To add business, know your ‘wow’ factor

  • Wed Aug 25th, 2010 3:38pm

By Andrew Ballard Growth Strategies

Jef Richards, chairman of the University of Texas Advertising Department, says, “While it may be true that the best advertising is word-of-mouth, never lose sight of the fact it also can be the worst advertising.” How do your customers rate their experience with your firm? Do you wow them, or leave something to be desired?

My phone rings because companies want to grow; most who call assume a customer acquisition strategy is their best bet. After our discovery, we often find there are more effective, less expensive growth opportunities.

One of the best growth opportunities involves increasing the lifetime market value of your existing customers. The most common tactics include resale, side or upsales. The approach I’m illustrating has nothing to do with sales, and everything to do with service.

There is a saying in the car business, which holds true in every industry: The sales department sells the first car, the service department sells the second. It doesn’t matter how stellar your sales team or systems are, if a customer has a poor service or product experience after the sale, you won’t get a second chance to earn their business.

Here’s the takeaway. You can’t create a positive viral buzz merely by meeting customer expectations. After all, it’s expected. Many studies have shown that when a company has met a customer’s expectation, that customer rates their experience as “neutral.” Most customers who identify themselves as “satisfied” are in fact neutral and not necessarily loyal, much less “advocates.”

If you want your customers to sing your praises, you have to do far better than meet their expectations; you literally need to WOW them. Think back to a time when you had a customer experience that made you say “wow.”

In spring of 2003, my wife and I were talking with three landscape companies about a major project. Before we selected a contractor, we discovered I had a brain tumor (the size of a baseball) that required immediate surgery. Needless to say we had to make many changes. Cancelling our landscape project was no-brainer (pardon the pun). Seven years later, we are still talking about our wow moment.

A few months into my recovery, my wife walked into our bedroom and said, “Wow, I can’t believe what just happened.” She had just received a phone call from the owner of Edmonds Landscaping, one of the three contractors. He called just to ask how I was doing. He never once mentioned our project or landscaping. He was more concerned about our family.

Disclaimer: Edmonds Landscaping is not, nor ever has been, a client; frankly, they don’t need a marketing company because they wow their customers.

Your company’s wow factor will need to be big; a minor distinction won’t create a viral effect. The example I shared had more to do with company culture than a process or promotion. The most effective wow factors are served one customer at a time.

So bring your team together and talk about what your company could do to really wow your customers. I promise you this, if you’re able to make your customers feel the way that landscaping company made my wife and me feel, you’ll never have to rely on a customer acquisition strategy again.

Andrew Ballard is the president of Marketing Solutions, specializing in research-based growth strategies. Call 425-337-1100 or go to