Every Thursday and Friday the Mexican van rocks up, parks about 100 yards from Red Gate and opens its shutters. Just about everything they do is perfect. They serve fresh, tasty food. They have a metronomic process. Mannamexico’s owner, Luis, remembers everybody’s name (he must know hundreds). They have a loyalty card, and loyal customers. They’re the first food van in Cambridge to get a 5* health and safety rating. They restrict supply (they’re only there two days a week) to stimulate demand. Their customers rave about them. There’s even a Mannamexico appreciation society on Facebook (249 members and growing).The only negative thing about Mannamexico is the line of people outside. If you’re ever in Cambridge you should visit the van, or the eatery they just opened in Regent Street.
Do you see what Mannamexico have just done? They’ve just flawlessly executed a piece of word of mouth marketing. I’ve just written what I hope is a glowing testimonial and hopefully drummed up some custom for them. What Mannamexico have not done is explicitly exhort me, or their other customers, to tell people about them. There’s no ‘tell a friend’ button on their web site. They’ve provided an excellent product and the only marketing they’ve done, as far as I can tell, is to park a big, brightly painted, red and yellow van on the road where we work.
Word of mouth marketing is something that marketing folk love. When a friend or a colleague tells you about a product you’re more likely to try it out than if you read, say, a print advert. Getting people to recommend your product to people who trust them is arguably the best form of marketing there is. However, although word of mouth marketing is indeed a worthy goal, it’s not obvious how you get it.
Word of mouth is a bit like happiness. It’s something you arrive at indirectly. If you try to get long-term happiness by doing things that make you short-term happy then you will fail. You can eat chocolate cake or take crack cocaine but you won’t achieve sustained happiness. Happiness is a by-product that you’ll most likely achieve as a side-effect of something else, like dedicating your life to a cause greater than yourself, getting married, buying a dog, having happy parents or not being born in Scotland.
Similarly, the way to get word of mouth marketing is not to spend your time and money directly trying to persuade your customers to tell their friends. The best way to get somebody to do something is to make them want to do it. You need to make your customers unstoppable proselytizers of your product and service. The obvious first step to do that is to make your product and your service something which people are able to proselytize about.
Of course, even an excellent product will not sell or market itself. You still need to work hard to get your product into people’s hands. You’ll need to do Google adwords / run print ads / tape posters to lampposts / whatever works for you. You’ll need to nurture your best customers and make them love you.
But what you shouldn’t do is focus on word of mouth marketing as a direct goal. Do everything else right and it will follow.
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