(Paid Advertising)

Why Your Word-of-Mouth Ain’t As Good As You Think — And What to Do About It

When marketers and business owners talk about Word-of-Mouth, they only think they’re talking about the same thing.

Jeff Sexton
Jeff Sexton
April 23, 2022
Why Your Word-of-Mouth Ain’t As Good As You Think — And What to Do About It

When marketers and business owners talk about Word-of-Mouth, they only think they’re talking about the same thing. Marketers talk about WOM as “buzz” — i.e., newsworthiness. Therefore they measure WOM in terms of un-earned media coverage. Business owners talk about WOM as referred customers showing up at their door. Obviously buzz ≠ referrals. And from an owner's perspective referrals are far more valuable than buzz. So here’s the thing about referral-based WOM…Business owners often think “word-of-mouth is our best advertising” because:

  1. They only see it when it works
  2. They believe they spend no money to get these customers (i.e., WOM is “free”)
  3. The customers they get from referrals show up mostly pre-convinced

And of those three reasons, only the last is an accurate perception.

Why Your Word-of-Mouth Isn’t Working As Well As You Think

The first reason — only seeing it when it works — inevitably leads to skewed perceptions. Here’s what business owners_don’t_see:

  • You don’t see when a customer could have recommended you, but didn’t.
  • You don’t see when a customer’s mediocre endorsement failed to persuade

Because those failure points are invisible, you feel like you’re batting a thousand. But if you could see them, you’d reassess just how well your WOM is working.

Why “Over-Serving” the Customer Is Bad Strategy

Many business owners harbor an unexamined notion that customer service directly equates to customer experience. In their minds, the better the service, the better the experience. And the better the experience, the better the recommendations and referrals. Unfortunately, all of these connections are indirect at best, non-existent at worst.**First, service isn’t experience. Memory is experience.**So unless a service touchpoint has been intentionally crafted to be remarkable and memorable, it likely won’t improve the remembered customer experience. People remember beginnings, endings, emotional highlights and lowlights, sensory “tangibles,” and interesting stories. They don’t necessarily remember service at all.**Second, service costs.**So over-serving the customer becomes an expensive proposition with a rather dicey, perhaps even non-existent, ROI. Now, there are things you can do to improve WOM, but you must first accept that WOM ain’t free. You can make it a more effective and efficient investment by using smarter strategies than “over serving” the customer, but it’s still an investment. Third, everyone’s definition of superior customer service differs. Advertising great customer service almost never attracts customers and always results in unmet expectations and increased complaints.

How to Effectively & Efficiently Improve Your WOM Batting Average

To improve referral-based WOM, you must address the failure points. That means: a) giving customers greater confidence to refer you, and b) providing customers with the tools to give more persuasive referrals. And the best tools for both aims are:

  • Perspective-shaping vocabulary, and
  • Story-based talking points and descriptions.

Perspective-Shaping Vocabulary

Two of the more blatant examples of perspective-shaping vocabulary are naming the disease and DeBeers use of the 4-Cs.When whisk gave a name to “ring around the collar,” that name shaped the perceptions of millions of housewives, who then wanted the new tool — liquid detergent — to solve that problem. When DeBeers wanted to increase the amount Americans spent on engagement rings — by buying higher quality stones — they gave them the vocabulary necessary to conceptualize diamond quality. This power of vocabulary to shape perception and improve memory and experience was explored by Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky. In one experiment, Vygotsky had young children draw butterfly wings. Sometimes the kids drew while looking at the wings, and sometimes they drew from memory. Curiously, only some kids drawing quality dropped significantly when they had to draw from memory. Others drew about as well from memory as they did while looking at the wings.**What separated them was their vocabulary.**Children who had words for the shapes they saw within the wings — “dot,” “triangle,” “slash,” etc. — were able to draw the wings from memory. But children without that vocabulary struggled. Vygotsky then took some of those struggling children and — in a different context — taught them the words for the shapes. When he retested those newly-taught kids, they too were able to draw the wings well, even from memory. While those who still lacked the vocabulary showed no improvement. It’s the same with adults: the right words shape and sharpen perception and memory. And memory becomes experience. If you wish to improve your customer's ability to recall WHY your provided experience was top-notch — and then articulate that powerfully to a friend months or years later — you must give them the vocabulary to do that.

