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Use special occasions to maximize your WOM shelf life

3 min read

Marketing Strategy

I got engaged this weekend. Everything went without a hitch—and my fiancé and I are as happy as can be. So what does this have to do with social media? Besides the hilarious dance that is required to change one’s relationship status in Facebook, a big part of the story is about word of mouth opportunities found and lost.

The proposal adventure I’d cooked up had quite a few components. Consequently, several businesses played important parts in my plan. Going into it, I knew this would be an interesting chance to take note of how different businesses treat a special event. Leading up to the big day, I made sure the restaurant and the hotel each knew this was a special occasion—and waited to see what came of it. After all, this is an incredibly logical opportunity for them to shine. This is one story I’ll be telling for the rest of my life.

My fiancé’s favorite restaurant, the fantastic Osteria in Philadelphia, gave us a simple scoop of peanut butter ice cream with a candle after our amazing meal. All I told them in advance was that this was “a special day”—and they followed through with a terrific table, great service and a simple and thoughtful act of recognition.  Just days later, my fiancé includes that scoop of ice cream in every “how it happened” story she tells.

On the flip side, The Four Seasons did little more than have our room ready on time. Our room was clean, spacious and top of the line—but nothing extraordinary and certainly nothing more than I expected. I made sure to tell them that the point of my stay was post-engagement, and they didn’t take any extra steps to make it more memorable. I ordered (and paid for) the roses, champagne and chocolate covered strawberries that were in the room. Chances are, The Four Seasons can probably get by without raising the bar—as schmoes like me will continue to stay there to try and impress their girlfriends. But the point is, their involvement in my story ended when I checked out. In the future, when we head up 95 to visit Philly and commemorate a special day, there’s no doubt we’ll go back to Osteria. We probably will not, however, go back to the Four Seasons.

To a certain extent, the special attention paid by Osteria may not be surprising because it’s owner-operated, while The Four Seasons is a giant chain.  However, big consumer-facing businesses have a lot to learn from the little guys in terms of customer service.

It’s not about giving away freebies. It’s about recognizing an opportunity to be part of a larger story that will told again and again. Whether it’s a birthday, anniversary or any event that people will talk about—make sure you’re positioning yourself (or your product) as a memorable piece of that story.

UPDATE: The Four Seasons in Philadelphia is listening. The hotel’s general manager personally reached out to me almost immediately after this post went live, apologizing for what they said was “an inexcusable mistake.” They offered an upgrade on our next stay, and most importantly, congratulated us on our engagement. How did they find out this post? They are on Twitter @FSPhiladelphia. Bravo, Four Seasons— see you soon.

Image credit, iStock