About Ted Wright
Ted Wright has been at the forefront of word of mouth marketing since he helped reignite the Pabst Blue Ribbon brand in 2000. Over the past decade, his agency has become a global leader in Word of Mouth marketing with clients on every continent.
Ted has won numerous numerous public speaking awards on the subject, and for this special episode, he joined us live in the Worthix Podcast Studio in Atlanta.
Tune in to the Voices of CX Podcast to hear conversations with top leaders in CX, marketing, data analytics and beyond.
Introduction: (00:05) Ted Wright has been at the forefront of word of mouth marketing since he helped reignite the Pabst blue ribbon brand in 2000. Over the last decade. His agency has become a global leader in word of mouth marketing with clients on every continent. Ted has won numerous public speaking awards on the subject, and he joins us today from the Voices of CX studio.
Mary Drumond: (01:03) Tell me about your background, how you got started, because it’s interesting. How did this become your life?
Ted Wright: (01:10) As far as word of mouth marketing, so I was sitting in grad school in Chicago and I watch Google and TiVo get adopted without any advertising. And I was like, huh, how’d that work? And that’s kind of my default question, it’s my personality cause that’s the family I was raised in. My mother’s a pretty famous scientist and my dad is a civil engineer and so how things work and why they work that way was always just sort of dinner table conversation since I was very little. So it’s kind of very natural and university of Chicago is very gracious and they treat all their grad students like adults. So if you want to do other stuff while you’re there besides go to class and do all the work that you’re supposed to do, have at it, and professors are willing to talk to you. So I basically took the second year of B school and tore apart all the aspects of word of mouth marketing that I can think of. The behavioral economics, the algorithm side of it, the science behind it, the math behind it, but also the history and the art of this. I mean, word of mouth marketing is at least 3,500 years old. I stopped looking after I hit 3,500 years ago cause I was like, eh, I’m good. But I mean I literally have a Sumerian clay tablet in my office that basically says, Hey Ahmed down there is really great at making these clay pots. You should go check them out. And I was like, alright, so this has been going on for a long time. So then we were able to, you know, then thinking about this as a business, then the question becomes, okay, how do you make something that is replicable over time? How do you make, you know, for lack of a better word, how do you make a machine? How do we make a factory where you can input this information and these aspects of the brand and then out should pop out marketing that is effective about moving products.
MD: (02:55) Right.
TW: (02:55) And I think the other half of it was that I was arrogant enough to think that when I saw that broadcast was starting to decline in the mid 90’s in its effectiveness, that it would keep going. I mean there weren’t a whole lot of people out there that are predicting, you know, where we are today with the lack of audience for TV and the complete death and decimation of newspapers across the United States and all of the ways that people have really split up all their different communication channels. I just happened to see it and go, huh, the logical outcome of all of this is the world we have today. And so in the world we have today, when you have more and more digital every day, particularly here in North America, in those mature media markets around the world, that means face to face is even more valuable on a per unit basis. So in a world where something you rely on becomes more rare, that means that thing becomes more valuable. So if you’re having digital conversation all the time, but you know as an average North American that a face-to-face conversation using that same information is 10 times more trusted and a hundred times more likely to put somebody into the sales channel. Then you really want, if you’re trying to sell stuff, you really want to engage in as much of this face-to-face conversation as you can as a brand.
MD: (04:11) Do you think that a lot of companies resist creating a word of mouth strategy just because they always think big and they think immediate results. In your book Fizz, you talk about this, where word of mouth marketing isn’t necessarily something that’s going to give you immediate gratification. It’s more long term. People don’t talk about things on cue. They talk about things when circumstance makes it relevant, right. So do you think there is still a resistance in the market? Do you think over time that resistance is just going to kind of fade and and companies will start seeing the value of it? Is it the new norm even for big corporate?
