Be a "Word of Mouth" Enabler

Sometimes delivering a great customer experience through amazing products, architecture or movement just isn't quite enough to trigger the chain reaction of effective Word of Mouth.

Think about the reasons that people might be hesitant to recommend. Perhaps I consider my experience too "private" to talk about…or don't want to share the "secret" of my success. Unless you ask someone for specific advice, you'll seldom hear them bragging about their top-notch dentist, plastic surgeon or medical specialist.

ZZ77DA195F Loss of proximity is another reason Word of Mouth loses it's oomph. If I have an amazing experience on vacation, but don't have an opportunity to share it until I get home weeks later, the magic of the moment has already begun to fade.

If you are truly delivering the goods to your customers, you should work on techniques to help them share their experience in the moment or very soon after.

Even in the late 1800s, the big cruise lines knew how to enable Word of Mouth among the millions of immigrants tucked away in 3rd class. On White Star liners, where even the 3rd class guests were served food by waiters on tables set with linen, the menu cards doubled as postcards that could be sent home to friends and relatives.

I think back on some pretty amazing experiences I've had and not been able to share until well after the moment. A great example is the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb. The system in place is a well-oiled machine for getting people rigged up, trained up and moved out into the superstructure to begin the ascent. Before you are back down, the digital photographs of your group have been loaded on monitors in the gift shop waiting for you to purchase them…which we did. On a CD, which sat in our bags until we returned home. Then, it sat on our coffee table for weeks.

Since you are not allowed to bring your own camera, these are the only pictures you can get of your experience and I'm sure that loads of people purchase them. How could they be turned into an instant Word of Mouth marketing tool?

What if the operators made the photos available on a kiosk, where you could just email a lower resolution picture to anyone you wanted, BEFORE you left the building. Yes, they might lose a few CD sales, but they would be enabling their customers to tell others in the excitement of the moment.

In this day of social media, they could take it a few steps further. Since most of their tickets are sold online, they could ask for some sharing details BEFORE people arrive and be ready to post photos and video directly to their Facebook, Myspace or Twitter streams DURING the experience.

What about your business? How could you enable people to tell others while the experience is still fresh?

6 thoughts on “Be a "Word of Mouth" Enabler

  1. Andrew


    I had exactly this same idea when I did the walk a couple of weeks ago. I also wanted to send an email (call me old-fashioned) to my brothers in England. Alas it had to wait until later when the CD went into my laptop.

    I am so impressed with the idea of immediacy that I have written to the Bridge Climb guys and offered them this idea and included you blog entry as support.

    Let’s hope that take this idea up and impelement it.


  2. Mark

    When I read this line “you should work on techniques to help them share their experience in the moment” I wanted to scream “No, No, No, No, NO!”

    But on reflection I thought, well it’s sort of right, and I agree with the overall point, but there’s a huge danger in trying to turn WOM into a technique.

    I’ve seen this time and time again in many companies who do turn the word of mouth process into a “technique” and hence destroy the very thing about WOM that makes it work. It’s spontaneity and naturalness.

    If you try and “Taylorise” the process, not only do you kill that part of it that makes it work, you actually turn people against you.

    People will always resist you trying to coerce them, manipulate them or otherwise use them to promote your business; even if they like your product.

    It can sour their whole experience of your service. “I had a really great time doing this, and then right at the end they tried to hustle me: The losers.”

    Once you turn it into a “technique,” then it becomes something that your staff “have to do” then they focus on it as a “thing to do,” “a part of their job”

    It becomes more about “doing something to the customer” rather than providing the customer with the best service.

    I know this is not the intent, or what you meant, but this is what usually happens.

    As I said, I’ve seen it happen countless times in many very good organisations.

  3. Dave Young

    Thanks Mark. I agree…never coerce the customer. I have a few clients working on referral programs. The hardest part is to keep them from shouting about their referral programs in their advertising. When you tell people about it and offer to reward them, you’ve just become the latest MLM creepfest, offering bounties for friends. No thanks. However, if you know someone who has referred a friend, it is entirely proper to thank them. That’s just nice. Smart business owners just figure out a way to do it systematically.

  4. dave

    hi dave,
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