CHAPTER ELEVEN – How to Buy Word of Mouth

“Do you remember that time you and Ray Bard took me to lunch at Green Pastures?”

“That’s quite a memory you have, Sunshine.”

“It was quite a day.”

“Why?”

“I mean, Ray is the most successful publisher of business books ever. Is he still batting above 500?”

“Yep. More than half of his books become New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers.”

“Has anyone else ever done that?”

“Not as far as I know. What made you think of Ray Bard?”

“Sitting at a table, talking about big ideas. I think the last time I did this was that day at Green Pastures. I’d love to do that again sometime.”

“I’ll call Ray and set it up.”

“Do you remember the question I asked him, Poobah?”

“Sure I do. You asked, ‘What does a bestseller have that other books don’t?'”

“I’ve never forgotten his answer.”

“Let’s hear it.”

“He said, ‘All good business books have 2 characteristics. The ones that sell a lot of copies have a 3rd characteristic, and bestsellers have a 4th.”

“You do remember.”

The younger man held up a forefinger and said, “One. A Big Idea.” A second finger joined the first, “Two. Nuts and Bolts. How-to, step-by-step explanations and examples. Every good business book has these 2 things.” Now a third finger, “But the ones that sell a lot of copies have number Three. Entertainment.”

The old man spoke. “Entertainment is the currency that purchases the attention of a too-busy public.”

The younger man held up four fingers. “Four. The characteristic that will send your rocket ship to the stars is Hope.”

“Sunshine, when a person makes a purchase, they’re hoping for transformation. There is something they’re hoping to transform.”

“Ryan Deiss says that.”

“I know,” smiled the old man. “Where do you think I learned it?”

The younger man continued. “Ray says a book delivers Hope when it makes people feel like next time will turn out better than last time, tomorrow will be better than yesterday, the future will be better than the past.”

“Sunshine, have you figured it out?”

“Figured what out?”

“Those aren’t just the 4 characteristics of bestselling business books. Those are the 4 characteristic of every great success.”

The younger man grinned. “I’m really looking forward to our next lunch with Ray, Poobah. Don’t forget to set that up.”

“He’ll be pleased you’re getting connected with the academy.”

“Ray knows about that place?”

“He was the first Chairman of the Board.”

The younger man’s 4 fingers wilted and his eyebrows went up. The old man continued to speak, “Advertising is a tax we pay for not being remarkable.”

The younger man focused sharply on what the old man was saying, “Another Ray – Ray Seggern – explains customer courtship as the convergence of Story, Culture and Experience. According to Seggern:

Story is What You Say. It’s the personality and promises you put in your marketing messages and customer interactions. It starts with We Believe and it includes, among other things, all your Brandable Chunks.

Culture is Who You Are. It’s the experience your employees have inside your company.

Experience is What You Do. It’s what your customers perceive when they interact with your company.

Authenticity occurs when your story and your customer’s experience align. When they don’t align, you get bad reviews.

High Employee Morale is what happens when your story and your culture align. When they don’t align, you have cancer in the building.

Brand Ambassadors are born when story and culture and experience synchronize. This is when happy customers become a member of your tribe, an extension of your brand. No one knows this better than Jeff Bezos.”

“I’m not surprised,” the younger man said.

“Bezos once wrote to his shareholders, ‘Start with customers, and work backwards. Listen to customers, but don’t just listen to customers – also invent on their behalf. We can’t assure you that we’ll meet all of this year’s goals. We haven’t in past years. However, we can assure you that we’ll continue to obsess over customers. We have strong conviction that that approach – in the long term – is every bit as good for owners as it is for customers.’ Another time he said, ‘I don’t think that you can invent on behalf of customers unless you’re willing to think long-term, because a lot of invention doesn’t work. If you’re going to invent, it means you’re going to experiment, and if you’re going to experiment, you’re going to fail, and if you’re going to fail, you have to think long term.’”

“You’re telling me why Amazon and Costco don’t have to advertise anymore.”

“Badda-bing, Badda-bang.”

Both men sipped their cocoa.

“Poobah, what triggers word-of-mouth?”