TW: (04:49) So I think right now it is definitely something that big corporations have totally embraced. I think in 2001 when we started, this was weird, and we also had no data. I mean, look, we believe at Fizz that all marketing starts with data and ends with art. So for us, I’m not surprised that has taken this long and it’s not, because of things you would think. I mean honestly change is hard. Nobody likes change. Even babies in wet diapers will sit there and cry while you’re changing their diaper and like, dude, I’m literally doing what you’re crying about and yet you will not shut up. And that’s just a human thing mean change is hard. Change is difficult. That’s why there are change management consultants out there. I mean you would think it would be easy, like this is a better thing. Nobody likes to do change. And coming from a world where particularly people made a lot of money in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and even into the 90’s off of broadcast. And could do that consistently. So when somebody shows up in 2001 and says “all of this is going away and this is the new thing. Follow me!” Now, 20 years later almost, there’s lots of data. Not only do we have lots of data, but there’s lots of third party data out there. McKinsey’s looking at this, in fact my buddy Steve Knox, he used to run Proctor & Gamble, all the marketing for Proctor and Gamble. He sent me a note about five years ago. He said hey man, when the big consulting companies are getting into your space, you know there’s a lot of money. And I was like, okay, you know, look, there’s lots of opportunity for everybody. So I think big companies are absolutely looking at this and they’re talking about it all the time. I mean, I was just talking to a global leader in their space and I was talking to the woman who runs all marketing for them planetwide. And she said, look, our details are that 40% of our sales comes from word of mouth. We know this. And that has been consistent since the 1980s. What we never knew about was that there was a way of taking that word of mouth and systemically thinking it through to get people to share that story more often than they necessarily were thinking.
MD: (06:54) Yeah. But I think that that’s the real kicker right there because everybody understands that word of mouth is really good marketing, but how do you make that a process that a company can adopt and into their own processes and create a machine like you said?
TW: (07:08) Right. And so you know, lucky I was raised by who I was raised by and it’s lucky that you know, my cursory understanding of genetics are that, you know, it’s a building and it’s a factory and civil engineering is definitely a building. So we basically just built the four blocks for word of mouth marketing, which is focus, design, delivery, and report. So focus is about, what is the story? Design is about how is that you get this story out to people without interrupting them or intercepting them? The next step is getting out there and actually doing it. And then the fourth step is how are we going to measure this? How do we know, to a grumpy CFO scowly level, that this is working? And so fortunately the way of measuring this has definitely grown in scientific accuracy as word of mouth has become more important. And so now it just depends on how much money you want to spend on the measurement as to how accurate your measurement is going to be. So at this point measurement for word of mouth is the same degree of accuracy, and also expense, as measuring for how effective my TV ad or how effective is my sponsorship. So with very large scale companies we just go in to their medium X and plug word of mouth marketing into that and they have whole teams. For our smaller companies, or our startups, thinking you know, 50 to 250 million in top line revenue, we actually have an analytics team that is led by really great guy that works with us, and he goes in and he basically builds the analytics so you know that it’s working. Average lifespan for a client for us is six and a half years. So it’s not like a company year after year after year is giving us money just because they think it’s fun or because we’re nice. They’re giving to us because they know they make money on it. They give us a dollar for us, average ROI for somebody is 6.2X, so they’re getting 620% back on their money as long as they stay with us for longer than two years. And if you do that, you see great guns and you say all of the brands, even those brands like Tito’s vodka and Elizabeth who was really running the marketing in the earliest days down there, they’ve grown almost entirely on word of mouth.
MD: (09:22) I found out about Tito’s through word of mouth, so yeah.
