Archive for the ‘WOM’ Category

“The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”

– William Pollard.

That’s worth framing and hanging in every meeting room from Portland to Tahiti (via Paris).

Also, via Tom Asacker:

“Over time, unchanging relationships can turn into shackles that limit an organization’s flexibility and lock it into active inertia. Established relationships with customers can prevent firms from responding effectively to changes in technology, regulations, or consumer preferences.”

– Donald Sull (Revival of the Fittest: Why Good Companies Go Bad an How Great Managers Remake Them.)

Do you see where I’m going with this?

So… your new mission every day is to keep things fresh. That’s it. Whether you’re in the business of designing ads, repairing engines, selling shoes or answering calls from angry customers, don’t ever, ever, ever let routine set in. Try different things. Learn something new from every customer. From every sale. From every design challenge. From every product launch. From every commercial you hear on the radio. From every movie you catch on cable. From the games your kids play. From magazines you’ve never picked up.

Keep things fresh.

And go read Tom Asacker’s post on that very topic. It’s very good.

Have a great Monday, everyone.

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Brains on Fire‘s Justine Foo (PhD) on the sustainability of value props, innovation, and the courage of looking beyond conventional ROI:

Maybe it’s the idealist in me, but I’m hoping sustainability isn’t just a trend. I’m hoping this is the beginning of a paradigm shift toward more sustainable business practices in general. Not just with respect to the use of renewable vs. non-renewable resources for manufacturing. But also with respect to the kinds of consumer goods we innovate, and how we communicate about products and services to people. I long to see sustainability as a price of entry for doing business, and yes marketing. Wouldn’t it be nice if you actually kept, for example, 80% of the mail you get instead of throwing it straight in the trash?

We spend billions of dollars on communications that are short-lived and sadly waste paper, vinyl, and other things. We know that mass advertising isn’t having the impact it used to, and that we need to look to other venues like word of mouth. But even then we’re still thinking short term; creating buzz, not lasting energy and enduring excitement.


You’ll think I’m crazy. But I’m hoping that oil prices stay high. That the “crisis” mainstream advertisers are in doesn’t subside. That consumers continue to grow their demand for pesticide-free, natural, organic. Even that food prices rise. It’s instabilities like these that drive REAL change. Why? Because they create the motivation for finding a better way to do things. They force us to innovate and not relax back into the status quo.

Marketing, like manufacturing, stands at the doorstep of a great opportunity. An opportunity to revolutionize how we think about growth, measure return, and exist in relation to the communities that support us. Will we invest in developing better, smarter, more efficient ways to excite people about our products? Or will we continue to play the numbers game and bask in a false sense of security we feel when we’re promised a reach of thousands and millions of people, even when our strategic objectives have moved beyond raising awareness.

It will take courage to look beyond conventional ROI. It will take dedication and creativity to see new ways to measure return. It will also take companies demanding sustainability from their marketing departments and partners. And the recognition that it emerges from passion and excitement, not impressions.

Source post.

If you think that the gas prices comment is harsh, well… yeah. It is. But when we’re too set in our ways to make necessary changes on our own, the universe has a funny way of using the foot-in-ass technique to get us to move. It may not be pleasant, but that’s just how it is. Deal with it.

The same is true about business. Way too many companies are still in denial mode: “We’ve been doing it this way for 50 years and it’s worked fine!” (Yet their business is going down the drain and they can’t figure out why.) Wake up and smell what’s cooking. Numbers don’t lie. Customers don’t lie. Your bottom-line and market share don’t lie. Winners win and losers lose: What is true of athletes, nations, products and even species is also true of marketing campaigns and businesses.

Reality is often too harsh to bear. True leaders accept reality and deal with it. Far too many business executives, however, are not leaders. For them, competition, price pressures and innovation are the cosmic kicks to the rump that force them to cast their “business as usual” mentalities aside and get back in the game, sometimes much too late, when at all

Leaders and the companies they head will survive. Posers will not. I say let natural selection, market forces and user/customer communities sort them out.

Great post, Justine.

