War Stories: Your Best Marketing Tool
I think we can agree that positive word-of-mouth is one of the best marketing tools any business can have. To get this to work, you need what I like to call "war stories" that are affirming. These are customer experiences about doing business with you that are so compelling they want to share the story with their friends and colleagues. For that to happen, you truly need to have over-the-top customer service that consistently exceeds expectations.
When I owned my center, we used an over-the-top guarantee with the tag line: It's Right, It's On Time or It's Free. If the customer was not 100 percent happy with the job, we reprinted it for them and gave it to them for free. The same was true if we missed their due date; it was free. I don't have the space in this column to explain the details and rationale for this guarantee and its execution, but here are a couple of key points:
- Having the guarantee forced us to get our systems and quality right.
- It forced us to set realistic customer expectations when taking the order to be sure we could meet the deadlines and the quality expectations.
- It was also critical to train, train, train staff to be error-free and catch mistakes before going to the customer.
The concept that makes this work is lifetime customer value. When one does the math on how much gross margin a customer produces over time, you can invest a lot to make sure you keep them. The financial risk in this type of guarantee can be worrisome unless you understand this concept. Of course it is also important to run a solid operation that ensures giving away jobs is a rare occurrence. Moreover, if you do mishandle a job, you want to fix it in a way that improves the odds of a positive war story being shared.
Carl and his wife, Judy, owned and operated their own successful Allegra franchise for nearly 20 years before selling the $2.3 million operation in 2003. He is a PrintImage International/NAQP Honorary Lifetime Member and was inducted into NAPL’s prestigious Soderstrom Society in 2010 in recognition of his contribution to the industry.