TW: (09:24) Right. It’s only been in the last four or five years that you see the ads going up, there are some billboards every once in a while, and there are some out of home stuff that’s in airports. In fact, my friend Elizabeth is still very involved with there and about five years ago, I saw the very first airport ads and I called her on the phone. I was like, Elizabeth, what are you doing? This is crazy town. And she’s like, I knew you would be calling. So this is what’s going on. And so she made the point, and this is something that we talk about people all the time, word of mouth is a discipline. It is irrespective of tool. So we at Fizz have used TV before. We’ve produced TV, we’ve produced out of home. There’s no tactic that anyone who’s listening to this can think of that you can’t use against word of mouth. The difference between broadcast and word of mouth was broadcast as a discipline is about visuals and about getting people to remember a story. Word of mouth is about having two people have a conversation with each other and getting the listener to remember the story. So in a world of broadcast, you’re worried about taglines and what is the visual and all the rest of the stuff. In the world of word of mouth, you’re worrying, what is Maria taking away from this conversation with Ted about this new phone? How many of these Teds can I find that will share the story about this phone with as many Marias as they know. And then how often is Maria gonna then share the story and then her friends and so on and so on. And if you look, I mean Apple computer was completely built off of word of mouth. So think about 20 years ago, the only people that really had Macs were pro creatives, right? And then they iPod came out and people were like, Oh, Apple whenever. But for years before the iPod, all these creatives have been telling everyone in your office, Oh my God, I love this thing. It works. It’s great. It always works. Dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. And people start trying this. And the reason that Apple runs TV and they do out of home, is not to get somebody to buy the iPhone. I would say that there’s nobody in America that buys an iPhone because they see an ad on TV. I believe that the utility, and we have good, there’s lots of good third party data on this now that the utility of broadcast is not about doing awareness. It is about making sure that the advocates out there, those people that share stories at a greater rate than anybody in North America, that 10% of your population, that those people remember to share the story one more time. On average, these we find, these advocates share, their story will get shared. They don’t do all the sharing. Their friends tell friends and they tell two people and so on and so on. An advocate star will get shared and excess of 40,000 times in a single year. If you can run an ad and instead of running 40,000 you know you can kick up just one more storytelling. You can get up to half a million shares per single advocate. So that means with 10,000 people who love Apple so much that they’ll buy anything that you ever put out there. They’re the ones that bought the Rose gold. But you know whatever they’re doing or the one that everyone was like gets a $1,500 max fan for my thing. I can’t wait for that. Right? You need between 1,010 thousand people that buy everything and you need to be so great that then they’ll share the story and they tell it to people and you build whole businesses on that.
MD: (13:22) So you’re talking about advocates, which we can, we can also call influencers, right?
TW: (13:26) We could.
MD: (13:26) Did the age of Instagram just kinda ruin that term where it now just became kind of, eh?
TW: (13:34) You know, for a true believer like me, cause remember I’m back in the dark ages. I mean, I’m realizing this is happening in like 1999 so I’m very like, this is my baby, you know. If you anyone out there watches the Simpsons. There is a real estate character, Cookie Kwan, and her tagline is, “you stay off the west side.” I’m that way about influencer marketing. So up until two years ago, we referred to advocates as influencers because they really were. What has happened now is that, influencers come to me and you know, I’m a size zero. I’m on this beach and you know, here I am talking about my drink or my lashes or whatever I’m talking about. That’s what everybody thinks about.
MD: (14:20) My diet tea.
TW: (14:20) And I use my diet tea, exactly. Influencers and advocates are simultaneously changin, but let’s just talk to all listeners for a second about how we got to this state. In 2013/2014, people were blogging and all of a sudden companies show up and they say, Oh my gosh, if you blog about something, people will go out and buy it. Because all those original blogs were totally people who just loved these things.
MD: (14:46) Yeah, like Glossier for example.
TW: (14:48) Right, exactly. So what took away from that was if somebody blogs, people will buy stuff. So what I need to do is I can go get a bunch of people who write blogs. And so they went and got a bunch of people who write blogs. In 2014/15 they go to all these brands and say, Hey, blogger outreach. And brands are like, okay, that makes sense to us. We’re going to try it. And by the end of 2017 everyone’s like, yeah, we don’t get any real ROI out of this. Right? Because the people that put these companies together, they were selling the process. They weren’t selling what the outcome was. And the process is not write something and people will buy their processes, have a story that is worth sharing. Have somebody that truly thinks authentically that, Oh my gosh, this thing is the greatest thing ever, and let me tell you about it. And people will react to that. So when blogger outreaching stopped working and brands wouldn’t return your phone call anymore, they said this: like, okay, bloggers influence people and Wilma and everybody else has written all this stuff about influencers. And if you influence people, you must be an influencer and aha, you’re an influencer. And they sell all of those “influencers,” in quotes, on the same way that they would sell an ad in People magazine.
MD: (16:01) Yeah, there are agencies for influencers.
