Guest Genius: Jake McKee

Each Tuesday, we’re happy to turn over our blog space to a Guest Genius, someone who can give a fantastic and fascinating perspective about making word of mouth work. 

This week’s guest genius:
Jake McKee
Principal and Chief Ant Wrangler, Ant’s Eye View

WOM Offers the Sweet Taste of Success

The medical community might tell you that blended fruit and ice don’t actually contain any addictive qualities, but I’m not convinced. I’m physically unable to pass a new smoothie shop without stopping to sample the wares. I can’t see "smoothie" on a menu without feeling a longing.

A few weeks ago, I downloaded the iPhone application and tested it by… you guessed it… looking for local smoothie shops. To my extreme pleasure, I discovered Icey, a new shop that had just opened down the street. Within hours, I was inside ordering my first smoothie. (It was far and away the best I’d ever had)

As I walked out of the store, tasty smoothie in hand, I found myself wanting to do whatever I could to ensure their ongoing existence. Horror stories abound about the failure rate of small businesses, and this simply can’t happen to Icey. Where would I get my fix if they close the doors??

If they ask (I’ve already volunteered), here are 6 points I’d share with them about how they can build Word of Mouth for their incredible business.

1. Tell a story
Icey isn’t just a "smoothie shop". They’ve created a menu that includes Bubble Teas, Sweet Ices, and a range of non-traditional items. Why this menu? What makes it unique? Give me something I can learn, then in turn share with others to show how smart I am. For instance: "Sure Icey doesn’t have the boost powders like Jamba Juice, but that’s because they offer such fresh ingredients, they don’t need to." (I’m making that up, but you get the point)

2. Help me decide
When I see a new menu item that I don’t understand, I’m more inclined to revert to my old standby than I am to try something new. With pictures, descriptions, samples, and encouragement, help me branch out. When I have a teacher, the shop is my classroom. And a classroom inherently encourages frequency.

3. Drive repeat visits through awards
A friend of mine has been on a quest to achieve the coveted "Gold Plate" status at a local pub, the Flying Saucer. You see, the pub has hundreds of beers available, and when you’ve tried all of them, you are immortalized by having your name put on a gold plate, hung on the wall. Not only has this program given my buddy a reason to come back regularly, it’s also given him an incredible knowledge of beer. The more Icey introduces their customers to the full menu, the more likely they are to come back. And the more knowledge these customers have, the more likely they are to bring a friend with them that they can show off their in-depth knowledge to.

4. Do something to stand out
When the Icey staff hands over your hand crafted drink, it comes in a plastic cup with a sealed sheet of plastic on top. So sealed, in fact, you can turn the cup upside down without the slightest risk of spilling. The way you actually consume this drink is to punch a hole in the top with an oversized straw. If the drink really is "unspillable", why not hand over the drink upside down?

5. Brand everything
While I was walking around the shopping center, tasty drink in hand, I noticed that the cups didn’t have any sort of logo on them. How were people to know that this delicious looking concoction was created by Icey and not Starbucks?

6. Have a web site
This may be a bit obvious, but build a basic Web presence with your location info, a bit of your story, and an overview of what you serve. This doesn’t need to a complex, data heavy site, but it should look great. The primary goal is creating a destination that can be emailed, blogged, and generally shared. (You’ll notice I had to use the link to get you to them in the beginning of this post.) The incredible cupcake bakery, Sprinkles launched with an incredibly lightweight site, which even helped them create an ambience of exclusivity.

Learn more from this Genius: 


  1. Community Guy – Jake McKee » Blog Archive » Word of Mouth and Small Business - June 18, 2009

    […] old, and unpacking. What better time to point out a guest post I wrote a while back over at the GasPedal blog. Since it’s summer, it’s time to talk […]

  2. Word of Mouth and Small Business | - June 21, 2009

    […] old, and unpacking. What better time to point out a guest post I wrote a while back over at the GasPedal blog. Since it’s summer, it’s time to talk smoothies. […]

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