Story-Based Talking Points and Descriptions

A compelling story can be memorized and retold from one exposure, as exemplified by most any urban myths you’ve ever heard. For example, the one about the Las Vegas tourist who woke up in a bathtub full of ice with a note on his chest informing him that he’s missing a kidney and needs to dial 911. You hear that story once, you can remember and repeat it forever. And that’s what you want — for customers to remember and retell stories that will make their recommendations and referrals more persuasive. And keep in mind: you likely won’t be able to tell customers the story yourself; your people have to know and tell these stories. That makes ease of memory and transference that much more important. If you want your staff to promote word of mouth, give them stories to tell highlighting key components of your customer experience. There’s a world of difference a waiter saying:

“Yeah, we’ve got really great house wine here — especially the white wine — it’s super-premium stuff.”

And

“Our house white wine is Gavi dei Gavi from Italy and it’s probably the most full bodied white wine you’ve ever tasted. In fact, to measure a wine’s body, you measure the quantity of suspended or dissolved solid substances in the liquid — “dry extract” that’s left after the water and alcohol have been evaporated. As you might guess, most reds have twice the body of white wine. Except for THIS white wine. This particular Gavi Dei Gavi has as much body as most reds. Would you like to try some?”

Which one’s more likely to sell a carafe or two of white wine? Which one is more likely to shape the experience of drinking and appreciating the wine? And which one is likely to get at least partially repeated during a review or recommendation?

Improving Word-of-Mouth Motivation & Efficacy

Here’s the thing: customers don’t make referrals because they want to help your business. Not primarily, at least. Customers refer you in order to help themselves first, their friend/acquaintance second, and you third. Customers make referrals to help themselves look smart, in-the-know, connected, and generous. So by giving them the vocabulary and stories to help them look smart and in-the-know, you dramatically increase their motivation to recommend you. And those same tools also make their recommendations much more persuasive.

Amplifying Your WOM Once You’ve Improved It

So here’s the good news: once you’ve created your vocabulary and collected your WOM stories, you’ve actually done all the hard work to create amazing mass media ads. The same stories that would make a recommendation or referral more powerful coming from a friend will also make your radio ads more persuasively powerful when coming from a spokesperson that is perceived as a friend. And the more people already know about you and your stories, the more confident your customers will be in recommending you in the first place. So if the previous steps for improving your WOM seemed daunting, there is a done-for-you shortcut: hire a savvy ad consultant to create a WOM-based mass media campaign. Or you can do the work yourself and grow your business to the point where you can afford mass media. Either way works, if you work it. And anything is better than keeping your blinders on while thinking your not-so-great WOM is “crushing it.”

(Online)
(Offline)
(Word Of Mouth)
Jeff Sexton
Jeff Sexton

Businesses either sell $5 haircuts, or fix $5 haircuts. I’m your guy if your company fixes $5 haircuts. Working together, we'll de-commodify your business, make pricing pressure a thing of the past, and grab the lion’s share of customers willing to pay a premium for your service or product.

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Who does the Wizard of Ads® for Services work with?

Wizard of Ads® for Services work with healthy and growing businesses hungry to grow by multiples, like you.

You are ready, willing, and able to grow your business. You are open to change and are seeking a distinctive angle of approach to gain the time and attention of a too-busy public.

You know that lasting relationships take time, patience, and good energy to nurture and cultivate. We carefully enter into every arrangement with the intention of working with you for as long as you own your business. You prefer lasting partnerships.

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Traditional full service marketing agencies are designed to capture the greatest amount of revenue from a client, regardless of results. Every last item is billed and expensed to the client. Typical agency fees can represent a whopping 55% of the entire advertising budget. That means a $5 million dollar advertising budget, you would spend $2.75 million on agency fees.

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Our income is not tied to your advertising budget. Our income is exclusively tied to your growth. Our goal is to maximize your advertising impact with the lowest reasonable spend. This allows you to spend only what is necessary or to put extra horsepower into aggressively growing in your market.

The genius of this model is that it perfectly aligns our motivations as true partners for exponential profitable growth without the pain of being unaffordable. Ultimately, we are confident in taking the risk of being underpaid in the first few years because we know the results always speak for themselves.

Next, we do not accept commissions, referral fees, kickbacks, or other compensation from any service providers we recommend or engage for production work. Most agencies do. This includes the 15% agency commission for media buying. This approach is considerably different from the compensation plan employed by most advertising agencies, as it eliminates any potential conflicts of interest and allows us to focus our entire attention on helping you grow your business profitably as a true partner. For example, a $500,000 annual media buy would involve a $75,000 commission that we would have removed directly from your media providers' invoices.

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In almost every case, we end up lowering the amount of money you spend. We will stay within your planned marketing budget, including your media spend, production, and our Annual Fee. Add on the fact that you get any and all commissions back for media buys and various services provided by outside providers, and you will actually save money having us on your team.

