Saul Colt: How to Create Offline Word of Mouth — live from Word of Mouth Supergenius

11:15 — Kurt Vanderah introduces Thoora‘s Saul Colt.

11:17 — Saul: I’m here today to explain how to create offline word-of-mouth.

11:18 — Saul: Word-of-mouth is doing something so interesting that people are going to have no other choice but to talk about it.

11:18 — Saul: Creating real WOM is about creating experiences. It’s about being creative. Creativity does not come from a committee. It comes from thinking uniquely and being fearless.

11:20 — Saul: Look for connections and do research. Whenever you have an event, a problem, a launch, throw it to the internet and see what comes out. I used to work for Freshbooks, an online invoicing company. We made hangover kits for South by Southwest after finding out what it was about.

11:22 — Saul: After finding out our customers were mostly graphic artists, we got a booth at a big conference for graphic designers, hired a newly graduated graphics designer off Craigslist to create a living, breathing mural during the conference.

11:24 — Saul: Play on emotions. Make it as personal as possible. We made Internet All-Star cards for South by Southwest. We don’t get in the mindset that we’re only looking for our product users.

11:25 — Saul says sometimes they just surround themselves around things that could get them talked about.

11:27 — Saul: When you’re creating word-of-mouth the best thing you can do is overexceed expectations.

11:28 — Saul: Force people to ask questions, like “what are you up to?” and “why are you doing this?”

11:30 — Saul: Add conflict. There could be value in it in terms of starting conversations.

11:31 — Saul: Make people feel special. Spend time with your community. Go beyond expectations.

11:32 — Saul: Be interesting yourself. If you’re willing to throw yourself out there, it works because people connect with people. They don’t always connect with brands.

11:32 — Saul: Live the 4 E’s: Execute Extraordinary Experiences Everyday.

11:33 — Saul: The absolute best things about WOM campaigns are that if they fail no one knows about them.

11:33 — Saul: If you want to give something away for free… give something away for free. never make your customers work because they ain’t gonna. (Quote by Bill Veeck.)

Q&A

Q: It’s hard to measure how all of this ends in results, but just tell us about the effects of offline word-of-mouth.

A: I started with the company and they had 240,000 customers. In the 18-month span I was there, by the time I left, there were a little under 900,000 customers. The bar is so low right now for customer service that when you do something interesting, it spreads.

Q: How does a company get a guy like you? How does that happen?

A: To Freshbooks’ credit, they put a lot of trust and faith with me to let me do what I do. I don’t know if you can train this. Find someone with passion and the ability to learn. You have to give them some space to do things.

Q: How do you take a stodgy, 50-year-old company to change its reputation by being creative all of a sudden?

A: It takes a little while. Start with the littlest possible things. Make your people feel like they’re part of something special. Give it a 1950s mentality– if you see someone having a bad day, go out of your way to show you care. Start small, maybe one geographical area, and evaluate to see if it’s changing anything.

Q: I work with a lot of start-up businesses. A lot of the entrepreneurs are knowledgeable in their profession but aren’t marketing-oriented at all. How would you address the fear of being the personality of the business?

A: There are other strategies. If it makes them uncomfortable, they don’t have to be the face of the business. They can do other things like share their knowledge. They can provide value to people.

Q: Most of your examples were about using offline tactics. I’m curious if you’ve had as much success with online as well.

A: I work in both spaces. I use social media as another place for people to talk. I think there’s a real value and real charm in the real world. I actually tell people now’s the best time to do direct mail because people are not used to it, so when they get anything in the mail they run to Twitter and tell everyone about it.

Q: What do you remember as one of the biggest failures?

A: Tons. I’ve had contests that one or two people applied for. We’re trying so many things and throwing things against the wall to see what sticks. We tried so many wacky ideas and there’s no way to be successful all the time. The difference between failure and something else is what you do with that. You learn more from the stuff that doesn’t work than from what does.

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Comments

  1. Gina

    Saul’s suggestion to “Add conflict” is something that’s usually avoided in the corporate world, especially with public/media relations folks – but so important to really stand out and get that viral effect that they want. It can be a risky move, but with great risk can come great reward.

    Thanks for the recap of what looks like a good session!

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  1. Live coverage recap from yesterday's Word of Mouth Supergenius - December 17, 2009

    […] How to Create Offline Word of Mouth — with Thoora’s Saul Colt […]

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