Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Why customer experience is still word-of-mouth's best friend

As you may know, I spent a few days this past weekend down in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Of course, we spent a fair amount of time lying on the beach. But one of our favorite activities while we're on St. John (our favorite island, in case you're wondering) is Woody's "World-Famous" Happy Hour. Yes, world famous. 

On an island that's known for outrageously high prices on everything from gas to orange juice, Woody's offers $1 beers and well drinks from 3-6 every day. Every day. What's more, they offer an electric, college-like atmosphere you simply can't find anywhere on St. John OR St. Thomas.

Quite simply, it's been a staple of all our trips to St. John. And we tell anybody who will listen to go there, too.

Why do we refer so many folk to this hole-in-the-wall bar? We have yet to have a bad experience. In fact, it's often the most fun we have on our trips. We sit at the bar, chatting with the bartenders and locals. Wait staff pass us shot glasses with tastes of their frozen concoctions. And they pump in great music throughout happy hour. The place just has a vibe. For us, it's all about the unique experience Woody's offers. Heck, I even bought a t-shirt (the true sign of an exceptional experience).

Keep in mind, Woody's isn't on Twitter. They don't have a Facebook page. They haven't presented me with any marketing materials. And I haven't talked to a single salesperson or PR rep (although I do try to chat with one of the owners when I'm there).

What's the lesson for brands here? It's all about the experience. Without an exceptional experience, all the social media, PR and marketing efforts in the world won't mean a thing.

In this case, Woody's nails it. The bartenders and wait staff are incredibly efficient (I always have at least one drink in my hand at all times), friendly and funny. The drinks (i.e. "products) are always cold and delicious. Heck, they even have a "drive up" window where you can grab a drink "on the go" as you're passing by. They also have all sorts of sports and island memorabilia inside to check out. And the food ain't half bad either (conch fritters anyone?). It's a total experience--every sense is satisfied. 

Now, should Woody's be engaging me to further their brand? Probably. Wouldn't take much really. But, I'm guessing in this case, they're probably not looking to open up multiple branches across the Caribbean. Regardless, they've developed a unique product and service that promotes itself. There's something to be learned from that simple fact.

But most brands could learn a lot from Woody's. Focus on your product or service. Strive to provide an experience that's so out-of-this-world that your customers will leave raving. And work every day to hone that experience so it's always improving.  Your brand does all this and it will make marketing and PR's job all that much easier.

Enough about Woody's--what's your organization doing to create exceptional products and services for your customers?


Ryan Mathre said...

Great post, Arik. Woody's sounds like my type of place.

This reminds me of how In-N-Out Burger has enjoyed such great success over the years. You won't see them pumping million of dollars in marketing campaigns like other fast food joints. Rather, they've developed a huge community brand with a simple menu focused on quality.

As my high school basketball coach always said, "Keep it simple, stupid." This can oftentimes be an effective communications/marketing strategy as well.

Santa Erik said...

As a guy who was born Erik Hanson,
I must say you nailed this. WoM wins every time but it only gets the buzz if it has the goods! I'll never travel to the US Virgin Islands or the Caribbean, but I'll be sure to ask folks if they had a Happy hour at Woody's now when they tell me they were in St. John.

LukeR said...

Word-of-mouth is still the best advertising around; and it doesn't cost a penny. I've found many a great restaurant, or watering hole; just from someone telling me about it.

Anonymous said...

Had a trip planned for St. John and saw this blog. Had to visit Woody's...was not disappointed. thanks.