by: George Silverman
Here's a great example of word-of-mouth marketing, on many levels.
Background: I’ve recently gotten into home coffee roasting. It’s a growing trend that you're going to be hearing a great deal about. The whole home coffee-roasting phenomenon is rife with wonderful word-of-mouth examples and case studies, about which I will be posting soon. [There is a whole universe out there that every marketer can learn a tremendous amount from in the worlds of green coffee bean sellers, roasting machines (including hot-air popcorn poppers!), grinders and coffee makers. The brilliant marketing and the blunders of these people provide some amazing examples of how to market products on extremely low budgets in long-tailed, niche markets.]
Anyway, I saw a post in Josh Rubin’s Cool Hunting Blog about a coffee maker, the Aerobie AeroPress, and landed on its website. I actually did not land on its home page, but on the page referenced in the Cool Hunting Blog, which is an info page. (Click here for the page)
Wow! It’s a masterpiece (I suspect because it is probably constructed by an amateur, probably the inventor himself. :update: see update at end). It's better than the home page (pretty good, also). Almost the whole thing is carried by a series of testimonials, which they brilliantly call “reviews.” (I’m going to change my vocabulary over to mostly use the word “review” instead of “testimonial.”)
There is a list of short testimonials, whoops reviews, that are extremely specific and to the point. They are sourced from an impressive bunch of people, starting with “It makes the absolute best cup of coffee I’ve tasted in my entire life.” – Louis Singer – Cook’s Junction. Instantly, you are – or at least I was – hooked.
Notice an important principle of word-of-mouth marketing here: your customers can say things for you that you just can’t say yourself. If the headline were, “the best cup of coffee that you’ve ever tasted,” it would be totally unbelievable. Unless, of course, it was followed by a quote, thereby giving it credibility. There follow another 15 very interesting short quotes. Some general, some specific. Some with sweeping praise, others with short stories. Study these reviews carefully. They are a living lesson on the kinds of testimonials you want to elicit, using the techniques in my book. I could spend an entire workshop on just this one page, particularly these 15 testimonials reviews.
Then, and only then, once you are hopelessly hooked if you are a coffee lover, it is followed by five very short paragraphs under the heading “There Are Several Reasons Why AeroPress Coffee Tastes So Good:”
Total immersion of the grounds in the water
results in rapid yet robust extraction of flavor.
Total immersion permits extraction at a
moderate temperature, resulting in a smoother brew.
Air pressure shortens filtering time to 20
seconds. This avoids the bitterness of long
processes such as drip brewing.
The air pressure also gently squeezes the last
goodness from the grounds, further enriching the flavor.
Because of the lower temperature and short
brew time, the acid level of the brew is much
lower than conventional brewers. Laboratory
pH testing measured AEROPRESS brew's
acid as less than one fifth that of regular drip
brew. The low acid is confirmed by coffee
lovers who report that AEROPRESS brew is
friendlier to their stomachs.
Notice, EVERY feature followed by a benefit. Simple. Elegant. Not a wasted word. (Wish I could write like that!) Look the paragraph above. Laboratory third party proof assertion, followed by confirmation. No hype adjectives. No BS. Totally believable. Hot damn, this is good.
Then, the question is going to be, “Well, how does it compare with my present methods?” So, a comparison of brewing methods follows, specifically telling you the shortcomings of drip brewing, espresso machines, pod brewers and French presses. These negative comparisons are not just bald, self-serving assertions, they are often put into the mouths of third parties, a.k.a. word of mouth.
Then, it tells the story of the invention of the AeroPress by Alan Adler, a Stanford University mechanical engineering lecturer who is also the inventor of the Aerobie, a Frisbee-like object that holds the record for the world’s furthest thrown object (about a quarter of a mile) and President of the Aerobie company, which has about 15 other extraordinary products.
AEROPRESS is the result of several years of applied research by inventor/engineer Alan Adler. He conducted numerous brewing experiments, measuring the brew with laboratory instruments. The experiments demonstrated that proper temperature, total immersion and rapid filtering were key to flavor excellence. He then designed and tested dozens of brewers before settling on the AEROPRESS design. The design was further validated by coffee lovers who tested prototypes in their homes. Adler has about forty U.S. patents and an equal number of foreign patents. He is President of Aerobie, Inc, Palo Alto, California and a lecturer in mechanical engineering at Stanford University. Adler's best-known invention is the Aerobie flying ring which set the Guinness World record for the world's farthest throw (1,333 feet).
(Notice the great example of soft-sell, inferred WOM throughout.)
Then they have a link to a list of walk-in and Internet retailers in the United States and internationally. When you go to those sites, you see other reviews, none of which is less than four stars and most of which are five stars. Furthermore, you can buy this thing for less than $30. (On an obnoxious, interruptive commercial it would be worded “not $1500 for an expensive espresso machine, not $1000, not $500, no not $250 or even $100. Yours for only one single payment of $25 plus shipping! Of course, on the AeroPress site, they only imply that it is inexpensive and let you be pleasantly surprised later.)
By the way, I learned on several of these other sites that Alan Adler participates in coffee discussion groups. Another a word-of-mouth lesson: join the discussion. I haven’t found any examples yet, but I’m sure he acts like an engineer and not a marketer: fact and evidence-based, reasonable, noticeable absence of hype, plenty of real-life examples, etc. One negative: he doesn’t have a blog yet; I’d subscribe in an instant.
Of course, I ordered it, paying a little extra at my favorite coffee site, Sweet Maria’s, so that I could take advantage of shipping efficiencies and trying a couple more examples of their extraordinary green beans. Sweet Maria’s is a wonderful example of how to differentiate your product through informational and educational enhancements. I use their example in word-of-mouth speeches all the time. More about them in some future posts.
How’s that for word of mouth? I got so excited that I’m posting about it before it even arrives! Of course, that’s several more lessons: when you get someone this excited, you better deliver the goods or you will have more than a disappointed ex-customer; you will have an angry one. Also, you can create an insanely great product in a mundane, niche market if you include all the right ingredients: On the one hand, it’s just a tube with a plunger. On the other hand, its years of dedicated experimentation, plus huge amounts of creative intelligence, plus a whole lot of other things, resulting in the extraordinary elegance and simplicity of a tube with a plunger that’s going to save me from countless horrible cups of coffee in hotel rooms. I can’t wait.
Update: Got so enthused, I spoke with their General Manager, Alex Tennant. He confirmed what I expected: Although he has an MBA in marketing, he is not a professional marketer -- he runs the company. He and Alan, their engineer president, wrote all of the copy. No agencies involved. He says, ”Our aim is to create extraordinary products.“ These guys don't have a separate marketing function. Or, to be more precise, their whole company is the marketing function: creating extraordinary products and then being straightforward in presenting them honestly, letting their products and their customers do the talking. How often does that happen? I've gotta meet these guys.
Further update: I've been using it for months now, and it's the best coffee maker I've ever used. You have to get used to the taste (was a little disappointed at first) because there is absolutely no bitterness, so cream can overwhelm it unless used very sparingly. I now often drink it black, or with very little cream. Most people have never tasted really fresh-roasted coffee (between 1-7 days after roasting is the flavor peak). It's a different experience. The problem is now that I can't stand almost any coffee that I get anywhere else.