Walk in a theatre for a Broadway play in New York and the appetizer you are given between the ticket counter and your seat is the Playbill. It not only is a tool to tell you about the plot and characters, it sets the mood for what you are about to see and hear. Walk in an upscale restaurant and you are likely to get “compliments of the chef,” a tasty appetizer preparing you for the meal you have just ordered.

Appetizers are aimed at stimulating the desire for more. In the early days of the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey circus, front men traveled in advance to small towns along the circus train route to put up posters on telephone poles, meet with town officials; and provide exciting material for the local newspaper to run. On the day the circus arrived, wild animals in colorful cages were paraded alongside clowns down Main Street. By the time the big top finally opened, schools and stores closed so everyone could attend.

How can you begin the customer experience with a generous gesture that invites, excites and ignites their passion? More than an advertising ploy…like the free taste of a new cheese the deli is pushing…it should be a proper anticipatory set. Custom Printing, where I get my large printing jobs done, will laminate your business card for a luggage tag while you wait on your print job. My local bank branch has a popcorn machine at the entrance. It sets the tone for the jovial, playful style you are likely to get from the tellers and customer service reps.

What can you do to create an appetizer to arouse your customer’s desire for more? Put on your best “circus is coming to town” hat and brainstorm ways to surprise your customers with a compelling appetizer that starts their experience with you!