I am sure at some point in your life you’ve seen a cat cough up a hair ball. To rid the mass, cats make disgusting sounds, bobs their head uncontrollably, arches their back and forces it out with all their might until something that looks similar to what a plumber pulls out of a clogged bathroom drain plops on the floor. It’s painful to watch and unpleasant to pick up. Well my blog posts have been the equivalent of me coughing up hair balls. I have had many ideas yet none settled well in my stomach, nor have I been able to easily digest the stories and ideas I wanted to convey this month. So please forgive the hair ball I have puked out below.
During a visit to Coquille, I was handed an odd looking “flashlight” by fellow banker as she remarked. “Hey, you’re from the big city, I bet you know what this is!” Since I have the curiosity of a toddler and missed the verbal cues from the staff that there may be danger involved, I was intrigued. I immediately began exploring this heavy, yet small flashlight. I noticed it had five odd metal ribit-like objects attached to its front which should have made me take pause. But just how “curiosity killed the cat” I fearlessly began pushing the button and moving the switch. A split second before I shoved the switch forward I lifted my left index finger from the odd metal objects attached to the front of the flashlight. I like to think it’s because I instinctively recognized the danger, but I think it was more likely due to the fact the whole branch was suddenly yelling for me to be careful. As I am sure you have already surmised, I was playing with a stun gun which released a sharp zap and intense sparks. Being a forgiving and gullible guy, I believed the staff when they told me they honestly didn’t know what it was and assumed I would have known it might be dangerous.
When the excitement had passed; the discussion of how the stun gun had gotten into the branch concluded; and how the stun gun would be taken to the police station the next morning had been decided, someone said, “I am so glad you didn’t taser yourself!” To which I quickly responded, “I wish I had tasered myself because then I’d have a story to tell! Now I am stuck with a lame story of about how I almost tasered myself, which while entertaining doesn’t have the same punch as actually getting tasered.” For a tiny moment, I contemplated just zapping my own leg to see what it felt like, but doing so seemed a bit contrived and self-destructive – not to mention I am a big wuss.
Okay, so I have told you a lame story about me almost tasering myself, but what’s that got to do with anything? The answer is everything. I recently finished reading a book by Andy Sernovitz titled Word of Mouth Marketing. In approximately 200 pages, he argues word of mouth marketing is the most powerful yet overlooked, under thought about, and least expensive tool at any business’s disposal. He points to the fact consumers now have ever increasing avenues to quickly spread both bad and good reviews about the services and products companies provide. The old rule I was raised with of every good experience a customer has they tell three people and for every bad experience they tell 12 has to be reexamined. Since the advent and abundant access to the internet and especially now with the social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, it is clear 12 and 3 are far too low. Plus, toss in all the places you can quickly and easily leave a review i.e. Amazon, EBay and blogs. It is clear to me having a story to tell just got a whole lot more impactful.
For example, for my girlfriend, Stephanie and I went to dinner at Ten 01. Trying to be proactive and gentlemanly, I made us reservations for 6:45 p.m. on a Friday. Being me, I messed up and we showed up at 7:15 p.m. because I got confused despite the online e-mail reminder sent to my phone. The hostess didn’t blink an eye and said not to worry. We were swiftly escorted to a lovely table for two in their bustling restaurant. We were promptly poured water, introduced to our waiter, offered drinks, delivered drinks, advised on specials, given recommendations, served delightful food, soaked in the stylish surroundings and engaged in interesting conversation. Had this been the extent of our experience at Ten 01 I may have told a couple of people we had nice dinner and recommend others to visit. But, there was more to our visit than what I mentioned above.
Ten 01 has an extensive wine list of more than 700 varietals. I attempted to order one of their less expensive wines, a $44 bottle of Cabernet. But since I often struggle to pronounce wines correctly I resorted to pointing to the one I wanted on the menu. Our waiter returned, presented me the bottle and gave me the normal taste to ensure it was what I had requested and that it wasn’t corked. I remember being surprised I had picked a 2004, but the wine was delicious I assumed I had just made a wonderful selection. Throughout our dinner I kept commenting about how great the wine was and how we needed to find some afterwards. As it turns out I had pointed to a $140 bottle of wine! Oops!
Soon after the wine was served, Stephanie’s soup arrived. It looked amazing. We discussed its rich color, the shape of the elegant bowl in which was served, yet I failed to notice she hadn’t taken a bite. A manager passing by paused at our table and noticed she wasn’t eating her soup. He scanned the situation and without a word from her or any prompting, he deduced the waiter had failed to provide her with a spoon. He disappeared and speedily returned with a spoon and brief apology.
A few minutes later the same manager passed by our table and could see I was squinting from the sun reflecting off another building. He asked me if I would like to move my chair to the side of the table to avoid the sun. I explained we had already considered the option, but I didn’t wish to sit in the path of the wait staff. I then jokingly remarked what I would really like is a pair sunglasses. The manager scurried off and returned with his own sunglasses which he had retrieved from his car. I was delighted with his over the top solution to my problem.
Between the tasty miss-ordered bottle of wine, the missing spoon mystery, the special sun glare solution and the overall excellent service we received we both had stories to share. We both posted pictures and positive comments about Ten 01 on our respective Facebook pages. The next day I left positive online feedback and a short narrative recap of our experience via Groupon’s website. We jointly told everyone we ran into for the next couple of days about Ten 01. Finally, I have now retold my story here.
So let’s do some quick math and see what the power of Ten 01 providing me a story to tell did for them. Facebook, 340 people, Groupon feedback site 500 people (guess most likely more), region wide bank news letter I originally shared this with, 300 people, verbal storytelling 30 people. So the rough estimate is approximately 1,170 people heard about our wonderful experience. Not to get crazy but it is easy to imagine 10 other couples that evening may have had their own stories to tell from that night. If we assume this to be true then the power of giving them stories to tell too would be another 11,700 drops of positive free advertising to people.
What are you doing to provide people with positive stories to tell? How might you doing a something a little unusual without being prompted cause people to talk about your business? Are you daring and entertaining or are you boring and conventional?
“The men who try to do something and fail are infinitely better than those who try to do nothing and succeed.”