Word-of-Mouth Marketing: It’s About Being Remarkable

Filed in Word of Mouth by Matt McGee on July 21, 2008 13 Comments

SEO Success PyramidGet noticed. Distinguish yourself from the competition. Create buzz. Be remarkable.

Books are written about these concepts. But it’s much easier said than done. Many small business owners struggle to do things that will get people talking about them. Buzz/Word-of-mouth marketing isn’t one of the primary 15 blocks on the SEO Success Pyramid, but it plays a vital role helping your business move up the pyramid and complementing your other marketing efforts.

What does positive word-of-mouth do for you?

  1. It leads to positive offline and online mentions of your business.
  2. It creates repeat customers and introduces new customers.
  3. It sometimes creates links.
  4. It brings you closer to the ultimate goal of trust.

As consumers, we place great value on the positive recommendations of friends and family; we trust what they tell us about products, services, and businesses. A Nielsen news release late last year had this headline: Word-of-Mouth [is] the Most Powerful Selling Tool.

How Do You Create Buzz?

Sometimes it comes from creating a remarkable product. Apple is the poster child of this. Traditional media and countless blogs hang on every word and product that Steve Jobs introduces.

Most small businesses don’t have that luxury, and never will.

Sure, plenty of small businesses have created great products. But they don’t have the world’s attention like Apple does; for small businesses, buzz is most often the result of creating great experiences for customers, of doing something that they have to tell their friends about. It’s usually about remarkable customer service. It’s about doing something out of the ordinary.

An Italian Restaurant’s Remarkable Customer Service

This is a great story: In Arizona last week, a man named Gerard Montemurro was in a car accident on his way to dinner at Marcellino Ristorante. It was raining hard. He called the restaurant to cancel his reservation.

They offered to drive out to the scene and pick him up.

The man turned them down. He waited a while for AAA to show up, but the freeway had to be closed and AAA wouldn’t be able to make it anytime soon. The guy and his friend were getting really hungry by now. I’ll let the Arizona Republic take over the story from here:

Hungry and soaking wet, he decided to call the restaurant back and take it up on the offer.

“He asked if I was kidding,” said Sima Verzino, co-owner of the restaurant. “And I asked, ‘Where are you?’ I told my husband and he grabbed the keys and he ran out of the door.”

Despite already closing their kitchen, Sima and her husband, Marcellino, left their restaurant and met Montemurro with some of Marcellino’s dry clothes for a quick change.

When they arrived at the restaurant, the Verzinos reopened the kitchen and served Montemurro and his friend antipasti salad, green salad, Italian bread with dipping sauce, pinot grigio, espresso and tiramisu.

Isn’t that fantastic? And that’s not all — after dinner, the restaurant owners drove Montemurro and his friend back to the scene of the accident. Incredible!

Great Buzz Can Come From Small Things, Too

That’s an amazing story of small business owners doing something big to serve a customer. But small things can kickstart positive word-of-mouth, too … like a personalized, handwritten note from a store employee or sending customers a unique Thank You card.

You don’t have to spend a ton of money to get customers talking about you. You do have to make a commitment, though, to going above and beyond what’s expected in everything you do. I love the advice that word-of-mouth evangelist Andy Sernovitz gave in an interview on the RKG blog:

Put a sign in every department, on the conference room wall, that says, “Would anybody tell a friend about this?”

It’s a magic question that raises the bar across the organization and development.

As long as I’m mentioning Andy’s name, I should encourage you to read and subscribe to his blog, Damn! I Wish I’d Thought of That!. Besides having a great name, it’s a great resource for all things word-of-mouth.


Positive word-of-mouth is a must for any business, and it’s a key element of the SEO Success Pyramid. Getting people talking about you is a great complement to other types of marketing, and can make them more effective. Word of mouth happens when you do Big Things like driving to pick up a customer who was in a car accident, and when you do little things like sending personalized notes after an in-store visit.

It happens when you surprise and delight your customers.

It happens when you treat every customer like s/he’s the only one you have.

Comments (13)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. The restaurant story certainly is wonderful and inspiring!

    However, when I read this type of story –especially on the internet, a little less so when it’s in a newspaper–, I can’t help but wonder if it is a *true* story or just an attempt at getting free publicity… I guess all this “linkbait” stuff has made me a little cynical.

    Still, I agree that you should “surprise and delight your customers” –not (just) for the publicity that may result, but because it is the Right Thing to do!

  2. This is a great post and I agree 100%. While there are many factors to get people talking about a small business, the most important factor is great product/service offering and excellent customer service. Having happy customers always can help do the trick!

  3. Stever says:

    Seth Godin’s talk at Ted.com on being remarkable to get your message noticed;

  4. Michael D says:

    We have a saying in chiropractic that “you never know how far reaching something you may think, say, or do today will affect the lives of countless millions tomorrow.” Always serve to the best of your ability and the magic will happen.

  5. Karthick says:

    Great post. I, especially, liked the post about the Italian Restaurant. Great read!

  6. MiriamEllis says:

    Matt –
    That’s a gem of a story about the restaurant. I imagine they’ve just gained not only 2 customers for life, but a reputation for greatness amongst the entire pool of family/friends surrounding those 2 customers. And then that pool widens to friends of those friends and family members. And so on…Sounds like a story people would be telling to their grandkids.

    Very cool find, and a really nice article!

  7. Matt McGee says:

    You know, Marcel — I had the same feeling as you at first. But there IS a guy with the same name as the customer living in the Phoenix area, so that gave it more credibility with me. And there are tons of comments on the newspaper site about how good the owners are, so that also made me trust the story more.

    @Michael D – love that saying, thanks for sharing it here.

    @Miriam, Nick, etc. — thanks for your kind words and feedback.

  8. David Temple says:

    Yes, thanks for sharing this story (lesson). This is where a small business can excel. Every company talks about great customer service but few do it really well. It has to come from the top down. It can’t be done with a memo or a one time training, it needs to be part of the culture. But those that get it right, prosper.

  9. Matt, this post brings tears to my eyes, tears of joy. I realize that may sound goofy. I really appreciate your approach.

    I almost want to say, “take out Marketing from the title.” We should be remarkable in our daily lives, period. Word of mouth is viral on its own. I realize, however, that businesses need to think about the marketing aspect of everything they do. Each of us is marketing or representing someone at all times.

    Thanks for the read and the resources!

  10. Maxwell Billings says:

    This was a very good article! It actually helped me out yesterday when I read it. I had a client come in and ask how to create some buzz on their product. I had some good strategies up, but once I browsed this article, I was set! Excellent job.

    Yesterday was my reading day, today is my comment day…

  11. Jay P says:

    Excellent article and very true! We have gone above the bar, just to educate our customers and end up saving them money, and they are loyal to the bone! They are even willing to help you do your advertising, including your company in what events their company is doing.

  12. Joachim says:

    The problem is, every business wants to be remarkable. Every business wants to create buzz. Every business strives to surprise their customers. It is all in the BIG/REVOLUTIONARY IDEAS. These are the ones that will be talked about…by people and may be even by influencers (journalists, bloggers…)!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *