Give Your Customers Something to Talk About – Chapter 6


Share on LinkedIn

[Over the coming weeks I’ll be sharing excerpts as we work towards completing the manuscript for ‘What’s Your Purple Goldfish?’. Yesterday was Chapter 5 and today is Chapter 6]

The Engine behind Word of Mouth – The v4 principle

I first came across the concept of the v4 principle over 10 years ago. This is from a hilarious post from a guy named Rob from Boston (a.k.a Streetracer). I can remember almost peeing my pants when I originally read this:

Think about your entire history of relationships… Every person you dated long term, short term, prison term, and every random hook-up in between. The vast majority of those relationships were with someone you met through a common friend. Very rarely do you find a couple who met randomly at a bar. Most couples met through a friend, a friend of a friend, or a relative. The reason most relationships begin this way is what I call the “v4 Principle.” “v4? is short for “Vouch For” and it is this reason that the majority of people in America get laid.

EXAMPLE: Say you’re out on a Friday night and you see a cute brunette at the bar. You approach her, make small talk, and attempt to pick her up. To you she’s a hottie with dating potential. To her you’re just another one of the drunken masses out there trying to score some ass. Now take the same situation as before, but when you see her at the bar she is talking to your best friend’s girlfriend. Now when you approach you’re SOMEBODY as opposed to the NOBODY you were before. The girl at the bar has a reference point for you and your best friend’s girlfriend is there to vouch for you: “Oh, that’s Fred. He’s Mike’s best friend. They work together at the law firm. He’s a real sweetie, and he’s sooo cute when he’s drunk.”

See how it works? You’re the same drunken ass either way, but now you’re perceived as charming. So, if friends are largely responsible for our hook-ups, how does one improve his odds? Simple, just use this handy dandy friendship reference guide that follows to determine who you should hang out with more and which friends to discard:

  1. Married Friends – Don’t have any. They only hang out with their miserably married couples and they constantly attempt to pull the rest of us into their pit of despair. There is no ass for you here.
  2. Friends Who Work In The Service Industry – Hold on to these. People who work in restaurants, bars, retail, and the like tend to have a plethora of same aged single people to kick it with. They are laid back and don’t work until noon, so they’re always up for a night out. Also, all hostesses are easy.
  3. Friends Who Do A Lot of Drugs – Keepers. Whether you do drugs or not is irrelevant. People who do a lot of drugs tend to hang out with other people who do a lot of drugs… and, chicks who do a lot of drugs tend to be easy.
  4. Religious Friends – No! No! No! All of their friends are usually bible-thumpers as well, and meeting a group of hot Baptists is like going to your favorite bar without any money. You can look all you want, but you can’t have anything.
  5. Strippers – If you have any friends who are strippers you can contact me. Please let me know where you’ll be this weekend…

On a more serious note, v4 or ‘vouch for’ is also how the majority of purchase decisions are made. A reference point or recommendation by a friend is the strongest factor impacting purchase intent. Add on the fact that 90% of word of mouth happens ‘face to face’.

According to research by Keller Fay:

Personal experience with a product or service is the #1 catalyst for recommendation, with 86% saying they recommend a brand or service based on first-hand experience. 60% of word of mouth conversations include advice to buy, try or consider a brand. Fewer than one in ten conversations advise avoiding a brand.

It only makes sense to maximize the experience with your customer. Giving that little extra provides AMMO for your customers to relay their experiences.

The Power of WOM

One of the frustrations I have with measurement of marketing is that it is fundamentally flawed. It assumes that all impressions are created equal. There is no weight given to context and / or the delivery mechanism.

Let’s have a look at advertising, sponsorship, pr and word of mouth:

Advertising is a one way dialogue that is inherently biased. It’s unlikely that a company or brand is going to show you their warts. Ads are vested in trying to grab your attention via interruption. They sell ‘blue sky’ by putting the product in the best light. Let’s call the impressions via advertising V1.

Sponsorship plays on the interests of the consumer. The company or brand aligns themselves with a second party. They are still vying for your attention, but now they are engaging you at a point of passion. Sponsorship works on the idea of affinity or attribution. Let’s call the impressions via sponsorship V2.

PR is the proactive process of managing the flow of information between the brand or company and the public. It allows for exposure to the target audience via third party sources. Those sources are predominantly mainstream media. This third party authentication provides credibility to the message. The impressions gained at no cost through PR are much more valuable than those obtained by paid advertising. Let’s call those PR impressions V3.

v4 principle 2WOM or Word of Mouth is the act of consumers providing information to other consumers. This is the V4 or ‘vouch for’ principle. V4 means that the consumer is standing up for the product and giving personal assurances to its value. It’s been around for thousands of years and remains one of the most powerful forms of promotion. It’s a friend recommending a new restaurant or the latest movie. New social media tools like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ have elevated WOM to a new level. Call it WOM 2.0 or WOM on steroids.

v4 reminds me of the old Breck shampoo commercial where they start to split the screen by saying, ‘She tells two people, then they tell two people and then they tell two people . . .’ and soon the screen has hundreds of people on it. That’s the magic of WOM.

You need to figure a way to get people to talk about and recommend your product. A small, unique and unexpected touch that provides fuel to the ‘word of mouth’ fire.

What are you working on? What are you doing? What’s on your mind?

statusphereThese are the respective questions asked by LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

Brian Solis of PR 2.0 is a thought leader that is constantly evaluating PR’s role in shifting marketing landscape. I absolutely have fallen in love with a term that Brian has coined. It’s called the ‘STATUSPHERE’.

In Brian’s words with my thoughts in BOLD:

We’re shifting into a rapid-fire culture that moves at Twitter time. Attention is a precious commodity and requires a personalized engagement strategy in order to consistently vie for it [How are you engaging your best marketing resource – YOUR CUSTOMER?]. The laws of attraction and relationships management are driven by the ability to create compelling content and transparently connect it to the people whom you believe benefit. [What is your distinctive ‘PURPLE GOLDFISH’ and is it relevant to your customer?]

The Statusphere is the new ecosystem for sharing, discovering, and publishing updates and micro-sized content that reverberates throughout social networks and syndicated profiles, resulting in a formidable network effect of activity. It is the digital curation of relevant content that binds us contextually and through the statusphere we can connect directly to existing contacts, reach new people, and also forge new friendships through the friends of friends effect (FoFs) in the process. [Getting into the status updates of your consumer exposes you to their vast network]

Twitter, Facebook News Feeds and other micro communities that define the Statusphere, are driving action and determining the direction and course of individual attention.

So – what does this mean to me as a brand manager, CMO or a business owner???

The statusphere (people updating their status on social networks) has become the new digital watercooler. It’s increasingly how people are sharing content via word of mouse. It’s how a vast majority of folks are getting their news. Your goal is to get your brand into that ‘statusphere’. How do you WOW your customer to the point that they want to share their experience?

An Interview with Francois Gossieaux

I had the opportunity to catch up with Francois in San Mateo, CA. At the end of our discussion I asked about a post he wrote on the importance of customer experience. Here are the couple minutes where we discussed customer experience as a differentiator:
Here is a highlight from Francois’ blog post:

“The reason why exceptional service is the new competitive differentiator is not just because it’s easier for competitors to catch up product-wise, but because the news about exceptional service travels fast in the networks that matter – peer and friend networks where the buying decisions are increasingly being made. When people recommend products to friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, they do not focus on the features, functions and benefits the way many marketers have been trained to do – they focus on the overall experience of adopting the solution, and the exceptional qualities of that “whole” offering. So if you are like most companies and operate in a market where it is really hard to differentiate based on the product alone, you got to focus your attention on WOW service offerings.”

Marketing Takeaway: You need to find ways to differentiate your product or service. The easiest way is to focus on the customer experience. Exceed the expectations of your customers by offering those little extras that surprise and delight. You need to give your best marketing resource something to post, blog, tweet or Facebook about.

Are you creating PROsumers or CONsumers?

What are your customers talking about after leaving your business, logging off your website or hanging up the phone?

John Ernsberger (@johnestella) of Stella Service stated that roughly 6 out of every 7 tweets he sees involving customer service are negative. I’m not sure of the sample size on his assessment as they (whoever they are) say that 68% of statistics are made up on the spot. Whether its 70, 80 or 90% I think its a generally accepted fact that the overwhelming majority of tweets involving customer service are negative. This led me to the following question:

Based on their experience . . . Is Your Customer a CONsumer or a PROsumer?

Are you invoking Bonnie Raitt and her most famous tune, “Let’s Give’em Something to Talk About”?


  • Who do we want talking?
  • What do we want them saying?
  • How can we add value?

Here is my take on how ‘marketing lagniappe’ addresses those issues:

  • The best marketing is 1st person word of mouth, i.e. your customers
  • Control the things you can control . . . how you treat your existing customers
  • Deliver value with your product or service and exceed customer expectations
  • Provide that ‘little signature something extra’ . . . a purple goldfish

Using a little artistic license (apologies Bonnie) on the song lyrics:

Let’s give them something to talk about
A little purple goldfish as they wonder out
Let’s give them something to tweet, blog and Facebook about . . .

[Next Up is the start of Section II, Chapter 7 – The five ingredients of a purple goldfish]

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stan Phelps
Stan Phelps is the Chief Measurement Officer at 9 INCH marketing. 9 INCH helps organizations develop custom solutions around both customer and employee experience. Stan believes the 'longest and hardest nine inches' in marketing is the distance between the brain and the heart of your customer. He is the author of Purple Goldfish, Green Goldfish and Golden Goldfish.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here