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WOMMA’s Word Of Mouth Marketing Summit is kicking off in Vegas this week, and let me just say that I’m a bit bummed about not being there.

Nicole Sampson and Patrick Rooney sending me emails from the Rio’s pool isn’t helping, by the way. (But keep sending me updates anyway. It’s all good.) ;D

In honor of WOMMA, WOM, and the best conference I won’t be attending in 2007, here is my favorite post on WOM so far this quarter (from Scott Ginsberg’s HELLO, my name is blog):

Oscar Wilde once remarked, “The only thing worse than being talked about is NOT being talked about.”

So, if your customers are not ACTIVELY telling their friends about your business…

1. That means you’re probably selling a dead brand.

2. That means you’re probably different, not unique.

3. That means you’re probably doing something wrong.

4. That means you’re probably perceived as a commodity.

5. That means you’re probably not word of mouth worthy.

6. That means you’re probably creating customers, not FANS.

7. That means you’re probably not getting much new business.

8. That means you’re probably not doing something important.

9. That means you’re probably not as great as you think you are.

10. That means you’re probably boring, unremarkable and normal.

11. That means you’re probably not making the mundane memorable.

12. That means you’re probably spending too much money on marketing.

13. That means you’re probably not expanding your overall customer base.

14. That means you’re probably poorly positioned in their minds, not in the market.

15. That means you’re probably creating customer SATISFACTION, not customer loyalty or insistence.

Look. Word of mouth is everything. And anonymity is your greatest barrier to business success.

SO REMEMBER: businesses that get talked about get more business.

Who’s telling their friends about YOU?

If you’re clients are not actively telling their friends about you, what (else) does that mean?

That ought to keep you busy for a few hours. Have a great Thursday, everyone. 😉

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Prologue: The Heelys Guestapo Incident

Heelys-haters beware: If you would rather spend your energy sniffing out Heelys-wearing kids and reprimanding their parents for letting them wear the devil’s rollershoes in your stores than being cordial and professional, maybe you’re missing the point of what your job is supposed to be in the first place. (Whatever it is, it isn’t playing detective Dickhead from the Heely Police.)

Face it: Heelys are popular. Kids wear them (heck, I wear them whenever I get a chance). And despite what you may have read or heard on the news, they aren’t any more dangerous than 3″ stilettos or 46″ waists – or both. (Perhaps less so.) The point is that they are shoes. Sure, they have a wheel built-in to the heel for when you feel like taking advantage of a slight downhill, but they are shoes first and foremost. You can walk with them without rolling around, and you can easily remove the wheel from its socket in about ten seconds flat if need be.

Now, I understand that Heelys can create some liability issues for retail businesses, and so I don’t have a problem with store managers and personel asking customers with Heelys not to roll down the breakfast cereal aisles like two-wheeled slaloming kamikazes.

I get that.

And I even don’t have a problem with store managers asking shoppers whose kids have Heelys to remove the wheels from their shoes while they are inside the store – as long as it is done gracefully.

A better solution would even be to simply welcome their customers to their store, and politely (that’s with a smile, thank you) ask them to not roll around in the store – for safety reasons: “Hey, cool shoes. You can wear those in here, but please don’t roll around, okay?”

That’s all they have to say.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the case in most stores that choose to enforce anti-Heelys guestapo tactics. Case in point: Publix. I was in there last week with the family unit, when a store employee or assistant manager or assistant meat department manager or whatever intercepted us in the middle of our shopping to inform us that Heelys were not allowed in the store and that our children would have to either change their shoes or wait outside.

Excuse me?

This is probably the place in this post where I should make a point to say that my progeny wasn’t rolling down the aisles. They were just walking. They were simply guilty of wearing a particular brand of shoes.

Here’s the thing: It’s bad enough that we have to take our shoes off to go through “security” checkpoints at our nation’s airports, but I sure as hell am not about to take my shoes off to go shopping at Publix. It isn’t like we carry an extra set of shoes for the kids just in case some asshole in a store has nothing better to do than play shoe cop instead of doing his job – which, by the way, essentially consists of being friendly to customers and making sure what I want to buy is waiting for me on the shelf.

