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Give away your buns

image There’s a restaurant in Chicago called Ann Sather. They are famous for their cinnamon buns, which are served as an appetizer with every meal.  (Which is awesome — starting dinner with a 500-calorie desert.)

If you show up at the end of the day, they’ll give you boxes of the buns for free.

Every one they don’t sell at the end of the day is useless to them.  But when they give it away, it turns into a word of mouth marketing tool.  Everyone who gets a freebie will be telling anyone they see about how generous the staff at Ann Sather is.

Lesson: Every spoiling asset is a marketing tool. 

More examples: 

  • Unused hotel rooms: Use every empty suite for an upgrade or give empty rooms to families with kids
  • Car rentals: Reward someone with an unused upgrade
  • Closeouts: Give an extra item to shoppers
  • Samples: Donate them to schools and charities
  • Employees: Ask underutilized staff to volunteer
  • Tickets: Fill every unsold seat with a potential word of mouth advocate

Give it away before you throw it away.  It’s worth a dozen referrals.

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  1. Dawn L October 14, 2008 at 9:02 am #

    Andy- I worked for Everet’s Flowers in Ames Iowa for a while, and they would donate flower arrangements to nursing homes with the leftover flowers. Good karma and good PR all in one effort.

  2. Derrick L Woods Sr October 14, 2008 at 9:33 am #

    I am currently working the College promo for the Atlanta Hawks and they are doing the same thing w/ tix on local campuses. The kids are skeptical at first but they are responding really well

  3. Adam October 14, 2008 at 9:40 am #

    …and once it is perceived as a WOM marketing tool, it will no longer work.
    I wonder what happens when the WOM industry is successful and consumers “get it”.

  4. Michael Cardus October 15, 2008 at 7:19 am #

    What Adam says above is a great point. It is like the customer service technique of repeating and attempting to get the angry cunstomer to say “yes”.
    I feel that word of mouth marketing is something that consumers are totally aware of. Customers know what is going on and they are more aware than suppliers know.
    Word of Mouth works becuase the people who speak about your business enjoy what you offer and you believe in abundance – as opposed to scarcity. The abundance of giving knowledge and not keeping information “top secret”.

  5. Andy Sernovitz October 15, 2008 at 2:57 pm #

    I don’t think we’re using “word of mouth marketing” the same way.
    Word of mouth marketing isn’t some sort of gimmick or stunt. It’s about earning the respect and recommendation of your customers, about making them happy, about giving them real reasons to talk about you.
    Companies that get good at this are consistently doing great things that spark a referral. Individually, each contact make look gimmicky, but it’s part of a bigger philosophy of kindness.
    Read my little paper “Everything About Word of Mouth” here:

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