Experiential Marketing: What Does it Take to Get the Five-Star Review

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I am definitely not a car person.  When I moved to Colorado in 2001, I purchased a Beetle from Tynan’s VW.  When, at 65K miles, the car had a meltdown on the highway, Tynan’s replaced the engine for free because the warning system had failed.  When it came time to buy another car, I felt obligated to go back to Tynan’s.  This time, I went with the Jetta Sportswagon TDI.  When a friend borrowed the car and filled it up with regular gas (it’s a diesel), Tynan’s replaced the fuel system for free.  I’ve had amazing experiences with Tynan’s and will be their customer for life.  They clearly know what it takes to get a five-star review.

But how many times have you been to a car dealership and had the sales and/or service manager nearly beg you to give them top ratings on the follow-up satisfaction survey?  I don’t know what incentives or penalties are associated with those surveys, but they must be big because the desperation in the employee’s eyes when they ask for high ratings is a bit scary.  I personally find it rather off-putting to be asked to give a business a top rating.  These days, however, customer ratings and reviews can make or break your business.  90% of prospective customers will be influenced by online reviews which carry significantly more weight than a company’s own marketing messages.  Am I going to believe it when you say you deliver great service, or am I going to believe the 10 people who felt compelled (good or bad) to comment about your service online?

As a business owner, what should you do to try to harness the power of online reviews?  One simple answer is, don’t beg.  That creates an awkward customer experience and doesn’t yield the results you’re looking for.  The more obvious answer is to provide amazing customer experiences, like what I’ve experienced at Tynan’s, so that people will want to tell the world about you.  While it’s possible for amazing experiences to just happen, businesses that get talked about the most, take a more intentional approach.  Experiential marketing is about defining what it takes in your line of business to surprise and delight the customer and then consistently delivering that experience every time.  Whether you’re the restaurant that gives a free mini cotton candy at the end of the meal, the hotel that slips the hot water bottle between the sheets as part of the turn down service, or the marketing agency that provides pumpkin spice lattes and homemade biscuits to clients when they visit every October, those signature extras are what makes you memorable and what gets people talking.

So how do you know if the experience you’re delivering is as over-the-top as you hope?  Well, it pays to ask.  A short online survey when you complete a project, assist a customer, or install a new gadget is a great way to learn if your customers think you deliver something special.  Short is important—I recommend no more than five questions, the point is to get a quick read and not to annoy your customers.  Make sure one of the questions is “how likely are you to recommend this business to friends or colleagues.”  The answer provided tells you your Net Promoter Score.  People who rate you a 9 or 10 on a ten-point scale are your net promoters—those likely to tell the world about how great you are.  Customers rating your business 1 through 6 are your detractors, they are likely to tell several friends about a bad experience they’ve had.  Both groups are worthy of follow-up.  Many businesses send satisfaction surveys just to learn how they’re doing overall, but don’t do anything with the actual results.  I would argue that’s a big mistake.  Net promoters, when identified, are your biggest advocates and should be engaged and leveraged as much as possible. This is the group you might ask to give an online review or invite to your next event.  Detractors need to be made to feel that their voice is being heard.  Reach out to them and talk about improvements you’re making to the business based on their feedback and offer them incentives to come back and try again.  It won’t always work, but it will surely diminish the likelihood that detractors will spread negative word-of-mouth about your business and damage your reputation.

How to Use this Information
Does your business have an experiential marketing program in place?  What are you doing today to provide a truly novel customer experience that will create word of mouth buzz.  If the answer is that you have friendly, helpful employees, that’s not enough.  Webolutions helps clients go beyond friendly and helpful to unique and exceptional by analyzing your competition and your customers to determine exactly what experience you can deliver that will drive word-of-mouth referral.  Provide the right customer experience and you should never have to spend money on advertising—your own customers will do that for you.  Call Webolutions today at 303-300-2640 and start creating amazing customer experiences tomorrow.

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