Twitter just provided yet another confirmation of the power of word of mouth, and a useful tip for you if you get into the kind of trouble that I did.
This could get you out of serious trouble someday:
The Wednesday before the Hurricane Irene was to hit NYC, all models showed that it would pass over JFK airport Sunday Morning. I had a flight due to leave at 9AM on Sunday! So, I called Delta and explained that in view of the almost certainty of the hurricane hitting, I’d like to change my flight to two days earlier, and I’d like to do that now, so that I could save myself and Delta from at least one more call before they got swamped with hurricane rebookings. Spoke to a “Doug Dole” a supervisor at their reservation center, after the request was rejected by a regular agent. He informed me that NYC was not on the list from which they could issue re-bookings. Only Charlotte was listed (at that time only about an hour away from the hurricane’s impact.) I politely pointed out that that was cutting it a bit close and that I’d appreciate his accommodating me, given the inevitable crunch. He informed me that the hurricane was due to veer off and not hit NYC. He said that a change would involve a $150 re-booking fee and a $450 fare increase, since it would be a cancellation and re-booking on short notice. I called back to another supervisor, who said that she would waive the re-booking fee, but not the fare increase.
What would you have done?
As you probably guessed from the Twitter reference above, I got to work with several posts on Twitter, openly ridiculing Delta’s weather forecasting (which I guessed was being done by Ouija Board). I pointed out that their weather update was from 6 o’clock the previous day — an eternity when a hurricane is approaching. I quoted “Doug Dole,” their Utah supervisor, as forecasting that the hurricane was not going to hit NYC.
As I was composing a satirical post, about a half hour from my first Tweet, talking about how they were getting their updates via carrier pigeon, I got a reply from Delta. Their DeltaAssist people publicly tweeted that I should Direct Message my confirmation number and the flight I’d like to transfer to.
I sent them the requested info, and they quickly re-booked me with no additional charges. They also changed the weather updates, and about an hour later put the whole East Coast, including JFK, onto the list of cities approved for hurricane re-bookings.
They sent me a public tweet saying that they were happy to be of service in rescheduling my flight. I tweeted a cordial thank you for being so responsive and a wish that their telephone people could have been the same.
- Don’t write private complaint letters. Use Twitter and the other public complaint and rating services to publicly flag companies that are not treating customers right. These will differ according to the circumstances.
- Although I can’t prove it, my experience is that humor, ridicule and particularly satire works better than angry rants. See my Word of Mouth book for examples. Come from trying to help them do better, rather than from anger.
- WOMM is not only about how you can increase it in your business. It is about how to wield the enormous power of WOM.
- It’s also about doing what Delta obviously does: it has a team that monitors the social media sites and has the power to cut off a very negative backlash before it got started. Believe me, I know how to use word of mouth. If they had let this go unresolved, I could have created a major, very damaging campaign, boycott, or other negative consequences that could have cost them millions of dollars, as I sat here instead of LA because of a cancelled flight. Treat people right. Monitor their complaints, if for no other reason than you don’t know who you are dealing with. There are better reasons to treat people right, but for people who only look at numbers, this will do.
- Why can’t companies like Delta do what it takes — like greater discretion, more aggressive forecasts, etc. — to handle situations like this? Why do we need to resort to public humiliation to get treated like valued customers? I know what they would say, and so do you, so I’ll spare you. However, the fact is that they DID treat me right, so they could have done so in my first phone call. BTW, JetBlue and Virgin were honoring re-booking requests at that time without a problem.
- So, Delta missed a chance with an influential blogger to make me feel good about them, instead of confirming all the talk about them being unresponsive. The fact that they eventually did the right thing doesn’t change my opinion, since they did it under the threat of further public humiliation. JetBlue and Virgin got kicked up another notch, even though I wasn’t even booked on them! Despite the good outcome, I will not be booking on Delta in the future if I can help it. By the way, in the current issue of its in-flight magazine, their president is calling for government subsidies for the airlines. He needs subsidies, given the way he seems to run his airline. Maybe I’m wrong, but I haven’t heard SouthWest, JetBlue and Virgin asking for government subsidies.
- And, the most important lesson of all: Treat customers like your friends because in some ways they are even better than your friends. They are the ones, not your friends, that bought your house, put your kids through college and pay your salary. There is no downside to giving supervisors discretion to break rigid rules. So, a few people might scam them out of a re-booking fee. A few skittish passengers might re-book in the face of an uncertain storm that is making them anxious. So what?
Let’s all look at how we are treating customers — even those who might be making borderline unreasonable requests. But especially those who are sitting under hurricane projection models that are clustered more tightly than ever remembered by experienced meteorologists. Delta, if you have to have an obsessive, rigid rule, why not make it OK to switch flights the moment NOAA predicts that there is a greater than 50% chance of a hurricane hitting? Is that too much to ask? In your in-flight magazine, you are actively soliciting suggestions. Let’s see how you respond to this. Awaiting their comments below.