Don’t forget, we have the largest buying power in North America for media buying, meaning for every dollar you spend buying media, we only spend 27 cents on average. This stretches your reach, impact, and frequency in a way no other agency (or yourself) can achieve on your own, saving you hundreds of thousands of dollars, eventually millions, every single year.

Clients who heed our advice and embrace our Marketing Strategy quickly add $1 million in incremental revenue to their business, making your investment a smart bet and a bit of a no-brainer.  

There is no longer any guesswork, hope, or fear that our marketing strategies are going to work. If our client’s are able to abandon any limiting beliefs about marketing, deliver operational excellence, and play the long game, our marketing strategy will accelerate their profitable growth.

Wizard of Ads® for Services pricing model is based solely on the top line revenue of your company. It consists of an Upfront Fee and an Annual Fee. These fees are inclusive of scheduled travel, services, and all other expenditures as outlined in the Consulting Agreement.

The Upfront Fee covers the intensive Uncovery Process, the first year’s Media Buy, the Creative Process, and the Market Research while the Annual Fee goes toward implementation, ongoing creative and consulting, and next year's media buy. You get a team of 3.5 people, with direct access to a top tier Creative Lead and Media Buyer, and on-demand access to me as your Master Strategist. You will also have a full-time Account Manager keeping everything on track.

While the upfront does have an initial pinch, it is easy to amortize the investment over the many years we will be working together to grow your business. Wizard of Ads® retain clients for 10 years, on average. The sale of the business is the number one reason for termination. We actively terminate the bottom 1% of clients who are unwilling or unable to follow our strategies.

Wizard of Ads® for Services believes that all rewards should be directly correlated to the success of our clients. This means that the Wizard of Ads® for Services only receives a raise when the company achieves growth. For example, if your gross sales for the year have increased by 25%, the Annual Fee you pay us in the following year will also be increased by 25%. Likewise, if your gross sales decrease, our Annual Fee will decrease by the same percentage during the following year.

This is an exceptionally easy and fair way to track and reward success. This model was developed by Wizard of Ads® over 35 years ago and has served us well because it serves our clients well.

As a rule of thumb, we take the risk of working for considerably less than our actual value in the first few years as we help accelerate growth. This means you need to be willing to pay us exceptionally well when you start doing even better.

When should I engage The Wizard of Ads® for Services?

There are four key revenue stages for engagement with the Wizard of Ads® for Services.

  1. Under $3.6 million in revenue
  2. Between $3.6 and $10 million in revenue
  3. Between $10 and $20 million in revenue
  4. Over $20 million in revenue

Under $3.6 million in revenue is an investment in your brand. This will serve you well in establishing your brand story early on and help you with your name, logo, and truck wrap design. It's easier to create pictures from a story than it is to make a story based on pre-drawn pictures. You'll be glad you did. Everyone on a fast path to growth is.

Most clients start with Wizard of Ads® for Services between $3.6 and $10 million in revenue. They have often seen a natural ceiling with their leads for demand service and are looking for ways to push past the ceiling. This can only be done with a properly executed brand strategy, specifically in mass media with a sticky story.

Between $10 and $20 million in revenue, Wizard of Ads® for Services has some natural economies of scale. This is a sweet spot where Wizard of Ads® for Services can offer some added value in getting the ball rolling.

Over $20 million in revenue is actually the lowest cost point of entry as a percentage of revenue, but not the cheapest time to start with the Wizard of Ads® for Services. Leveraging all economies of scale aside, we have been left out of the upside along the way, so engaging when over $20 million in revenue means we have to mend a lot of fences damaged along the way. This is also where clients see significant savings in their media buys and production costs.

There are also three market sizes to consider.

  • Primary Markets are the top 50 cities in America.
  • Secondary Markets are the smaller cities in America.
  • Tertiary Markets are the more rural trade areas in America.

When considering an engagement with The Wizard of Ads® for Services, consider what size market you are in. For example, a $3.6 million company in a Primary Market will struggle to get the necessary reach needed to make a splash. You either have to be more patient than a larger company or spend more money to accelerate your reach.

Alternatively, a $5 million company in a Secondary Market will look like a pretty darn big fish in a medium-sized pond.

A $20 Million company in a Primary Market will feel like a $50 million company using our strategies to potential customers.

The key to remember is that the earlier you start with the Wizard of Ads® for Services, the lower the investment to get started. As they say, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.

Are production costs included in your fees?

Offline, the Wizard of Ads® for Services Creative Lead will create the ad copy, cast the voice actors, source the production house, direct the performance, pick the music bed, manage all the edits, and provide you with the completed ad for final approval before sending to air on your behalf. This is included in our fees.

