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Keith Hammonds on happiness, respect, and word of mouth

I asked a few simple questions to a bunch of smart marketers.

Enjoy this great answer from Keith Hammonds, Executive Editor, Fast Company magazine.

Great marketing comes down to one simple idea: Earn the respect and recommendation of your customers, and they will do the rest. What is your advice for any company that wants to …

1 … make people happy?

Pay attention to them. Listen. And then surprise them with what they didn’t know they wanted. My favorite example is American Girl Place ( You can say it’s completely over the top ($15 doll hair styling?). But the folks at this Mattel division know exactly who their customers are (young girl and Mom) and what they want from the experience. It works hard at every detail, many of them unexpected (Gameboy loaners for bored brothers; hotel packages with turn-down service for the dolls) to deliver. And then they make sure to talk to their customers, girl and Mom alike, as intelligent human beings.

2 … earn respect?

Admit you’re wrong when you’re wrong, and apologize. ( You don’t have to give customers a free gift or a discount on their next purchase (tho, y’know, that’s fine). Saying, “We’re sorry,” acknowleding the mistake, gives you instant credibility in a wronged customers eyes. Not doing so hurts your brand more than anything else you can do. And when you apologize, let us know you mean it. We can tell when you don’t.

3 … get a word of mouth recommendation?

Fast Company columnists Chip and Dan Heath have a good answer. It’s not enough, they write, to provide a great experience. The Ritz Carlton is a great hotel chain–but you don’t go home and tell people all about how good the check-in was, and how nice the sheets were. Doubletree Inns aren’t Ritz Carlton’s, but everyone who stays there raves to friends and family about one small but thoughtful detail: the great chocolate chip cookies you get when you check in. It’s completely unexpected, it makes you think, Wow! That’s unusual. And great. And fun to tell friends about at parties. As Dan and Chip would say, it’s a moment that’s “made to stick.”

Thanks, Keith!

Read all the answers.

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