TW: (16:02) Yeah, but they’re agencies for people who say they’re influencers. That’s like being an agency for people who say they’re cool or they’re amazing in bed, right? If somebody has to come up to you and say, hi, “I’m cool.” You know they’re not. So for all the listeners out there, and this is said with respect to anybody who’s trying to make a living at this, but if somebody comes up to you and says they’re an influencer, they’re not. That is a term that other people have to give you, grant you, based on the quality of the information and how excited you are and how well you tell a story and all the rest of the stuff. Is it possible that there are people who get paid to be an influencer that actually are influencers? Sure. Oprah Winfrey. Part of her joy and part of the reason she was so cool, is she would find stuff and she would like stop her show and say, Oh my God y’all, check this out. And she would tell a little story about it. So there are people out there and for those of you who want to work with influencers and want to work with people who say they’re influencers, your first question is, would you tell the story about my brand if I wasn’t paying you? And if they would, then feel free to pay them because you’re not buying them for their mind. You’re buying them for their time. So I have a 16 year old son loves to play video games. Microsoft, if you’re listening, if you want, you can talk to him. If you paid him, he would talk about your video games more. But you’re buying his time, not your mind. And most of the influencer stuff you see are people saying, Oh, you know these people will say and they say, Oh well we have integrity. Okay. Just to be absolutely clear, there’s nobody that thinks that the influencer marketing industry has an excess of integrity. I mean, the number of studies out there that are showing just the raw fraud that’s going out there, not like, I don’t think you’re really an influencer, but like you’re literally faking your follower numbers or how many conversations you’re having
MD: (18:08) I mean, they finally started adopting measures to try to reduce some of that because it was insane.
TW: (18:12) Can you imagine giving money into an industry that has to have police and you have to buy police to make sure that what you tell me you’re going to do and what I’m paying you to do, you’re actually going to do.
MD: (18:26) Isn’t that just going back into the cycle of the marketing that people hate? So I mean if we consider that word of mouth marketing is maybe a more authentic version of marketing. Because I mean our mutual friend, Mark Schaefer, he wrote a really cool book called Marketing Rebellion.
TW: (18:44) Yes, he did.
MD: (18:45) I saw him do a keynote and it was amazing and that’s when I contacted him. But what he was saying is people are so frustrated, or there’s so much disbelief in marketing that marketing has become a villain. People hate ads. They just hate them because a lot of companies out there are selling you products as long as you watch their ad. YouTube is a classic example. They’re now forcing you to watch two ads, 12 seconds long each, 24 seconds of your time in order for you to watch a video that they didn’t even make. They’re just hosting it. So it’s created an actual like anger inside of people when it comes to marketing in general. So a lot of us who are in the marketing industry are like, cool word of mouth marketing, something authentic, something fresh, something new. Are these so-called influencers out there just going and tarnishing this new beautiful thing with their fake influence?
TW: (19:42) So it’s very easy to get me wound up about this because I’m super serious about it. Um, I would agree with basically everything that you’ve said, but it sounds like I’m a crazy person when I just go off on people.
MD: (19:56) But I went off on it, so it’s okay.
TW: (19:59) Thank you for doing that because you’re reading my mind. But what I would say to your audience and, anybody else out there who knows either of us that’s listening to this. You really do need to look and make sure that if somebody says they are influential, that they actually are. And by influential, they should be able to move markets, and if they can move markets, great. Please go move markets. Casey Neistat could do it. Oprah Winfrey can do it. There’s lots of other people out there that uh, for fake eyelashes, in beauty, and some people in food, and a couple of people in travel. But most of the stuff, with respect, most of this stuff is a con. And you know it’s a con because of the amount of fraud that you see in the industry. All the studies are publicly available. And then the second way you know is, you pay somebody to do something and you don’t see any lift. And if you don’t see any lift, then it’s probably not effective.
MD: (20:57) There was a story that came out really recently about some woman with 6 million followers who couldn’t even sell 23 tshirts. You saw that one?
TW: (21:03) I did. So let’s talk about her for a second. Cause I felt bad about that. Those 3 million followers could totally be legitimate. But for those of you who read this story, hopefully some of you actually went and looked at her t-shirt designs. They’re terrible. And so everyone ripped on influencers. And here I am defending influencers. Everyone ripped on influencers. Like, this is fake. 3 million followers, couldn’t even sell 23 t-shirts. People aren’t stupid. If the t-shirt is bad, they’re not going to go buy it from her. So the design was just terrible. I felt bad for her. If she’d had a good design, she probably could have sold a thousand. It doesn’t have to be a good design from like an aesthetic sense. It just has to be something super interesting. I remember when my son, who’s 16 now, but he was like eight and he was super into Minecraft. The World Minecraft Conference was in Orlando. And I had everybody in the office go online at the same time and we scored four tickets. So we went down there and he must have spent $150 on Minecraft swag. And he loved it. He was so excited.
MD: (22:12) Did he have one of those big swords? Like the styrofoam swords?