You pay for the production house, actors, royalty-free music, and jingles directly to avoid any potential for markups, commissions, or management fees.

We have many friends in the industry that give our clients good deals due to the large volume of work we provide them. We will introduce you to them.

Online, the Wizard of Ads® for Services Digital Lead will either coordinate production in-house or work with your preferred digital vendors. The scope of work will be determined and fees will reflect the scope of work to be done.

How long before a brand-forward strategy starts working?

In approximately three months of activation, we’ll just be getting live on air. In six months (3 months on air), you’ll be getting anecdotal feedback from people that you are being heard, but there will be no direct line to revenue.

After 6 months on the air, you’ll think you made the biggest mistake of your life signing up for this branding nonsense. After 9 months on the air (12 months in) you’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel.

At 12 full months on the air, you’ll know why you did this branding thing. Two years from now, we'll be clinking champagne flutes as you wonder why you didn’t do this sooner.

How long before we’re live?

The general guideline is 70-120 days, depending on the level of production needed and if there is a name change to your business.

This includes an onsite visit, a deep dive into research, and getting things created, negotiated, approved, produced, and live on the air.

  • Uncovery - 15-30 days based on travel. 1-2 days onsite.
  • Research - 30-60 days based on the scope of work.
  • Creative and Media Buy Process - 45 to 60 days
  • Offline Production - 15 days for radio. 30 - 60 days for television.
  • Online Production (if switching) - 60 days

This means planning for roughly 90 to 120 days in the proper development and production of a completely unique Marketing Strategy before anything hits the airwaves.

Are you exclusive?

Creatively, yes. During the term of this Agreement, all Creative Partners assigned to your Account shall not engage, directly or indirectly, as an employee, officer, manager, partner, consultant, agent, owner, or in any other capacity, in any competition of the client, including any company engaged in marketing consulting.

For clarity, the Creative Partner is defined as the individual Wizard of Ads® Partners who is responsible for creating your creative strategy and ongoing creative copy. Competition is defined as companies that engage in the same industry and business units (e.g., Furniture, Automotive, etc.) as you. The market area is defined as the area where the marketing message naturally reaches through DMA or 60 miles from the city center of the client's service area(s).

Naturally, we exclude any potential future competition in markets where you are not currently active at the date of signing.

We do not limit Media Buyers in any market. Media Buyers get better deals for larger volumes, making it beneficial for the client to have the Media Buyer available to do as many buys as possible to secure the best deals on the client’s behalf.

Do you do digital marketing?

Wizard of Ads® for Services can provide a host of digital marketing solutions for services. Wizard of Ads® has specialized Partners that provide digital services that serve services effectively. Under no circumstances will digital marketing services be offered without Wizard of Ads® for Services core solution.

It is most likely that Wizard of Ads® for Services will work with your existing digital partners and suppliers. If you do not have a reliable digital provider, we would be happy to introduce you to a number of great providers that play nice with Wizards.

Do you do jingles?

Wizard of Ads® for Services can assist you in getting a jingle for your business. Like any other tactical element of a marketing strategy, we do not produce a jingle for the sake of a jingle.

If you do not have a story or a strategic reason to have a jingle...or an ad campaign to tie it to, do not waste your hard-earned money on a jingle. You are wasting your time and money.

When you do build a single unified marketing strategy that incorporates a jingle for a specific (often scientific) reason, we have a Jingle Wizard who has studied the art and science of jingle design.

He will score you an original, royalty-free jingle, including professional singers, musicians, and producers. He will not knock off a generic jingle from a publicly available music bed that sounds like everyone else's jingle.

Your jingle will serve a very specific reason and produce a very specific result. Have you guessed how much we love jingles yet?

Who owns the copyrights?

Wizard of Ads® for Services owns copyrights for two very specific reasons. We also provide a fair use clause in all contracts to ensure you are in no way limited to the access of your creative works, whether you are working with us or not.

The first reason we own your copyright is to ensure that we do not have to go up against our own creative works in other markets we serve. This means you are not allowed to lend, give, borrow, tweak, rent, lease, or sell your creative works to any other company at any time.

The second reason we own your copyright is that we can establish a one-time value for your creative works in the event that someone steals the content. Upon selling you the copyrights, you can go after the perpetrator for theft and make a considerable bounty in a slam dunk case.

Here is how Wizard of Ads® word the fair use of your copyright for as long as your business is in operation:

All writing and/or marketing materials we create for you are not works-for-hire. Wizard of Ads® for Services hereby irrevocably grants you, and your successors in interest, the non-exclusive, royalty-free, non-transferable, and worldwide right to use the Works in connection with the marketing of your business pursuant to the Marketing Strategy for so long as your business is operational.
How do I measure brand results?