Oh, and make sure his green apron isn’t streaked with greasy Dorito crumbs. That would be nice.

So here we are, in the frozen foods aisle, with this jackass standing in front of my wife – blocking us from going any further, telling us that our kids (who were just walking, mind you) aren’t welcome in the store because of the shoes they are wearing.

He isn’t saying this with a smile. This moron has a frown on his face and a fist on his hip, and a finger shaking at our kids’ feet.

“But they aren’t rolling,” we answer.

“It doesn’t matter,” replies jackass.

Well, okay then. We handed him the contents of out shopping cart (literally), and informed him that we would be going across the street to their competitor’s store… which we did.

Discovering that the grass is greener elsewhere

I wasn’t happy about this, because until then, I enjoyed shopping at Publix (clean aisles, friendly cashiers, nice layout, etc.) To make matters worse, I wasn’t a big fan of the shopping experience at the competitor’s store across the street. But whatever. We needed to buy some vittles, and anywhere was better than Publix – so across the street we went.

And that’s when I realized the full scope of Publix’s error of judgement.

Until our encounter with the Heelys Nazi, I had no reason to look for alternatives to Publix. In my little grocery shopping universe, it sat squarely at the top of the heap, save perhaps the Whole Foods and Fresh Markets and other “premium” grocery store brands in my general area. Other local chains like Bi-Lo, Super Walmart and Ingles were – at least in my mind – dirty, gloomy, unfriendly places where I hated to shop.

Yes, hated: I would rather pay 30% more for my gallon of skim milk at the posh and happy Publix than have to suffer the long checkout lines, unfriendly cashiers, and sorry-looking produce sections at the other stores.

But guess what: The Ingles across the street from Zig-Heil Publix had enjoyed a makeover since the last time I visited its tired, gloomy aisles, and what I saw shocked me: The gloom was gone. The produce section was twice as big as Publix and much nicer. (The produce was super fresh and bountiful too, which I didn’t expect.) Everything I could get at Publix was there as well, and then some. Ingles’ bread selection was broader. Their deli section had some stuff that Publix didn’t offer, which was a nice surprise.

But best of all, the prices were unbelievably low compared to Die Shiltzenfuhrer Publix.

$1.59 for a couple of hot, juicy, delicious giant chili dogs? $2.59 for a humongous chef salad? $4.99 for a whole rotisserie chicken? Is this possible?

It wasn’t until we got home that we realized that not only was Ingles’ store-made stuff cheaper, it also tasted better than anything made by Publix. We’ve been shopping there for the last week, and so far, haven’t missed Publix one bit.

I have come to the conclusion that I am an idiot for having been such a snob about Ingles over the last few years. I should have given it another chance a lot sooner. We could have saved a crapload of money in the process.

Autopilot purchasing habits vs. habit-busting triggers

The point of this post isn’t to sing Ingles’ praises or rub Publix’ nose in it, or even defend shoppers’ rights to wear Heelys inside stores and malls and other places of business.

Nope, the purpose of this post is to remind businesses that their customers choose to shop at their stores. They don’t have to. They choose to. If customers have a pleasant experience, they come back. If customers have a bad experience, they go somewhere else. It is that simple.

Whenever a business does something to make a customer feel disenfranchised, that customer is going to find an alternative to that business before you can even say “refund”. Bad service at Jiffy Lube? Hello Grease Monkey! Sprint dropping calls and screwing up your bill every month? Hello Verizon! Someone giving you attitude at Office Max? Hello Staples! Welcome to the wonderful world of competition and free markets: If you don’t value a customer’s greenbacks, someone near you will be more than happy to do so.

Maybe in the grand scheme of things, losing one customer’s business isn’t all that important to a company with hundreds of stores across a large portion of the US. But hey, one family is easily worth $5,000-$6,000 in revenue per year, which is nothing to sneeze at for any single store. To make matters worse, Publix can probably expect to lose a few more households to their across-the-street neighbor over the next few months, thanks to our opnion’s impact on many of our peers’ purchasing habits. By next spring, we’ll probably have moved close to a dozen families from Publix to Ingles. Hopefully more.

