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Ultimate Marketing Secret: Happy Customers Bring Friends

by Frank Strong

ulitmate marekting secret, Happy customers bring friends

When was the last time a business thanked you for your business?

Marketers are always looking for that home run:  the killer email that fuels the click-through rate, the viral video that brings a thousand registrants in for demos, or the latest offer, that deal that’s just bound to drive foot traffic.

It rarely happens that way.  And we can spend and awful lot of energy pursuing the perfect pitch, only to find it hasn’t quite gotten the mileage we had hoped and we’ve exhausted ourselves in the process.

A better strategy is base hits.  A consistent focus on the fundamentals.  Make customers happy and they’ll tell their friends.

Good old fashioned word of mouth

This is little more that word of mouth marketing, a factor which McKinsey says influences between 20% and 50% of all purchasing decisions. Statistics on what businesses spend on word of mouth are all over the map – and usually that comes down to how it’s defined.

In 2007 ARS Technica reported spending on word of mouth would surpass $1 billion.  Two years later, AdAge puts word of mouth at $1.5 billion.  Three years after that the numbers are off the charts according to VSSmore than what is spent on TV ads – which is about $60 billion a year, or as I’m fond of saying, the amount of cash Google has in current assets.

Is online word of mouth the same as offline? It surely is; we are increasingly an untethered society where words can cross from lips to a mobile screen and do it all over again many miles away.  Social media is word of mouth marketing.


How is it we stray so far from the fundamentals?

My only in point in tossing out those numbers is to say – as marketers we invest a lot in word of mouth efforts – always going for the big swing and forgetting the basics.

On Sunday, I visited my local Target store because the chain has made a big to-do about its walk-in clinic.  I have a young daughter and I wanted to get a flu shot early; a pound of prevention or so to speak.  I arrived at the store at 3:35 p.m. where the posted hours stated the clinic closed at 4 p.m. There was one other patient in the waiting room.

I asked the receptionist if I could get a flu shot, and she responded, she’d have to check with the nurse-provider. She went behind a closed door and returned a moment later with the bad news:  the office was to close on time and the nurse would not see me.  No flu shot for you! The Wizard of Oz style theater felt, for a fleeting moment, as reminiscent of haggling with a car dealer.


Easy come and easy go

I left rather ticked. Anyone that’s been stuck with a flu shot knows it takes but a quick form, a signature and jab in the arm.  On a whim, I drove about 1.5 miles to FastMed, one of those new urgent care clinics.  I walked in about 3:45 p.m. where the posted hours also said the store closed at 4 p.m. and there was, coincidentally, one other patient in the waiting room.

The receptionist, who was about as polite as could be, told me they did offer flu shots and these cost $20.  By 4:00 p.m. I was walking out the door with a cartoon style Band-Aid on my arm from where I received the shot.

Then a strange thing happened: The receptionist ran after me.  She had a “thank you” card to give me.  Imagine that – I kept them from closing the office five minutes early on a Sunday and they gave me a thank you card!  A photo of that card is picture nearby.

Customer service stories move fast on the web

Early in 2013, eMarketer published a report that found customers valued a quick resolution over a desirable outcome.   In other words, customers don’t always need to get what they want in order to be happy customers.

Customer service is not a zero sum game and there are other options; that’s the basics of problem solving.  But for the problem that isn’t resolved…the stories spread quickly:

When it came to sharing customer experiences, bad news had a way of traveling farther than good. Customers were more likely to share bad customer service experiences than good ones, no matter what communication channel they used. That practice carried over to the way customers shared customer service stories on social media and on online review sites, such as Yelp.


Good customer service IS marketing

A post here isn’t going to bankrupt Target’s clinic for its mediocre customer service.  It’s also not going to drive an overwhelming amount of foot traffic to FastMed’s door either.  But it might drive one or two more, who in turn might tell someone else, online or offline, especially if I posts a tip on FourSquare or a review on Yelp.

In addition I might go back to the FastMed clinic should I get a sore throat this winter, because they take my insurance and they are a heck of a lot easier to see than my doctor. And overtime a reputation is built like this, one hit at time.

A base hit strategy is the ultimate marketing secret.  It’s focusing on the fundamentals.  It usually doesn’t cost much more than doing what businesses ought to be doing anyway:  striving to make customers happy.

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3 Responses

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  2. Peter Shankman did a good infographic about this recently actually, for his new agency – https://www.shankmanhonig.com/blog/a-customer-saved-is-a-penny-earned/
    It’s more operations focused, but I also like this thing on Brad Feld’s blog about scaling trust – https://www.feld.com/wp/archives/2013/02/trust-can-scale.html
    I’m not sure you need to delight every client (I try), but regardless there should be a clear set of expectations to every relationship, and marketing should help companies occasionally exceed those expectations, and relate to people in a direct, thoughtful way.

    1. JoeCardillo Yes, I saw the Shanksters infographic when it came out….noted the help too! ;-)  Trust can scale, but that requires process and people. Companies always try to skim on the people part…that’s hard to do and scale!  Thanks Joe!

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