There are a number of interesting ways to measure results. Some people like to get unique identifying telephone numbers, or create branded URLs that redirect to landing pages or the website. However, much of this is a waste of time and energy as it never tells the true story of the brand journey and how it affected the decision-making process.

Other indicators of brand effectiveness include tracking new customers, reactivated customers, or running a brand equity survey to get a sense of your share of mind. Digitally you will see direct search increase, which cannot be affected by anything digital, as well as branded keyword inquiries increase. You’ll, of course, need to get your digital people to add these to your campaigns if you hope to see an increase in conversions.

Wizard of Ads® for Services racks the simplest of indicators. Top line revenue. When your branding takes effect, and the company responds in kind from the phone call or form fill-on, top-line revenue will increase. Efficacy is plotted on a T12, and total lead volume from all sources is tracked.

12 things you should know before signing up.
  1. Quality relationships take time. Branding is a long-term strategy. That’s why most services do it wrong, or not at all. There is always a lag between the start of the new campaign and the time it takes your customers to connect the dots. You MUST BE READY, WILLING, AND ABLE to endure this lag period. In our experience, the lag is typically 6 to 9 months, depending on how competitive the marketplace is, your company’s reputation, your budget in relation to reach, and the eight uncontrollable environmental factors. During this time, we will be helping you implement a transition plan to ease the pain. The good news is that this lag only happens once.
  2. Decisions by Committee. We completely reject the notion of decisions by committee. We work with a single, courageous decision-maker. We welcome decision influencers, but we only look to the Owner for the final decision. All decision-makers and influencers must be involved in the Uncovery and Marketing Strategy Presentation if they want to offer input in the future. It is critical that we have a 100% fully approved plan that can be defended and championed by all leaders in the organization.  
  3. Proven Strategy. That means we are not the low-cost provider. With hundreds of service clients and a playbook of strategic devices, tools, and tactics, this isn’t a guessing game for us. We know what to do to make your goods and services appealing to potential buyers. If you can deliver the goods, we can  build the relationships. If you are uncomfortable with the idea that you are paying us less now so that you can pay us considerably more once revenues allow, please do not commit. We intend to be your true partners, in sickness and in health...so long as you own your business.
  4. Automatic Payments. Everything is on automatic payments. If you struggle with managing cash flow, figure that out in your business first. We accept all major credit cards and ACH payments.
  5. We Cause Problems. If you don’t have a capacity issue now, I promise you will in about 9 months. Let’s deal with recruitment out of the gate as part of your comprehensive marketing strategy.
  6. We Own the Copyrights. All writing and/or marketing materials we create for you are not works-for-hire. We irrevocably grant you, and your successors in interest, the non-exclusive, royalty-free, non-transferable, and worldwide right to use the Works in connection with the marketing of your business pursuant to the Marketing Strategy for so long as your business is operational.
  7. Brand Building. We will be steering you to limit the use of discounts, rebates, coupons, and sales to attract clients. We know this feels counterintuitive to many, and we will clarify our reasoning. Rest assured, we have considerable experience in creating similar offers that are not damaging to your profitability, your brand’s integrity, and your preferable long-term client relations.
  8. Creative Authority. We must have creative authority over the words. You can accept copy as written or reject it outright, but you cannot modify the words yourself. If you do not like something as written, we are happy to discuss it and make the necessary change to maintain the integrity and intention of the words chosen. Alternatively, we will scrap the concept and create new copy that you are happy to get behind 100%.
  9. Proprietary Algorithm. The media buy must be structured in a very specific way, including running a full 52-week schedule. It is based on brain chemistry, not P&Ls. Once we have committed to the buy, it’s important to avoid adjustments unless they are calculated additions.
  10. Knucklehead Factor. You should expect knuckleheads. For example, when you start running ads that are certain to get attention, you need the courage to continue running those ads, even when you receive complaints. We celebrate complaints. It means we’ve made people feel.
  11. Digital Weasels. In about three months from the time your advertising campaign hits the airways, your digital marketers will show you a marked increase in direct and organic traffic. Some Digital Marketers will mistakenly claim this success as their own. Done properly, you can continue to spend less and less on digital lead generation by increasing your branded keyword online presence.
  12. Annual Marketing Meetings. Travel permitting, we prefer to hold Annual Marketing Meetings (AMMs) outside your city. Years of experience have taught us that we get better results when decision-makers are outside their sphere of influence, away from the day-to-day distractions of the office.

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