TW: (22:13) Oh yes. Oh my God. The foam rubber sword. His mom, my wife, super awesome person. You know those, uh, when you’re a fan of a football team, they have the flag? So she actually sewed a Minecraft flag and we drove from Atlanta all the way to Orlando, and everybody you past us who was also going down there were like beep, beep, yeah! And we stopped and took pictures.
MD: (22:39) That’s prime mom-ing right there.
TW: (22:39) Oh my God, it is so mom-ing. She was prime mom-in’ on that. But you know, the point is that that stuff had value because it was good design and he saw a lot of stuff that he didn’t like. So just because this woman ripped a bunch of tshirts off, that was a bad design does not mean that influencers don’t work.
MD: (23:01) Do you think that it’s also, it may be coincided with the market kind of losing faith in influencers as well?
TW: (23:10) I think it was a lovely easy tag that people can put like, Oh, influences don’t work because this woman, 3 million people, she couldn’t sell 23 t-shirts. Okay,
MD: (23:18) Well you know, coming out of the Instagram influencer thing and a little bit more into companies and B2B, I personally don’t really believe in the B2B label cause I always think that it’s just people selling to other people.
TW: (23:31) We would agree.
MD: (23:32) But it’s still a different take.
TW: (23:35) We would also agree with that.
MD: (23:37) So how is it that companies can go out and find influencers that aren’t just size zeros on Instagram?
TW: (23:44) You mean advocates?
MD: (23:45) Sorry, advocates. There we go.
TW: (23:47) Because people are selling to people in the B2B space. So let’s just say I’m selling microphone stands. So in the United States, let’s just come up with a number. How many people do you think buy microphone stands in bulk in the United States?
MD: (24:02) In bulk?
TW: (24:03) In bulk, yeah, on the B2B side. Just come up with number? How many people do you think?
MD: (24:08) I don’t know. I’m going to say… A thousand.
TW: (24:10) Okay, so there’s a thousand people out there that are doing this. So now you’re like, alright there’s a thousand people. You and I are selling microphone stands, and there’s a thousand people in the entirety of the United States that are gonna buy these. So if there’s a thousand people in the United States, we know that 100 of them are going to have this advocate personality, which is really three parts. They like to try new things because they’re new, they love to share stories with their friends and they’re intrinsically motivated. So we know about what the size of our audience is, but we have no idea because people don’t write “I’m an advocate” on their forehead.
MD: (24:42) And if they do, they’re probably a fraud.
TW: (24:42) Yeah, if they do, they’re probably not. So now the next question you ask yourself is, okay, where is my target most likely to hang out? I dunno, is there a trade show about microphone stands? Is there media about microphone stands? And so let’s say there is one trade show and let’s say it’s CES. Okay. So now we’ve got to go and CES is what? One quintillion square feet of space. You can’t even go to all the buildings in a week. Okay, so now we know everybody who might buy our stands is at CES. But if we buy a booth at CES, the chance of those thousand people walking by, it’s pretty slim.
MD: (25:24) Your ROI is almost nonexistent. You start off at a deficit.
TW: (25:27) So now let’s think about, where else, potentially, are people going to buy this? Where are they going to co-locate? So if anyone out there has ever been to CES before, you know that the line, as an example, you know that the line at the Starbucks, on both the North side and the South side, is super long. So if you and I have a microphone stand company, you and I are going to go stand in line. One’s going to stand in one line, one’s going to stand in the other, and we’re going to carry the microphone stand with us. And if we can have one that looks like C-3PO’s arm or it looks like the space shuttles, you know, reach your arm or something. We’re going to stand there. And if we have a model and we can hit a button and it works and it articulates, even better. And we’re just gonna stand there in line and we’re just going to play with it. And what’s going to happen? Somebody in that line is going to see us and somebody in that line who sees us is also going to maybe be an advocate, and advocates have three particular personality traits. They like to try new things because they’re new, they like to share stories with their friends, and they’re intrinsically motivated. Because they like to share stories with their friends, they’re always collecting information. So if you’re one of those thousand people on the B2B side that are buying microphone stands in bulk and somebody’s standing behind you in a line with a microphone stand, you might say, Hey, what’s up with that microphone stand painted to look like C-3PO’s arm? Oh, let me show you. Dah, dah and here’s the button. And you push this and it grabs the microphone and it follows you around. Or here’s the whatever, and they’re like, ah, that’s cool. Do you guys have a booth here? Yeah we do. She’d come over and see us. And then while you’re having a discussion, the other people in the line are hearing you. Right. So this is classic, don’t ever interrupt and don’t ever intercept. Don’t walk up to somebody and say, Hey, can I tell you about my microphone stand? No, go away. I don’t want it. I’m smart. I’m a B2B buyer of microphone stands. I am smart. In fact, you might even be on my list, but if I happen to see you in like sitting on the rental car bus from McCarren to the hotel or I have to see you standing in line and you’re playing with something and that’s cool and it’s doing something that I’ve never seen before. It’s like visually tracking your face. So the microphone is never more than six inches away from your lips and it has some stuff in there. Then I’m going to ask you about it. And if I don’t buy microphone stands, but I buy earphone plugs, I’m never gonna come up and talk to you. And that’s awesome because then I’m not wasting my time having a discussion with you.