Implied WOM — Here’s a case where it’s more important than explicit WOM
The Olympic swimming competition is providing a great example of what I call “Implied Word of Mouth.”
The current flurry of Olympic gold medals and world records in swimming is being attributed in large part to the new Speedo LZR swimsuits.
— 38 world records have been broken since its introduction in February until June, before the Olympic qualifiers and Olympics, not counting all the Olympic trial and Olympic records.
In fact, as of this writing, here’s some information that Speedo has on its website:
They have an endorsement deal with Michael Phelps. That’s an obvious use of paid word of mouth.
More importantly — and often neglected by people who are thinking about word of mouth — is the implied endorsement by all of the swimmers, many of them previously non-contenders, as they win medals and smash world records.
Adding to the situation is the controversy around whether the suits constitute “technological doping.” Swimmers and Speedo are being accused of using technology — rather than athletic ability and training — to give athletes an artificial edge, much like using performance-enhancing drugs.
It is just about the ideal word of mouth situation:
- A wildly superior, unusual product.
- Easy to talk about the product as a whole.
- A technology story that is easy to describe, thereby giving a “reason to believe.”
- An overall story that is easy to tell, even in headline form. (“New Kind of Swimsuit Shatters World Records” Better for the Company: “New Kind of Swimsuit Makes Even Mediocre Swimmers Win Races.”
- Celebrity endorsements. Some paid, others spontaneous.
- Implied endorsements by everyone who is seen on the Olympics wearing one, especially medalists and world-record breakers. [Note: This is the original meaning of “viral marketing”: a product whose very use is an implied recommendation by those who use it. It was originally used for HotMail, which had at the bottom something like: “Sent by HotMail. Want a free email account? Go to Hotmail.com”)]
- Controversy, generating buzz, that reflects well on them. After all, if the suits were not effective, there would be no accusations of unfairness.
- An amazing website (Speedousa.com). It is simple, uncluttered, fun, and allows you to find anything you want on a very information-packed website with only an obvious click or two. Their explanations are simple, yet informative. There are a few problems: they have a fun “Virtual Model” section in which you can construct someone who looks like you, and then try on various kinds of swimwear (when did “bathing suits” become “swimwear”?). Unfortunately, all of the avatars are under 30. More importantly, they have so many fabrics and lines that they need a comparison chart or a decision tool where you can enter info, such as whether you are a competitive swimmer, where you will use the swimwear, etc. and it makes recommendations. Like many of the sites that help you pick a camera or a television set.
- A product that is not yet available to the public, but will be soon, thereby building desire for something you can’t have. By the way, a full swimsuit will cost around $550, with leggings costing just $350, and trunks just $290. But don’t worry, they have models that are almost as good, especially for the non-competitive swimmer. By the time you check out other models, their $100 and $50 swim trunks begin to look cheap.
- There are dozens of other little and large issues around their product lines, website, attitudes, innovative spirit, etc. that make this a marketing situation well worth studying. I’ve barely begun to look into this company, and already I’m bowled over.
Note to any companies that are tempted to say, “Yes, but we are not Speedo,” or, “Yes, but we have a mundane product,” let me respectfully remind you of several things: First of all, stop saying “Yes, but…” Then, remember that they were a swim trunk manufacturer. There is nothing more mundane than that. Then, they were the first to use Lycra® in swimwear in 1972. Then, a series of innovations in all areas of sportswear followed that. To get WOM, you have to be EXTRA-ordinary.
The REALLY important lesson here:
Okay, here is your reward for reading this far: All of the above is an example of a much more important and broader concept: Decision Simplification. Speedo has made the brand choice decision into that Holy Grail of marketing: a no-brainer. If you want to buy a swimsuit and want the very best, the decision is now simple — a decision so simple that no time or effort has to be spent on it by busy people (everybody!). If you are an affluent and aspirational buyer of sportswear, what are you going to buy yourself or your kids? Simple. The suit that Michael Phelps and every other medalist and world record holder wears.
Many people have gone from only a dim awareness of the brand to the belief that Speedo makes the best swimwear. When they go to their website, they find out that they make a broad line of sportswear and accessories.
It doesn’t make a bit of difference if Speedo doesn’t make any money on the new swimsuits. They have, after all, put a huge amount of R&D into its development. They have now out-Niked Nike, the masters of the actual and implied endorsement. They have demonstrated in the most rigorous environment that their particular clothes actually enhance performance. I’m not aware that anyone else has done that, at least so convincingly and so publicly.
