There Once Was A Business That Relied Solely On Word Of Mouth

by | Dec 11, 2020

Today, let me tell you a story…. This is a tale about Bob’s garage.

 Bob’s garage had been in his family for donkey’s years. He had lots of loyal customers and had never had to advertise. His diary was full and he was happy.

 Then, one day, another garage opened in the same part of town, part of a national chain. The scoundrels! But Bob wasn’t worried as again he had his loyal customers. This other garage was quite loud in their approach as well, with ads in the paper, ads on Facebook, leaflets…. It was all a bit vulgar, Bob thought.

 “It will be all right,” he said….

How loyal are my ‘loyal customers’?

A few weeks later, Bob noticed his diary wasn’t as full as it used to be. Faces he used to see every month or two suddenly weren’t around. 

And one day, he bumped into one such face at the supermarket.

“Hello, Sue,” Bob smiled. “How are you?” 

“Fine, thank you, Bob.”

“I haven’t seen your car in the diary for a while.” 

“Yes, sorry, Bob. Things have been a bit tight of late. I noticed a Facebook Ad from this other garage and they were a bit cheaper than you. They offer the same service but again it’s a little less money and, to be honest, they are also faster.” 

“That’s probably because we’re so busy,” said Bob. “It takes time to get around to everything.”

“Shouldn’t you employ more mechanics then?” asked Sue.

“People seemed happy, so I didn’t feel the need,” said Bob. “I thought you were loyal to me though?” 

“I was but I have to be more loyal to my family. It’s always family first. Did you know that the other garage does a free collection & delivery service for NHS staff? I had a leaflet through the door about that. As my husband works at the hospital, that’s another bonus.” 

“But I offer a free collection & delivery service for NHS workers!” said Bob.

“You may know that, Bob, but I didn’t. Not an email, letter, phone call or anything. It’s your job to inform customers and potential customers, not their job to ask you.”

Sue left.

Should I invest in bringing in new customers? 

Bob got back to the garage and knew he had to do something. As luck would have it, a tall, young and handsome marketer (ahem) knocked at the door. 

Normally, Bob wouldn’t have given him the time of day. These snake oil salesmen. But now he invited him in and shared his woes. The marketer nodded. He’s heard the story a million times.

“How much is a new customer worth to you?” asked the marketer. “And what are you prepared to invest to get them?” 

This took Bob by surprise.

“Er, um, I’m not sure. I don’t want to spend a lot, of course. Because not all marketing works, does it? I don’t want to waste my money.”

“That’s why I used the word “invest”,” said the marketer. “And, yes, some investments won’t work. But others will. You do your due diligence, split the risk, then test & measure. You move the money around as time goes on and do more of what works best for you. The same as investing in general.”

They had a good talk about numbers. Bob understood but deep down he wasn’t happy with the thought of spending £1,000 to acquire a £10,000 customer.

“It sounds great,” Bob said. “Let me think about it.”

The marketer knew what that meant.

What is the risk if I don’t invest in my marketing?

And Bob continued as before. He genuinely did think about what the marketer had said. Then he thought about it some more. Then he asked a friend, who’d never run a successful business. He also asked his sister-in-law’s second cousin, who’d watched a documentary about the evils of Facebook.

Bob’s garage survived the competition but he worked longer hours than he wanted to and had to give up a holiday or two. He kept hold of many of his customers, but not all, so he had to let one of his mechanics go. He certainly didn’t get many new enquiries. Every now and then he did email his customers… when he remembered. And he wasn’t really sure what to write. 

But, as he finished up his paperwork at 10pm on a Saturday night, he smiled because at least he’d saved himself some money by not spending on his marketing.

“It will be all right,” he said. “People will come back. I’m a long-established family business and it’s only fair that folk ‘support local’ rather than the big boys. They’ll realise that. Plus Mrs Smith over the road says she’s got lots of friends she can refer to me. And you can’t beat word of mouth…”

Hope you enjoyed that! It’s not a story, of course. It’s something we see happening in the real world every week. The fact is, if you’re not spending time and money to stay in front of your customers and potential customers, your competitors might be.

If you want to avoid making the same mistakes as Bob, why not book a Discovery Call with myself or Joel and we can discuss a marketing plan to bring new customers through your doors! 

Codebreak Marketing Assistant Emily

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