Monday, March 16, 2009

What Are They Talking About?

When people talk about your business what are they saying? Do you know? More importantly, are people even talking about your business?

Have you given them something to talk about?

Roy H. Williams, aka Wizard of Ads, mentioned three ways at a recent conference to help you get WOM (word-of-mouth) from your customers.

First, you could choose to be over-the-top excellent in Design. Your store layout, merchandising, decorating, facade and mood could be so unique and outstanding that people talk about it for days and weeks afterward. Have you ever seen the Ferris Wheel at the Times Square Toys R Us? That's over-the-top Design. Does your business have a cool and unique characteristic? Do you flaunt it? I saw a program on the Travel Channel of the 20 coolest public bathrooms. It was totally intriguing. My grandfather always had the idea of building a carousel on the front of the store with half the ride inside, half outside. Kids could get on the carousel and enter the store that way. Imagine what kind of WOM that would generate (and yes, I'm still considering it).

Second, you could choose to have over-the-top excellent Performance by your staff. I'm not talking about "excellent customer service". Everyone says they have that. And, frankly, customers aren't impressed by people who are just friendly & knowledgeable. They expect that. In fact, the only WOM you get from excellent customer service is when you don't supply it. And that's WOM you could do without.

What I'm talking about is a performance so rare that it's exciting, extraordinary and unique. Customer service that is so over-the-top it becomes an experience. And it has to be an every day, all the time experience. If you've ever been to Pike's Place Fish Market you know what I'm talking about - and what customers are talking about. The throwing of fish, the yelling, laughing, playing, the customer involvement. What can you do every day to make your customer's experience more memorable?

The third, and most intriguing way Roy described was Generosity. What are you giving your customers to make them talk about you? A jeweler who replaces watch batteries for free, a restaurant who gives out free desserts to dinner guests, a hotel that has free curling irons, cell phone chargers, or web connections. Those are just some examples of generosity. But here's the clincher. To get WOM from your generosity you have to do it, but not advertise it.

Imagine you go out to eat and see a sumptuous dessert menu on the table. You know you want one, but aren't sure if you want to fork over the dough for an extra you don't need. But then your waiter says, "How about a dessert tonight? It's on me." How could you resist? And won't you be talking about that meal to your friends? Pretty soon, you'll be saying, "Hey, let's go to so-and-so's. The last three times I was there the waiter gave us a free dessert."

For the cost of some flour and sugar, a restaurant that does this could buy a lot of WOM, and a lot of loyalty. (And that flour & sugar could probably already be fixed into the cost of the meal.)

Word of Mouth is the best form of advertising - always has been, always will be. But you have to give someone something to talk about. Start looking at your Design, Performance and Generosity and see if you can find something worth a conversation. Then maximize it to the extreme and watch the talk begin.

-Phil

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