This particular formula for Decision Simplicity is simple to understand, but hard to do: Make a smashingly superior, astonishing product and get everybody to use it visibly because of the edge that it gives them. They don’t actually have to say a word about it, although they will. Of course, you might have to put in some R&D that will make the bean counters go crazy.
What this means to you
If you can make a product that actually enhances the performance of something your customers do (why make it if it doesn’t?), you are making your customers into a personal champion and making them feel better about themselves. They will brag about it. They will wear your logo.
Also, get the leaders in your customers’ line of work to visibly use it. Get them involved in its development, get their continual feedback, stir up the good kind of controversy and competition, make it something whose name and logo they are proud to display. It’s worked for Speedo, Nike, Canon, Nikon, Leica, Apple and many, many other brands that you’ve never heard of because they are in obscure and technical areas. But, I could name plenty of other brands in windsurfing, magic, photography, surgery and medical devices. There is room in your area, even if you’re getting clobbered by a Nike at the moment.
Here’s another idea: Maybe you should run an “Olympics” in your category. For instance, if I made voice dictation software and it was the fastest on the market, I would run a contest for the fastest “typist” (sounds better than “dictator”) in the world. They could type or use voice dictation. Since the fastest typist in the world types about 160 words per minute, and I can easily hit that with my present voice dictation system, the champion would be widely acknowledged to be the fastest in the world, using my software. My guess is it would be over 200 words a minute, using my software. This would be a real contest that actually demonstrates the superiority of my product dramatically, instead of the stupid, artificial contests that are usually run.
How can you take advantage of implied word of mouth?
Technorati Tags: Customer Decision Experience, Marketing, Decision Simplification, WOMM, Womworthy products, word of mouth marketing, Word-of-mouth marketing
Technorati Tags: Customer Decision Experience, Decision Simplification, Marketing, WOMM, Womworthy products, word of mouth marketing, Word-of-mouth marketing
Technorati Tags: Customer Decision Experience, Decision Simplification, Marketing, WOMM, Womworthy products, word of mouth marketing, Word-of-mouth marketing
Either you’re supporting the customer’s decision making, or you’re creating clutter and obstructing it.
Prospects make dozens of little decisions as they move through the decision process:
- Decisions about entering the marketplace. “Browsing.”
- Decisions about learning about your products and your competitors’. Technical term: it’s called “Shopping.”
- Decisions about initial experiences with the product. Technical term: it’s called “Trying.”
- Decisions about purchase. Buying.
- Decisions about expanding usage: Using. committing.
- Decisions about the whole decision and usage experience. Raving, Evangelizing
Different customers have many different ways of doing each of these. Each has its own set of rules.
Your marketing materials and activities are rarely in exact sync with your customers. That’s why there are so many browsers and shoppers, but so few raving fans.
People are more in sync with their friends than they ever will be with your advertising and salespeople. That’s why word of mouth is so much more powerful than marketing.
The lessons learned from all this is that you need to:
- Lay out all the dozens of little steps that people need to take in order to go from browsing to evangelism.
- Spend a whole lot more time eliminating these steps or making the steps simpler, easier, faster, and more fun.
- Find every large and small block, barrier, impediment and bottleneck and eliminate them. “Disimpedimentation.”
- Focus on the whole decision experience rather than just the user experience with the product interface.
- Put a lot more time, energy and resources into streamlining and funifying the customer decision process from beginning to end. [By the way, there is no end, at least not with on-going customers.]
Conventional marketing complexifies by shoveling information at already overloaded people.
You can use this decision smoothing approach by employing word of mouth and other techniques to smooth out the bumps in your customers’ very rough decision process.
More to come. Stay tuned. I feel another book coming on.
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Word-of-Mouth Marketing Speaker and Consultant
Author, The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing
In case you missed this hilarious spoof on WOM agent marketing, published over a year ago:Read More Post a comment (0)
I found the WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association) conference in Washington last month both exhilarating and disturbing. I’ve been worrying about the current state of word-of-mouth marketing ever since.
It was quite a turn-on to see so many people enthusiastic about word-of-mouth marketing. But, after Andy Sernovitz’ inspiring opening remarks about the simplicity of word-of-mouth marketing – it’s all about the simple idea that happy customers recommend you, which grows your business – it went rapidly downhill for me with subsequent speakers and panelists. And in a very disheartening way.
They talked mostly about technique rather than strategy
What disturbed me was an almost total concentration on techniques, methods and tactics rather than purpose, goals, objectives and – above all –strategy.
Granted, I didn’t see every presentation and I understand that several speakers did mention strategy. Also, in all fairness, many of the presenters on panels had only about 12 minutes to present. Nevertheless, I would assume that when you have 12 minutes, you present the most important essence of what you are doing. Also, there is tremendous pressure at a conference to give people nuts and bolts “how to’s” so that people can feel that they came away with something practical.
