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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

How to Stimulate 'Organic' Word of Mouth

Econsultancy ran a blog post recently titled “Five examples of brands that succeed with word-of-mouth marketing”. They reviewed five examples of how companies large and small have driven their business growth through word of mouth. We certainly believe strongly in the power of word of mouth as a means to retain current customers and produce new ones, so we were interested.  First, their examples, then our recommendations.

Five Basic Examples of Creative Campaigns

Here are the five companies Econsultancy cites for providing outstanding examples of how to use word-of-mouth as a primary marketing tool:

  • Chipotle was recognized for its highly popular YouTube video (The Scarecrow, 2013) that happened to be a trailer for an accompanying iOS app that allowed players to earn codes for free Chipotle menu items. The video was designed to encourage sharing (5.5 million views); the app to boost viewer involvement with the brand (650,000 downloads).

           The sustainable-farming message of the video and app is reinforced by positive customer experiences with employees - typically jovial and friendly, and helps to foster the brand’s unique ‘food culture’. (A great example of past success though apparently not impactful enough to overcome the company’s multiple food safety scandals that have happened more recently.)

  • Netflix is acknowledged for building word of mouth by delivering the kind of original content that people naturally want to talk about. Additionally “Netflix boosts its customer experience by tapping into user data and sentiment – and delivering exactly what people want on the back of it”.  It well understood the audience’s love of binge-viewing and has scheduled the release of new series to promote such viewer behavior and the resulting 'water cooler conversations'.
  • Lush, a cosmetics retailer, largely relies on its brand values in order to raise awareness and engage consumers instead of making use of traditional advertising. “Its values are centered around social and environmental causes such as animal welfare, fair trade and ethical buying.”  The brand is committed to a zero-spend advertising budget so it relies on social networking to promote itself – largely as the sponsor of issues its target customer is passionate about
  • CrossFit, the branded fitness regimen, uses customer testimonials as the focus of its marketing strategy with “members sharing how and why Crossfit has not only transformed their bodies but multiple aspects of their lives”. Another tactic used is the workout of the day (WOD) which is posted on social media daily. People come back daily for the WOD and are encouraged to share their own results.
  • Slack, the workplace messenger application, uses a ‘freemium’ model, meaning an unlimited number of people can use it for free before deciding to pay for the upgraded package so it’s the word of mouth of the initial teams advocating the brand that are counted on to push the wider business to invest in its service.

          To achieve its goal Slack understands that it must provide a great customer                     experience and to that end is quick to point out that it has about four times as             many support staff as sales staff. Slack also works to keep customers in the                   know about product updates, and what is going on within the
          company in terms of culture and progression.

Our Recommendation; What You Can Do to Grow Word of Mouth

We’re not sure any of these are examples of the best way to produce word of mouth.  Many of them feel like fairly conventional marketing with only bits of strategy focused specifically on generating more positive word of mouth through current customers. However, they are all very creative and obviously the result of thinking ‘out of the box’.  But, as you will no doubt agree, gimmicks and tricks cannot be trusted to stimulate supportive word of mouth.

To really generate strong and ongoing word of mouth we believe brands must become more active and: 

  1. Provide customers with quality products (the very most basic requirement).
  2. Give clear and trustworthy after-sales support (another basic requirement).
  3. Educate, entertain and inform those customers who are loyal so they have 'content' (stories) to share with others.  (Otherwise only customers with negative experiences will have stories to share.
  4. Introduce customers to sites and other opportunities where they can pass along their stories, experiences, and feelings about the brand.
  5. Arm the best potential advocates (our unique approach for identifying those customers who are emotionally and behaviorally loyal and who are the best communicators) with 'props' (affinity merchandise: caps, t-shirts, etc.) that signal to others they have experience with the brand and are willing to talk about it. 
8:43 am edt          Comments

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A New Benefit for Customer Loyalty: Emergency Evacuation!

Along with the terrible pictures out of Texas of Hurricane Harvey in recent weeks also came some wonderful heart-warming stories of people helping friends and complete strangers.  One of those stories referred to Chick-fil-A.  The uniqueness of this account reminded us of the conclusions we drew about the company from a review we previously wrote of that company’s very different approach to increasing customer loyalty and retention.

Not Your Average Customer Loyalty Program

Chick-fil-A enjoys tremendous customer loyalty but the chain doesn’t follow the crowd with a traditional loyalty points or miles program.  Instead Chick-fil-A has created what it calls their “A-list” program.  Customers cannot just sign-up for membership.  Most don’t even know the program exists – it’s open by invitation only.  Participation in the program begins with local management identifying individuals they have come to recognize as frequent customers (and often know by name). Those individuals are personally handed a written invitation. They then go online and complete a membership form providing their name, email address, date of birth, and other information such as their favorite sports team, etc..

What Benefits Does Participation Normally Provide?

Once registered these valued customer begin to receive customized rewards and communications from their local Chick-fil-A restaurant.  Activities are completely under the control of the local manager and can range from A-list member group dinners in the restaurant, to tours of the kitchen, to participation in a neighborhood cleanup, or serving as an informal board of directors offering advice to the local franchisee. While corporate does offer suggestions, programs are totally controlled at the local level.  Invitations can be offered to anywhere from a handful of customers at some locations to hundreds of recognized loyal customers at another.  Last week however, a Houston store manager took loyalty to a new level.

Extraordinary Situation; Extraordinary Benefits

So what happened last week? The Spencers (that’s Linda and J.C.) are regulars at their local Chick-fil-A. We aren’t sure if they are A-list members, but they certainly fit the profile. The Spencers reported that they were okay for the first couple of days of Hurricane Harvey, but things took a turn for the worse on Monday when their home began to fill with water. So J.C. called the local Chick-fil-A, and the manager sent a boat (actually a couple of Jet skis) to help evacuate them.

“We had to get out of there so I called Chick-fil-A, now that sounds kind of funny,” J.C. Spencer said in an interview on Good Morning America Wednesday. “I ordered two grilled chicken burritos with extra egg and {almost jokingly added "and a boat"].  Much to our surprise and relief, one of the managers sent her husband to pick us up - in his boat!  We are so grateful.”

Certainly not a typical benefit of a loyalty program, but exemplary of the unique corporate culture and keen understanding of customer lifetime value that Chick-fil-A has created among its employees.

3:26 pm edt          Comments

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