance you have to capture your customer's affection.

2. Keep your promises.

Your brand is a promise. It's a story about who you are, what you stand for, and how you make your customer's life a little bit better. When that story comes to life and your actions back up your promise, it generates affection.

The problem for many brands, especially starting out, is that they spend so much time making promises through their marketing, and not enough time keeping them in their day to day interactions. They use their promise to attract attention, but they never capture affection because they're constantly breaking promises. 

This is actually really simple, and you've heard it before. Just do what you say you're going to do, and don't say you're going to do something if you can't. Keep your promise. 

3. Delight your customers.

By the way, keeping your promise is the minimum standard of interacting with customers. In reality, you should aim higher than just doing what you said you'd do to capture the affection of your customer. 

For example, if you ship a package and it gets there on the day it was scheduled to arrive, that's exactly what you expected. And that's a good thing, but it's not exactly something special.

Likewise, if you get on a plane, and it gets you to your destination on time, that's not exactly remarkable. Well, okay, sometimes it is. But it's also exactly what you expected.

On the other hand, a month ago I was flying home from New York City when the Delta flight I had boarded had a "maintenance issue." I don't really know what that means, except that when you are sitting in line for takeoff and the Captain comes over the PA to tell you there's a problem with the starter on one of the engines, I feel like that's something they definitely want to take care of before we try to take off. 

So instead of heading for Detroit to make my connection, we taxied back to the terminal. Now, as much as I like New York, LaGuardia Airport isn't where I want to ever spend an evening. In fact, all I wanted to do was get home, which seemed less likely since my connecting flight was looking harder to make the longer we took.

So, I did what you do when you're stuck on an airplane and you have too much time on your hands. I sent out a tweet. To @Delta

Within three minutes, this was the reply.

Less than seven minutes later, I was rebooked on another flight if mine wasn't going to leave in time. I couldn't have done it faster over the phone. In fact, sitting next to me was a gentleman with pretty high status who did call. I was already rebooked and taken care of before he finished his phone call.

To say I was delighted is an understatement.

Despite the fact that it wasn't anyone's fault, Delta took what was a pretty frustrating experience and turned it into something positive for me and my family--on Twitter. Let's be honest, that's one of the last places you expect that kind of delightful experience.

The good news is, it doesn't take super-heroic actions to delight your customers. In fact, handwritten notes are one of the most delightful ways to generate affection. Nothing communicates that you matter like receiving actual mail with your name written across the front, and an ink-on-paper personal note inside.