Nevertheless, there is almost a Christmas-morning delirium about our new toys, together with an irresistible urge to unwrap them and start playing with them. But, let’s not take our bicycles right out into the snow yet. Let’s spend a little more time on strategy.
Why? You can have a good strategy and bad tactics and still win because you quickly adjust tactics to feedback. With the right strategy, you’re in the right place at the right time, doing the right kinds of things (which may need improvement).
Conversely, good tactics will not make a bad strategy work.
You can even have a good strategy in the wrong place at the wrong time, so that neither good strategy nor good tactics will work. Think of the Iraqi war: Free markets and representative, constitutional democracies are good strategies to build nations. Getting rid of a dictator is a good first step tactically. But in the midst of conflicting religious and ethnic fanaticism, these strategies don’t work. They lead to civil chaos. The efficient, tactical win at the beginning was well executed. But the strategies were wrong.
Back to WOMMA. Even companies like Dell and Microsoft – who I respect tremendously – talked about all kinds of tactics designed to get people talking, instead of concentrating on the fundamental changes in their products that would get people to talk in ways that would cause fundamental product evangelism, loyalty and trust.
Instead, many speakers throughout the whole conference talked about artificial, superficial ways that will get people talking about how unusual the message itself was. So there is a proliferation in word of mouth circles of fancy videos, contests, and all kinds of programs that are more designed to get people talking about the medium itself — hoping that the “buzz” will somehow rub off on the product image — rather than talking about the product.
What I was craving was somebody getting up and saying, “here’s what we’re building into our product: things that will blow people away and here’s what we are doing to motivate and enable people to talk about that.” I’m sad to say that I heard absolutely none of that.
For instance, what is Microsoft building into their new operating system Vista that would get me to install it on my computer? Or, how are they going to get me to realize that a new feature that I might ignore is extremely beneficial to me, in fact so beneficial that I will rave about it to my friends? What is Dell building into its computers that would get me to buy one instead of an Intel Mac? No, they are talking about admirable and wonderful programs that keep them in touch with and responsive to various segments and niches through blogging and many other creative programs. But these are what should come after building products that are remarkable, outstanding, extraordinary and unique.
This is like advertising was before and after its golden age. Before the golden age of advertising, people just put drawings of the product in the mass media, without any benefit statements or even descriptions. Then, advertising hit its stride and discovered its true strengths: bringing dramatizations of the unique benefits of the product to the masses. It was “salesmanship in print” in the best sense. It zeroed in on the most beneficial, unique aspects of the product and dramatized them in an entertaining way that got attention. At least, the best of it did. Then, the side show took over the circus. Most of it — to this day — gave up dramatizing the benefits and went for image instead. “Sell the sizzle, not the steak” became the rallying call for the hypemeisters. Advertising lost its way and just tries to make an intrusive impression, confusing getting attention with fundamental persuasion. Advertising is now judged by its entertainment value rather than its persuasive results. For instance, after the Super Bowl each year, there are many published polls naming the commercials voted “best” by viewers. So, you can win “best commercial” and go out of business because the commercials didn’t cause any sales, as 17 out of 18 of the Dot.com companies did in, I believe, 2002.
Advertising that calls attention to itself — instead of something related to the product — almost never works. Advertising history is filled with examples. Many of them won awards. But the products failed.
In the same way, the present word-of-mouth marketing movement, I’m afraid, may be losing its way. Marketers need to spend more time creating products that are so unusually good that people will recommend them to their friends and providing the mechanisms to do so. Instead, people are focusing on the superficial aspects of our newfound ability to get people to talk about almost anything as an end in itself, in the hope that some of it will rub off on the brand.
This will be just as self-defeating as it is presently in advertising. Pretty soon there will be so much viral video and so many pseudo-sincere (or even actually sincere) company blogs that people will just ignore them. There will be so many “agents” who were given free samples, that people will learn to probe about whether they are an agent and stop listening to their friends’ recommendations.
Update: After I wrote the above, I came across this brilliant presentation of John Moore at the Jan, 2006 Orlando WOMMA conference, talking about Creationist (the hype marketers) vs. Evolutionist (people focused on the product and customer) marketing. Just one quote:
“The Creationist WOM marketing mindset is about making the WOM activity more remarkable, while the Evolutionist WOM mindset is more about making products and experiences more remarkable.” Well worth watching:
It’s not about the buzz you create. It’s about creating product decision and usage experiences that cause raves. A buzz doesn’t sound anything like a rave.
Here’s another post that references the best slide decks of WOMMA, including thank you, my own. Many of the talks are strategic.