It’s Friday!  Another summer weekend is at hand so I hope you’ll forgive me for this mini-rant.  It’s not a big deal, really, but it’s something that bugs me.

We live in an age when anyone with a computer and an internet connection can create a presence for him/her self.  (Including me)  That’s great!  Even if no one reads your prose (or poetry) it’s therepeutic just knowing it’s out there.

But, this explosion of on-line information has created a rash of “experts.”  I guess everyone is an expert in something, but these self-proclaimed “expertsare something else altogether.  You find them on blogs and web sites, and especially on social media sites like InLink.  In their bio they announce themselves to be business-experts, or social-media experts, or some other type of expert.  In fact, a search on InLink for the term “expert” returned 385,358 results.

Personally, I think that if you really are an expert, others will gladly point it out.  But if you call yourself an expert, your credentials might be a little suspect.  C’mon.  Am I really supposed to believe that you’re an expert just because you say so?

If you are the expert you claim to be, then let your work speak for you.  Give me examples.  Give me testamonials.  Write a book, or at least a blog.  I’ll decide whether you’re an expert or not.  And if you are, I’ll be happy to spread the word for you.

Meanwhile, have a great weekend!

Word of Mouth

Since tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, here’s a love story:

I was sitting in the dentist’s chair yesterday (one of my very least favorite things to do) and I overheard two hygienists talking about going to amusement parks (one of my very favorite things to do).  One of them was talking about Holiday World, a park located in Santa Claus, IN.

holiday_worldBeing sort of an amusement park fanatic, I’d heard of Holiday World but have never been there.  It’s about a three-hour drive from St. Louis which is no big deal since Jan and I visit Branson, which is about a four-hour drive, two or three times each year.  But I really don’t know much about HW.  For some reason, they don’t do any traditional advertising in this market.

One of the ladies is in love with Holiday World.  She couldn’t say enough good things about it.  The thing that caught my attention was that Holiday World provides FREE UNLIMITED BEVERAGES in its amusement park and water park.  Soft drinks are a big profit center for most parks, so the idea of free soda, tea, lemonade, even coffee, is very unusual.  On a hot summer day cold drinks are a necessity and a lot of parks think nothing of charging you five bucks for a large Diet Coke.    For a big family free drinks is a BIG savings.

But let’s look at it from the park’s point of view.  There’s a big margin in soft drinks.  That means the perceived value of a free beverage is much higher than the actual cost.  Considering that the daily admission to the parks is $39.95 the cost of a few soft drinks is small if it entices customers to visit the park.

During the conversation the lady who’s in love with  Holiday World said, “They really believe in customer service.” For a service business, that’s a high compliment.  In a highly-competitive business, this park has created very positive PR by giving away some syrup,  carbonated water, and ice.

Frankly, as much as I enjoy amusement parks, especially roller coasters, Holiday World was really never on my radar screen.  But after hearing this conversation, a conversation that I wasn’t even involved in, I’ll at least consider a trip to Indiana sometime in the future.

The lesson here is clear.  Take a look at your business.   What incidental item do you sell that you could give away?  Be it an accessory or an add-on, is there something that you could offer at no charge that would generate positive word-of-mouth?

If the item (or service) has a high perceived value relative to its cost, then you’re going to give up some margin.  But considering the cost of traditional advertising, how much is it worth to have customers who aren’t just satisfied, but they’re in love with your business telling their friends about how great you are?

Think about it.

And Happy Valentine’s Day!