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Never underestimate the cost of negative word of mouth

Angry, frustrated customers talk. A lot.

Pete Blackshaw’s book title said it well: Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000.

Too often, otherwise well-meaning organizations forget how expensive negative word of mouth is. Corners get cut, standards get lowered, and quality slips. And as soon as customers notice and start talking, it takes 10 times the effort and resources to turn it around than it would to just do it right the first time.

How a word of mouth marketer does it:

One of Zappos’ core missions is to deliver “WOW” through service. They’re able to do it because they have an amazing staff — and they understand the cost of negative word of mouth.

At the end of their intense training program, Zappos offers new trainees a $2,000 bonus to quit. It seems like a lot, until you consider how expensive poor customer experiences are for Zappos — a brand built on creating love and happiness.

It’s a fantastic final test. The people who are there to deliver wow experiences stay, and the ones who were going to cost Zappos 10 times that in poor customer service move on.

We need an Operations Director in Austin

My company, GasPedal, and its brands, and, are growing fast. And we’re looking for talented, passionate people to join our team in Austin and Chicago.

We’re hiring an Operations Director at It’s a fantastic place to work: interesting work, a meaningful mission, and positive culture.

I’d be grateful if you could share the opening with any superstars you know who might be looking for a fulfilling job. Details here.

About the job: is looking for an experienced Operations Director to lead general business operations, manage the Operations Team, and take responsibility for the hundreds of little things that keep a fast-moving company running. You’re a doer, builder, and teacher who wants to help everyone at our company work their best by removing obstacles, building systems, and keeping us at peak performance. You’re the proven office linchpin and leader who everyone can count on to keep an organization running smoothly. You know what it takes to run a great back office — and you’ve seen it all before. You define your success as helping other people win.

Here’s what we’re looking for:

  • Business Operations Generalist who knows a little bit about all the things that keep a company moving.
  • Great Team Manager who motivates and manages our impressive, positive-attitude, service-driven team.
  • Traffic Manager who coordinates the workflow and removes roadblocks around changing needs and priorities.
  • Responsible Leader who delivers results and takes ownership of it until it’s done.

Newsletter #1010: The “Booze” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I'd Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.]

The alcohol industry is a crowded one. You’re fighting for shelf space where people judge you by your label, it’s highly regulated, and while alcohol marketing might sound a lot more fun than whatever you’re selling, it’s really, really hard work. But that doesn’t mean they have to make a Super Bowl commercial or buy a billboard to get attention.

Here are three examples of clever word of mouth marketing from alcohol companies big and small:

1> Make a spectacle of yourself
2> Send them a golden ticket
3> Play a game
4> Check it out: Booze Map

1. Make a spectacle of yourself

To celebrate their “Anytime Ale,” Austin Beerworks created a limited edition 99-pack of beer for $99. At seven-feet long, this thing takes two people to carry out of the store (if you can find it). Since they only released a limited amount of these 99-packs, Austin Beerworks gave clues as to which grocery stores and gas stations around town would have them in stock on their social media accounts. People were lining up outside of convenience stores for hours to be the first to get them.

The lesson: Austin Beerworks didn’t change their product or spend a ton on advertising to spread the word. Instead, they relied on the exclusivity to build up excitement and the spectacle of a seven-foot-long box of beer to keep it going. Even better, a 99-pack of beer is a perfect excuse to have a party and tell even more people about Austin Beerworks.

Learn more: Anytime Ale

2. Send them a golden ticket

We’ve talked about Maker’s Mark’s amazing Ambassador program before. It’s all about helping their biggest fans take ownership of the brand and take pride in talking about it. When you sign up, you get your name on a barrel plaque. Once the bourbon in that barrel matures, they send you a golden ticket for the opportunity to come pick up your personal bottle from the batch and hand dip it in their iconic red wax.

The lesson: It doesn’t get much more personal than that for a distillery churning out mass quantities of bourbon every day. Your customers love feeling a personal connection to your stuff, and Maker’s Mark proves you don’t have to run a small shop to pull it off.

3. Play a game

Did you know that Pabst Blue Ribbon’s beer bottles have playing cards printed underneath their caps? Or that Lone Star bottle caps have riddles written on them? These aren’t just fun little gimmicks. They’re conversation-starters. You can make a game out of the PBR “cards” you collect or ask your friends to help you solve Lone Star’s bottle cap riddle (because they’re not always easy).

The lesson: The more excuses you give your customers to talk to other people, the more they’ll talk about your stuff too.

4. Check it out: Booze Map

This map shows the most iconic beer and liquor for each state in the US. Guess which state has a beer called “Texas Sucks.”

Check it out: Thrillist

Older customers are better than newer customers

Everyone knows you make more money selling more to existing customers than you do from new customers. 

But most promotions are focused on special deals for new customers.

That’s expensive — and it often pisses off loyal customers who feel screwed.

When’s the last time you improved things for existing customers?

Here’s a fantastic example from Tesla (emphasis added):


The Tesla Model S drive unit warranty has been increased to match that of the battery pack. …

Moreover, the warranty extension will apply retroactively to all Model S vehicles ever produced. In hindsight, this should have been our policy from the beginning of the Model S program.