Yep, that’s right: Mr. Dumbassistant manager’s self-righteous bullying has probably cost his store $60K in revenue per year, just by virtue of having turned off one customer.

Imagine his impact on his store if he chases away one customer every day… Or even just two per week, if you want to give him the benefit of the doubt. He could be chasing away millions of dollars of revenue per year, just by being a dick.

The point is that we’re all set in our little shopping habits: We have our favorite gas stations, our favorite restaurants, our favorite dry cleaners, our favorite car washes, our favorite bookstores, our favorite electronics stores, and our favorite grocery stores. We are creatures of habit. It takes a trigger to get us to change our purchasing habits.

A recommendation from a friend or peer is a trigger (Yey to WOM). A special sale is a trigger. A grand opening is a trigger. A clever bit of signeage is a trigger. Effective marketing can be a trigger.

And, as Publix may or may not be aware of, a bad experience can also be a very powerful trigger.

Here’s a tip: Don’t ever let a customer leave your store angry.

Here’s another tip: Don’t ever treat a customer like a criminal when they haven’t broken any laws or caused mayhem in your store.

What the Publix Nazi did went far beyond making me angry. In truth, I would have probly gotten over it in time, and within weeks, I would have been right back at that Publix, settling into my old habits. What he did was give me a reason to go discover what his competition had to offer.

That was his mistake.

That was the outcome of his moronic decision to put aside common sense, politeness, and the values of his store, and choose instead to be a complete asshole.

If you’re a store owner or manager, let this be a warning to you: Prohibiting kids from rolling around in their Heelys inside your stores makes sense. Prohibiting kids from wearing their Heelys inside your stores is ridiculous. Worse yet, treating them and their parents like criminals when they do the latter is both bad form and bad business. They’re shoes, people. Move on. Find something better to do, like taking good care of your customers instead of policing them.

Unless you just want to hand over your best customers to your competitors, free of charge.

For shame.

Judging by how many of my kids’ friends also have Heelys, I hate to think of the volume of business being lost on a daily basis by stores more interested in mindlessly enforcing unnecessary “rules” than handling their customers with a modicum of tact and professionalism.

Kneejerk policies = Bonehead customer experience disasters.

Okay, rant over. Have a great Monday, everyone.

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From Francois Gossieaux’s brilliant Emergence Marketing blog this week:

Reveries.com conducted a survey on the potential of social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Myspace as media for marketing activities (pdf download of survey summary results and analysis are here). The main finding seems to be that marketers are in the very early stages of truly understanding the potential of these new networks – with only 18% of the respondents calling the potential of online social networks as a medium for marketing “huge”.

Other interesting tidbits from the survey include the fact that marketers see “word of mouth” as the most promising aspect of social networking sites, and that many pointed out that marketers should participate in the conversations that take place on those sites without interrupting them.

Unfortunately, the reality is that many spammers have already invaded Facebook, Myspace and other similar sites. Go check the walls of the most popular interest groups in Facebook to see for yourself – many are littered with posts that are total sales pitches or with information that is totally irrelevant to the group’s conversation.

Speaking of Word-of-Mouth, EM has an interesting post on the subject as well:

The latest issue of the Harvard Business Review has an article on how to calculate the value of customer referrals (article not online yet).

They conducted two studies – one in telecom and one in financial services. Some interesting findings from those calculations include:

  • People refer way less than they say they do
  • The customer referral value is higher than the customer life-cycle value
  • The people with the highest customer life-cycle value are not the ones with the highest referral value
The importance of these findings are twofold. First you need to segment your customers along the customer life-cycle value axis, but also along the customer referral value axis. That will enable you to target your incentives to groups to either increase their usage or increase their referrals, or both. Second, this research shows that customers will low customer life-cycle value can in fact have a higher value to your company through referral value than those with high customer life-cycle value.

Read more stuff from Francois here.

Good stuff to chew on. Have a great Tuesday, everyone. 🙂

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