MD: (27:57) So you wait for people to come to you.
TW: (27:59) You build something that is interesting enough that is going to attract people’s attention. And because advocates love to share stories with their friends, they’re always up there seeking information. And if you’re interesting and you’re obvious about what you do, they will come and talk to you. Since we’re talking about trade shows, can I just share one thing with the audience never, ever to do? And if I ever seen any of y’all doing it, I will come after you.
MD: (28:22) Is it the robot story?
TW: (28:24) It is not the robot story. Don’t ever, ever, ever have a candy dish. Candy dishes are the signal that you as a B2B sales person have given up. It’s like wearing flip flops to church.
MD: (28:38) We don’t do candy dishes. When you walked through our office, I don’t know if you noticed that there was, um, a ridiculous amount of rubber duckies all around the office.
TW: (28:47) I did notice that. That’s awesome.
TW: (28:49) So rubber duckies are our candy bowl. So when we go to career fairs to find summer interns, etc., especially for the research and development side, we give away rubber duckies.
TW: (29:02) Now, if it was me and I was working at Worthix, I would, just so you know, I would never have a rubber duck in a bowl. I would bring up one of those blow up pools and I would fill it with water. And I would have the ducks in there. You’d have a rubber ducky blowup pool and you put about your rubber ducks in there and you’d have water and they’d be floating around. And you’re like, you can have one, but you gotta figure out how to get it without your hands.
MD: (29:29) That’s great.
TW: (29:29) Right. And especially if you’re dealing with like researchers and scientists and stuff, like, you can do anything you want. Now somebody’s going to come down there and just bite one of the heads and take it. Like, great. Somebody is gonna figure out how to make a robotic arm to come get this thing or they’re doing other interesting things, and now becomes talkable. Now in a world of everybody sitting there at some career fair, now you’re the person that people are standing in line to go do stuff with. Why? Because you wanted to create a conversation. And for all of you who are listening to this and you know forget about everything else we talked about today. Just remember this: all marketing in North America today is about creating a conversation. If you’re not doing that with your marketing, you’re wasting your money. The best conversations are those that the person you’re having the conversation with comes to you and starts asking you questions. That’s what you want because by walking over there, they’re giving you permission to come and have conversation, and you get to tell them everything. If you walk up to people, you’re just like those people that are trying to sell you credit cards at the airport. Like, “sir, can I tell…” “no dude, because I did not park my car and walk through security and walking past you to go get a credit card.”
MD: (30:53) The kiosks at the mall are like the worst, right?
TW: (30:53) Oh my gosh, or trying to wipe dead sea hand cream on you at the mall? I’m like, get away from me. Even if I really wanted dead sea hand cream, I’m not going to talk to you because you seem like every other person, you’re dealing with a bunch of tropes that everybody knows is connected to marketing. And in the United States today, nobody wakes up in the morning going, gosh, I hope I’m marketed to today. But lots of people wake up and go, huh? You know what? If somebody told me something cool that was really important to me and made sense, that’d be great.
TW: (31:59) A story shared between two people, between an advocate and those people that they love, if it has three qualities, if it’s authentic, if it’s interesting, and if it’s relevant, if you make that an acronym, that acronym spells AIR. So a story to fly around, needs air under its wings. So that’s what you really have to do. So a story that’s interesting, relevant and authentic, created with an opportunity where people can come to you, that you’re not coming to them, you’re not interrupting them or intercepting them, that’s where the magic happens.