To investors in Tesla, I must acknowledge that this will have a moderately negative effect on Tesla earnings in the short term …However, by doing the right thing for Tesla vehicle owners at this early stage of our company, I am confident that it will work out well in the long term.

Natanya Anderson, Director of Social Media and Digital Marketing at Whole Foods Market

This is a post from my company,’s blog. Check it out for more profiles and stories about the people running social at really big brands.

We sat down with Whole Foods Market Director of Social Media Natanya Anderson for this member profile. We’re glad to have smart, generous members like Natanya, who has presented her best practices at both our Member Meeting in the Bay Area and our first ever Brands-Only Summit in Orlando.

At, we’ve noticed a pattern: A lot of our members have had diverse and interesting paths to their careers as social media executives at big brands. For example, Natanya Anderson, Whole Foods Market’s Director of Social Media, earned a college degree in Latin, taught middle school, and wrote about a dozen books on XML and HTML before she started managing social communities.

Natanya admits, “My path wasn’t particularly direct.”

With 10 years at Powered, a social business consultancy, Natanya earned some deep tech experience and eventually worked her way to the VP of Content.

She says, “At Powered, we were doing social media and communities long before it had a name. We were in the early stages of content marketing and trying to engage with customers around content that mattered to them. We looked at how you create communities around that long before Facebook ever existed.”

After all that time in the tech world, Natanya was ready for a change.

When she saw an opening at Whole Foods Market, Natanya knew she would fit right in.

“I was a food blogger. I’ve always had a passion for food,” she says, “I had worked agency side for a long time, and it was a good time for me to jump to the brand side.”

And as Natanya would find, making that transition came with a few surprises. Working with an agency gave her an opportunity to see a wide variety of what different companies were doing in social media. But as a part of a brand, it’s harder to get those different perspectives.

“It’s very easy to become immersed in your brand’s work. And that’s become one of my biggest challenges: making a commitment to pay attention to what others are doing,” Natanya explains.

She explains how Whole Foods integrated local social programs with brand-wide strategies.

With 604 social media accounts, both local and national, Natanya and her team have their hands full. She says a typical day as Whole Foods Market’s Director of Social Media is spent integrating what’s happening in their stores with nation-wide social campaigns.

She explains, “When I first came to Whole Foods, a lot of the stores felt like they were alone in social. Our team was pretty small and focused on our national channel. But now, we’re so focused on supporting our regions and local stores that we get multiple calls and questions from them daily, because they know we’re here for them.”

Natanya’s team is all about being there for the local stores.

She says they’re proud social has become a resource for their local stores, a goal they’ve been looking forward to reaching. Something else she’s excited about: becoming a resource for their customers, too.

“The thing that I love the most is how we get to connect with our customers online. We have a substantial online customer service function. Certainly, while we field complaints, we love helping folks. The connection that we have with our customers and how we really help them meet their personal goals is so satisfying. That’s not fluffy. That’s about how we can help.”

As a Director of Social Media at a huge company, like many social media executives, Natanya gets a lot of attention.

She says she’s inspired by a former colleague from Powered, Aaron Strout of WCG, who didn’t let that attention go to his head when he was in a similar position.

“He’s so authentic and real in a time when it’s easy to not be those things. Aaron created a template for me about how to have a personality in social and do it right,” she explains.

Other folks who have influenced her career include Peter Kim and Kate Niederhoffer.

She says, “They taught me a lot about how to articulate social business strategies and how to think about it differently.”

Currently, someone else gives her social strategies inspiration — her teenage daughter.

Natanya says she’s learning a lot from observing how young social media users are using Instagram and visually focused communication.

“I think we all know that visual is very important. But I really believe that social communications are changing significantly such that visuals are the center and words are the support or decoration. I’m excited about that because I’m at a lifestyle brand. Photos are our friends.”

She says that looking forward, it will be interesting to see how communication styles have changed with this new focus on visuals and to figure out what it means to communicate emotion that you sometimes can’t articulate with words.

Say hi to Natanya on Twitter and ask about which new Austin restaurant or food truck she’s excited about now.

The best possible org chart

We’re big fans if the Inverted Org Chart. Most companies show the CEO standing on top of management, who stand on the backs of the staff. Wrong message. The purpose of a company is NOT to support the executives. Our org chart looks like this: We all support our customers.  All staff supports the front-line […]

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Blow Their Mind, Man

The secret to word of mouth marketing (and to be an awesome company): Blow people’s minds with amazing gestures.  Do it surprisingly and generously.  Do it for people with big audiences (or social media audiences). Classic example: Morton’s delivered a steak to Peter Shankman at an airport (where they didn’t have a restaurant). Read the […]

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Do you really know what you’re talking about?

Plastic bags are bad for the environment. Paper is better. Right? Except for the facts that paper bags result in 2x more greenhouse gasses, 3x more energy, and 20x more water wasted. I honestly don’t have any strong opinions about this topic. But I do think most of us are lazy about learning real scientific […]

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Tell an epic story

This is a post from our project. Check it out for more great word of mouth marketing tips like this every day. The word “epic” gets thrown around a lot these days (“Epic fail,” Epic Meal Time, the movie Epic, etc.). But let’s get back to what it really means: A long, heroic story […]

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