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May 22, 2011

Bringing Sexy Back to Offline WOM

[image designed by the kiddos at Brains on Fire]

At the 2011 WOMMA School of WOM Conference, Geno Church and I gave a presentation titled, “Bringing SEXY Back to Offline Word of Mouth.” It was less a presentation and more a RANT about the importance of not losing focus on real world marketing ideas that can spark customer-driven conversations.

Unfortunately, it’s become decidedly unsexy to talk about anything word of mouth marketing-related that doesn’t involve Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, or scores of other social media thingamajigs.

Geno and I went true school by sharing strategies and ideas for how businesses can spark conversations with customers all day every day in the offline REAL world. (For all those social media experts and practitioners who steadfastly contend social media solves every marketing problem, keep in perspective that 93% of retail sales in America happen offline.)

The following 425 words express some of the key points I made during my 15-minute RANT at the school of WOM. (These words first appeared in a recent CrackerJack Marketer newsletter. Missed it? Rectify it.)

Touchpoints as Talking Points

The best word of mouth isn’t a marketing tactic. It isn’t a tweet, a status update, a viral video, or anything else you can find or do on a social media website. The best word of mouth isn’t a publicity stunt or anything done to get some buzz for a day. The best word of mouth is how a business does business not just one day, but every day it is in business.

The word BUZZ needs to be eliminated from our vocabulary. Buzz is exclamation point marketing. It’s a one hit wonder. It’s one and done. Big bang one day, nothing the next day. Too many marketers are relying on the Big Bang Theory to get people talking.

And too many marketers are living for The DOT and not The LINE.

The DOT being a “One Day Big Bang” approach to getting people talking. The LINE being an “All Day Every Day” way to becoming a talkable brand.

The average life expectancy of a Fortune 500 business is 14,600 days and the average life span of a small business is 3,100 days. Clearly, a business is not in business for just one day; it is in business for a series of days — a line.

As marketers, it’s our responsibility to give consumers reasons to talk about brands, products, and services not just for one day... but rather, for a series of days.

To create a talkable brand, we must earn opinions from customers at every touchpoint. Anything a customer can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell is a touchpoint. Customer touchpoints are EVERYWHERE which means word of mouth opportunities are everywhere.

For example, any restaurant that uses a “Please Wait To Be Seated” sign from a restaurant supply catalog has given up on being talkable. This sign is one of the first customer touchpoints someone will experience inside a restaurant. It’s the perfect opportunity to showcase a company’s unique personality by creating a custom sign that expresses the uniqueness of the restaurant.

Starbucks has long practiced the idea of giving people reasons to talk by earning opinions from customers at every touchpoint. One of the simplest ways Starbucks earns opinions from customers is by deliberating calling their drink sizes Short, Tall, Grande, and Venti. The easiest (and least talkable) decision would be to use Small, Medium, Large, and Extra Large as their drink sizes. But there’s nothing interesting in the mundane.

The most talkable brands take common customer touchpoints and make them uncommon... uncommonly talkable. What touchpoints can your business make interesting to get customers interested?


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Eye-catching and creative graphic from the Brains on Fire team. I agree with your post that is just as, if not more so, important to give time and attention to the every day, day-in and day-out interactions with both current, potential and past customers, rather than just focusing all your efforts on social media audiences.

We recently updated a printed thank you insert we send out with our customers purchases. Because it is sent out everyday to every customer it has helped us see growth. It is tangible and something our current customers can use for their own reference or can easily pass on to their friends or acquaintances. Online is great and growing, but even for an online-based company like us, it is not the be all and end all.

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