MD: (32:30) Yeah. You know, as a marketer, you talked about people not waking up in the morning and saying I want to be marketed to today. My title is Chief Marketing Officer, which means I am just the target for everyone to try to market to because I’m the buyer for most of the stuff out there. It gets really annoying, so I kind of try to find the fun in it. So what I do is I will actually read a lot of the stuff because I’m looking for something good.
TW: (32:57) Right, right, right.
MD: (32:59) I’m just desperate to find someone who’s doing something different, you know? And not only in the digital sphere, you know, so in my mailbox, every day I get home and I go through my mail and it’s 80% junk mail. But I’m always astonished at the creativity of the credit card companies. They know that with your junk mail, you’ve got like maybe five other credit cards offering you a card at that moment. So what they do with their envelopes, like the design that they put so that it stands out among the rest of your mail, is pretty damn amazing. And we were talking about this last night because I think it’s discover or something like that. They make the most absurd envelopes and for like an entire month you’re getting a different envelope every week. And basically you’ve got a rainbow of different credit card offers.
TW: (33:51) Right, how fun is that? What they’re trying to do is they’re trying to break out of the pack. Years ago we had a client, and they just had to do direct mail and I was like, Oh sweet Jesus, can we please not do direct mail? They’re like, no, no, no. We have to do direct mail. And we were like, fine. So we are were arguing with them for about six weeks, we’re going to lose it. And we’re starting to be that point where the consultant is now irritating or like, you know, you want to go up to that line because you want to say I’m here for you. But after that line, that’s bad. So what did we do? We found somebody who would take a direct mail piece and would fold it into an origami dragon and would still pass. And so these things cost us like an average 7 cents a unit, which is a ton of money when you’re doing direct mail. Our open rate was almost 30%.
MD: (34:38) I mean, yeah. It’s an origami dragon!
TW: (34:38) Yeah, they’re like, “Oh hey, I got an origami dragon, what’s this? That’s kinda cool.” And they saw a huge rate. Now they’re like, Oh, let’s do more origami!
MD: (34:51) Nope! That ship has sailed.
TW: (34:52) Yeah, the second origami, the third origami, the fourth. By the time you get to the fourth origami, you don’t care anymore.
MD: (34:57) It’s lost its authenticity, maybe?
TW: (35:00) It has. Or you’ve seen it before. It’s really, it’s not interesting anymore. It’s like those people who used to do charities and they would put a penny, they would mail you money and people were like, Oh, who mails me money? Oh, that’s crazy. I’m going to open this up. After you get like the 19th dime from, you know, whatever charity is going on, you’re like, yeah. And you basically we’re just throwing them away.
MD: (35:21) You’re throwing away money.
TW: (35:22) You’re throwing away money because you’re like, yeah I already know what this says. Interesting, relevant and authentic. And just for those of you who are super into the math, average word of mouth conversation, the United States last 32 seconds. So it’s not like somebody on the B2B side is going to sit there and have an long microphone stand arm discussion. They’re not going to sit there and have this nine minute diatribe with you and ask you all these questions about articulation and degrees and all the rest. They’re gonna look at it and say that’s cool. And then they’re going to go to their phone. Just so we’re all perfectly clear, digital and the impact, the segway between digital..
MD: (36:01) It’s gotta be connected, right? You’ve gotta be find-able if you’re going to do a word of mouth strategy, right?
TW: (36:06) You do. Cause if you’re not find-able. So between zero and 50 bucks as far as like cost, either time, treasure or both. If I tell you this is awesome and you think I know what I’m doing and you care, you’re just going to go buy it. If it costs more than $50 in less than $500, you go online.
MD: (36:23) And you research and you read reviews.
TW: (36:24) Yup, and And you research. And if the conversation from your friend matches the hive mind, you know, summary of what’s going on, you’re like, okay, that’s cool, I’ll go buy it. If it cost more than $500, all the way up to infinity. You do the first two steps and then you take that collective information and you actually go to somebody else and you have a conversation with them about it and you say, Hey, I’m thinking about buying 10,000 of these arms. My friend Janice over here who buys arms for you know, Best Buy and I worked for Macy’s and we’re competitors, but we’ve been going to the same microphone stand arm trade association, and we go to the same, you know, uh, different things and we’ve known each other for 15 years. And so I called Janice and I say, hey Janice, what do you think? And whatever she tells me is at least 70% of my truth.
MD: (37:13) For sure.
