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imageDave Armano and I had just had a great conversation about the future of marketing and the quest for a true, meaningful connection with customers.

As we walked out of the office, we saw street marketers wearing TVs on their shirts.  I have no idea who they worked for or what they were selling.  What a waste.

The week before I saw a semi-trailer selling software parked outside a Staples.  I’m sure this road show cost them a ton of cash.  The software marketers were ignored — but the toddlers in the crowd were thrilled with the truck, and the driver gave tours of the cab.  What a waste.

For what these sort of promotions cost, you could:

  1. Hire 4 customer service reps full time to search out blogs and message boards and answer people’s questions. 
  2. If those reps made 20 posts a day, you’d have 30,000 permanent incoming links to your web site at the end of year.
  3. Proactively stop negative word of mouth by responding to problems before people got angry.
  4. Make a ton of people happy.

Lesson: Focus on making people happy. It’s easier, cheaper, and more effective than big-splash marketing.

(photo credit: AdRants)

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Comments

  1. omer rosen March 7, 2008 at 10:48 am #

    Andy,
    the problem is that marketers tend to prefer actions were real tangible consumers interact with the products. Discussions boards perceived as less influential even though that it is well agreed that they can reach more potential clients.

  2. Mark N March 7, 2008 at 11:33 am #

    Andy,
    WOW! Right in the mark with WOM Marketing, and the trends shaping our interactive age.
    The You, Me, and Us is IT! Loved the great insight about all things WOMM last night at the South Florida AMA dinner. A big THANKS to you and your team.
    Who Loves Ya, Baby?
    Mark N

  3. Raza Imam March 7, 2008 at 3:44 pm #

    True that man. Connect with people, don’t throw money around and complain that you can’t track your advertising ROI.
    Raza Imam
    http://SoftwareSweatshop.com

  4. Chris Thilk March 8, 2008 at 3:47 pm #

    While I agree with all your points, the only one I’d question is the dropping of links. I certainly see the value, but I think that unless it’s pertinent to the discussion in a direct way doing so might be seen as spamming the boards or comment threads. If there’s something specific to point to, yes, it’s valuable, but if it’s not directly on-topic just leaving a link isn’t that great idea.
    Plus, I think comment threads to a large extent have “nofollow” built into their code so it’s not something that’s going to help build Page Rank or anything.
    Just my perspective,
    –Chris

  5. Michael E. Rubin, GasPedal March 8, 2008 at 5:20 pm #

    Chris,
    You don’t really believe Andy is advocating spam, do you?
    Re-read point #1: “Hire 4 customer service reps full time to search out blogs and message boards and ***answer people’s questions.***” (emphasis mine)
    The core motivation here is do something good (not evil). It’s about good customer service and answering people’s questions. It is not to increase incoming links or (heaven forbid) boost spam. Putting a yourcompany.com link alongside your comment attaches credibility. Otherwise, you’re just another guy with an opinion (and we have enough of those already).
    …Michael
    Disclaimer: I am a GasPedal employee and this is my personal opinion.

  6. Lloyd Duggnn March 11, 2008 at 4:54 pm #

    I agree with your premise 100% In an attempt to control word of mouth, large companies, in particular, are engaging in all sorts of what you correctly describe as wasteful spending.
    Your post calls to mind the best practice company you cited in your book Word of Mouth Marketing (which by the way is one of my top 2 favorite business books).
    You discussed how Conference Calls Unlimited took the money they spent on advertising and invested it in superior customer service. In doing so their satisfied customers are promoting them far more effectively and credibly than any gimmicks. More of the larger companies should take notice and stop all the artificial hype.
    We advise our small business clients who can’t afford huge marketing spends to create word of mouth the old fashioned way…EARN IT. Provide customers with a great product or knock your socks off customer service and leave the gimmicks to the big boys. It’s a lot easier to sustain and its effects will last long after folks have forgotten the gimmicks.
    You’re the man Andy! Keep doing what you’re doing!

  7. Jason Swartz March 11, 2008 at 4:55 pm #

    Andy, I couldn’t agree more. I also think that many marketers are guilty of trying to be the “cool kid” on the block by using alternative media, without actually thinking it through. Is this good for my brand? Is it going to drive any results? In this case, the answer appears to be no to both of these questions. I think your suggestions of using their marketing dollars to hire a few service reps and increase their online visibility through social media would be a much better option.

  8. Gary Storm March 11, 2008 at 7:16 pm #

    I think it really depends on your market and your penetration as to what strategies to employ. Maybe Staples were happy just to have a HUGE truck with their name on it, for lots more exposure… probably didn’t care whether the software sold or not. Maybe the tv guys are a company that hire out time on their walking tv’s… so depending how much it is, it might be a great idea… definitely eye-catching. Maybe you should check into the cost of these things before ripping into them. Horses for courses.
    My wife is a musician who is just releasing an album and has free downloads… I wouldn’t use the tv or truck (even if we could afford it, which we can’t), and everyone loves the album so far… but it’s still REALLY hard to get the word out via WOM…. even with free mp3’s.
    Personally I feel that a mixture of WOM (which can be very slow to get moving… people are lazy) and trad ads are the best strategy…. but your main point is correct… you have to really check into the trad ad side of things to see if you get the best bang/buck.
    As for posting/responding on message boards… that’s great if you are already a well-established company, and everyone knows your name… but what about start-ups (like my wife)? How can she let the world know about her album if she and her fans don’t mention it in posts?
    It’s bloody hard with WOM alone, that’s for sure.

  9. The Marketing Blender March 11, 2008 at 8:33 pm #

    Managing Complaints in Cyberspace

    When a customer complains to a big company with a big brand, there is typically a team of people responsible for resolving the client’s complaint. When the same customer posts a negative comment about a brand somewhere on the Internet,

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