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The Best Advertising Money Can Buy

If you're not budgeting for word-of-mouth advertising, your business is probably suffering. Our ad expert offers his tips on generating customer recommendations.
October 10, 2005
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/80232

The price of making a powerful statement is cheap compared to the cost of ads that don't work. So make a statement that counts. This is the best advertising advice I can give you.

I'm not talking about making a grand and sweeping claim, such as "Lowest prices anywhere. We won't be undersold." No one believes hype anymore. I'm talking about a statement that's bona fide, no loopholes, easy to experience. And it only takes one such statement to put a business over the top. That's why you should designate a percentage of your ad budget to purchase word-of-mouth advertising.

Word-of-mouth is one of the most credible forms of advertising because a person puts their reputation on the line every time they make a recommendation and that person has nothing to gain but the appreciation of those who are listening. What are you doing to make sure your potential ambassadors feel confident enough in your business to recommend it? What are you doing to trigger word-of-mouth?

Here are some tips for generating word-of-mouth:

Architectural. The piano store that looks like a huge piano, with black and white keys forming the long awning over the long front porch. The erupting volcano outside the Mirage in Las Vegas. A glass-bottom floor that allows customers to see what's happening on the floor below them. Do you remember when McDonalds began building attached playgrounds to all their restaurants? It's worked like magic for more than 20 years.

Kinetic. The tossing of fresh fish from one employee to another at Pike Place Market in Seattle. The magical, twirling knives of the tableside chefs at Benihana. Kissing the codfish when you get "screeched in" at any pub in Newfoundland. (A screech is a loud and funny ceremony during which non-Newfoundlanders down a shot of cheap rum, repeat some phrases in the local dialect and kiss a codfish. Everyone who visits that wonderful island returns home with a story of being "screeched in.") While it may at first seem like a kinetic word-of-mouth trigger is a violation of #2 above, "Don't depend on your staff...," it's really not. A kinetic word-of-mouth trigger is constantly observable by management. It isn't a "customer service" experience delivered privately, one on one.

Generous. Are you willing to become known as the restaurant that allows its guests to select--at no charge--their choice of desserts from an expensive dessert menu? You can cover the hard cost of it in the prices of your entrees and drinks. Flour, butter and sugar are cheap advertising. Are you the jewelry store that's willing to become known for replacing watch batteries at no charge, even when the customer hasn't purchased anything and didn't buy the watch from your store? Word will spread. And watch batteries cost less than any type of advertising.

Architectural, kinetic, generous: These are the flour, butter and sugar of effective word-of-mouth. Will you put these rich ingredients into the mouths of your potential word-of-mouth ambassadors?