“Word-of-mouth is triggered when a customer experiences something far beyond what was expected.”

“Are you talking about customer service?”

“No. Good service is expected. It’s bad service that people talk about. Excellent customer service leads to customer retention and loyalty and it generates positive feedback, but rarely is customer service the basis for word-of-mouth advertising.”

“Well, if it’s not customer service, what is it?”

“Physical, nonverbal statements are what trigger word-of-mouth.”

“Nonverbal statements? You were right, Poobah. I’ve grown perfectly comfortable with this feeling of being confused.”

“The beginning of invention, the genesis of innovation, Sunshine, is when you spot something unusual, an anomaly that tugs at your attention. Isaac Asimov said, ‘The phrase that heralds new discoveries is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny…’. ”

“You’re saying it’s good to be confused?”

“I’m saying it’s essential, Sunshine. Amazon has run countless thousands of experiments because of things they didn’t know. Something confused them a little and they decided to check it out.”

“Staying confused is essential to having a culture of innovation?”

“Do you know what confusion always triggers, Sunshine?”

“What

“Curiosity.”

The younger man smiled, “I don’t feel quite so dull-witted anymore.”

“If I thought you were dull, I wouldn’t call you Sunshine.”

“You were about to tell me how physical, nonverbal statements trigger word-of-mouth.”

“Nonverbal statements can be architectural, kinetic, or generous, but they have go way beyond the boundaries of what’s normal if they’re going to trigger word-of-mouth.”

“Architectural?”

“Think ‘Design.’ People notice and talk when a thing is visually interesting.”

“So we’re not just talking about buildings.”

“Go ahead and use the word ‘Design’ if it feels better to you.”

“What else?”

“Kinetic.”

“Can I buy a vowel?”

“Performance. It can be product performance or any other kind of performance.”

“And the third one?”

“Generous.”

“Delivering more than was expected generates word-of-mouth?”

“Generosity is a gesture of friendship, Sunshine, real relationship. Generosity says, ‘We really want you to be happy.’ Can you guess how most companies nullify this gesture?”

“I’m no longer confused,” the younger man said as he lifted his chin and turned his profile to the old man. Then, speaking like an aristocrat, he said, “But I am curious. Please do carry on.”

The old man smiled and took another sip of cocoa. “Companies destroy what would have delighted their customer when they promise it in their advertising.”

“You’re saying it has to be a surprise?”

“Surprise is the foundation of delight, Sunshine. Without an element of surprise, there can be no delight. And delight triggers word-of-mouth. So always have something special up your sleeve that the customer doesn’t see coming.”

“Can a single word-of-mouth trigger be all three, architectural, kinetic and generous?”

“Sticking out over the edge of a cliff is Chapel Dulcinea, Wizard Academy’s world famous free wedding chapel. We host more than a thousand weddings a year there.”

“Free?”

“No one has to pay.”

“I can see the generous part.”

“Not yet, you don’t. You’ll see the generous part when you get there.”

“And if it sticks out over the edge of a cliff, I guess I can see the architectural part.”

“Eighteen gas lights flicker a golden glow inside the chapel at night.”

“So what’s the kinetic part, the performance part?

“The tradition at Chapel Dulcinea is for the wedding partners – immediately after they say

‘I do’ – to step through an ancient Gothic door at the bottom of the bell tower and pull together on the rope to announce their union to the world. This ‘pulling together’ is a symbolic act, since that’s what they’re going to be doing from now on. And the bell is a huge, 200 year-old bronze church bell with a deep tone that goes on and on and on.”

“Dulcinea… wasn’t she the love-interest of Don Quixote de La Mancha?”

“She was just a common village girl named Aldonza Lorenzo with nothing special about her. But in Cervantes’ book, Quixote says, ‘Her name is Dulcinea and her condition must be that of princess, at the very least, for she is my queen and lady, and her beauty is supernatural, for in it one finds the reality of all the impossible.'”

“Quixote saw beauty where other people didn’t.”

“And isn’t that the characteristic that defines an entrepreneur?”

# # # # NEXT WEEK, THE CONCLUSION! # # # #