TW: (37:14) Right? So that’s what you want. That’s how word of mouth intersects with digital. So you want that story out there and then you want the digital out there because when people come and check they need some social proof.
MD: (37:25) Yes, absolutely.
TW: (37:26) Mark Schaefer, who’s a very dear friend of mine said one time, and he finally got me to understand this, and I was fighting him a little bit cause you know I want to be very pure about all these things. And he said, fine, think about this way. If I tell you this is the greatest sushi restaurant in Honolulu and you walk in at 6:30 at night on a Friday and there’s nobody in there, what are you gonna do?
MD: (37:45) You’re gonna walk out.
TW: (37:45) I’m gonna walk out dude. Cause what the hell Mark? That’s why you have to have the digital. It’s social proof. It’s a way of finding things and it’s quick information. Make it easy. And I’m like, okay, you’re right. You’re right. Fine. You’re right.
MD: (37:58) So let me, let me wrap this up by asking you how Fizz is helping companies find these advocates, create these stories. How do you guys do it? What’s your big mission?
TW: (38:12) Our mission, internally, is to be happy as a company. We get great joy out of sharing the story about how word of mouth works with people all over the world. And as a result of that mission, some people are like, Ooh, that could really work for me. And then we work with those brands and we help them grow tremendously. The reality is that word of mouth is very powerful and in most companies is underutilized. So we have figured out a way to walk somebody through the process, Mary, you know, I wrote a book about this basically because my wife was tired of telling people what I do when we go to parties. She’s like, look, I need something that will fit in my purse. I can just hand to people. So that’s why the book exists. So I decided I would put all of her secrets in there. And then we also have a website that talks about this stuff. And then if you want more, I give speeches on this and so I’m glad to come and give speeches to different companies about how it works.
MD: (39:07) And you can buy tshirts, right?
TW: (39:07) And you can also buy tshirts that have cool sayings on them that we think are amusing. And that’s really how we get the word out about word of mouth. I give speeches and then sometimes people are excited about them and they say, Hey, can you come help us with a very specific thing? And we do.
MD: (39:25) Do you use word of mouth marketing to market your word of mouth agency.
TW: (39:28) So it’s interesting, We only do word of mouth marketing. So we have never done any broadcast ever and we haven’t done any specific outbound marketing for what we do in 11 years. We just share the story. This is what we do, and this is important for the B2B people that are thinking about this: Nobody who buys who or potentially could buy our products and services that we sell is stupid. Our job is to share and to share the story as often as possible. In a room of a hundred CMOs, I have no idea who’s really interested. We have a CMO who just came to us and he was like, Oh, I heard you five years ago and now I’m ready. And he’s like, Oh, I just had been too busy. Well, it turns out that he wasn’t too busy. What was happening was he had a CEO that’s like, I don’t believe in this stuff. And he needed that CEO to leave, but he was not gonna ever tell me that. And he flew halfway across the country to see me give a speech and I saw him there. I was like, how are you doing? And he’s like, great, I just, I need to get out of the office and I can never remember to call you. So I just decided to fly to Dallas to see you. I was like that man. I mean, I know God used to be president, the United States, and I know how busy he was. And in my mind, I was like, he can’t be more busy than him, but folks come and they come in their own time and they share the story and they buy when they want to buy. So for my friends are out there selling B2B, we don’t believe that anybody you sell to is stupid and we don’t believe that we can get anybody to buy our products and services that we sell until they’re ready. So our job is to make sure that we’re available, we’re open, we’re transparent, and we’re always sharing what’s going on. And if we do that, we get plenty of visits and it’s all inbound. And then our very satisfied customers tell their friends and they tell their friends and we get these inbound calls. So we are the word of mouth marketing company that lives and dies off of word of mouth. And we’ll have our 20 year anniversary in June. So we’re doing pretty good so far.
MD: (41:28) Awesome. Well thanks for coming up to North Atlanta.
TW: (41:31) Thank you. Thank you. Worthix is an awesome company and I was really thrilled that you called and you were interested in what we have to say.
MD: (41:38) Awesome.
TW: (41:39) Thank you.
Mary Drumond is Chief Marketing Officer at survey tech startup Worthix, and host of the Voices of Customer Experience Podcast. Originally a passion project, the podcast runs weekly and features some of the most influential CX thought-leaders, practitioners and academia on challenges, development and the evolution of CX.