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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Think WOMAN - Word Of Mouth Advertising Network

When is the last time you were so excited about a product, a service, and/or a retailer that you recommended each to anyone who asked and to everyone you knew? I bet, if you're a woman, you do it a lot! Marianne Cone [see Lafayette Gourmet - A Feast For The Senses and Fun at the Doctor's!?] shares one such example.

My good friends at Red Hot Fuel in Sacramento, CA regularly use the word WOMAN in evaluating and developing consumer marketing initiatives. For them the word has a significant meaning: Word of Mouth Advertising Network. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud the other day when I realized that I was just such an advertiser - unpaid, but heavily relied upon.

I was at a flooring account sales meeting not long ago and met Tina Whitmire for the first time. Tina is a designer turned trainer for Design Center Solutions [go to Our Story, Meet The Team] and travels around the country training designers with great enthusiasm and expertise.

We connected on a number of levels, not the least of which was as owners of Golden Retrievers [photo above is of my dog, Aly]. When asked how she kept up with the copious amounts of dog hair that is the nature of these wonderful and beautiful friends, she said one word – Dyson. Like me, Tina had tried a number of vacuum cleaner brands and Dyson was the one that delivered on the brand promise….she has one upstairs and one downstairs! She reminded me that Bed, Bath & Beyond and Linens 'n Things both sell vacuum cleaners and that if I used the “20% off any one item” coupon that arrives in the mail at least every other week, the Dyson vacuum cleaner could be had for significantly less than the sticker price.

As luck would have it the BBB coupon was in the mail when I arrived home from that very trip. Coupon in hand, I headed out to BBB.

If you’ve been in any BBB you know that it is a retail establishment that, in addition to the towels and sheets dictated by the ‘Bed and Bath’, the ‘Beyond’ is everything from picture frames to frying pans. In that overwhelming array of goods diplayed floor to ceiling, where would the vacuum cleaners logically be merchandised?

Within a minute of entering the store a sales person approached me to ask if she could help find what I was looking for. Whew! Logic does not seem to apply to BBB merchandising….or at least not in a way that is intuitive to this shopper. She led me right to the place where an assortment of Dysons were on display. Now the dilemma was how to choose the one that was right for my particular needs?

As I started to consider how I might evaluate the different models she asked the magic question, “What kind of cleaning needs do you have?” Bingo! I had hit paydirt – a retail sales person who knew how to assess my needs before recommending a product. I answered her question with two words – Golden Retriever. She pulled a model down from the display, plugged it in and proceeded to share the knowledge she had recently acquired at a manufacturer's training session. And when I asked a question she couldn’t answer she radioed for help from the manager. He was on the scene in less that a minute and not only provided the answer we were looking for, but also a testimonial about the way the model worked for his family of three + dog. I was sold. The manager went to the front of the store to get a shopping cart, loaded the boxed model in the cart and pushed it to the register for me. Service? Oh, yes! But, more important? Knowledge!

So, it’s been about a month since I bought my Dyson vacuum and I wish I had kept track of the number of people to whom I have advertised the Dyson brand, and the BBB experience – it must be in the range of 20-30 people. I’m not a paid marketer for Dyson or BBB. I’m guessing they pay their marketers well for their skills and talent……but none of them are more valuable than me and my Word of Mouth Advertising Network!

How do you take advantage of the Word of Mouth Advertising Network? I hope you don't underestimate its potential for driving business to your store. Here are a few more examples to reinforce how powerful it is:

+ Mary Hunt from In Women We Trust contributes this post titled 65% of Product Feedback Comes from Women on the subject, particularly as it relates to the digital environment. Note the examples she offers. These are sites where consumers provide feedback on their experiences.

+ A previous post How Do You Create Buzz addresses how to generate buzz via word of mouth!

+ Finally, PRWeek in its 3/26/2007 issue has the following article "Survey finds boomers serve as sources for each other" [posted online 3/20/2007] stating the following:

"The study by KRC Research found that of 502 boomers (Americans born between 1946 and 1964) six out of 10 are asked for their recommendations twice a week.

Of those people who were asked to recommend something in the past year, 89% advised their friends, or fellow boomers, the study found.

The telephone study also revealed that boomer-to-friend communications,
as Weber Shandwick calls them, are circular, with nearly all boomers (93%)
identifying their boomer friends as trusted sources of information."

Yes. This is BIG!

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