“People don’t read ads. They read things that interest them. Sometimes that’s an ad.” — Howard Luck Gossage
“The only advertising that people truly trust is a peer-to-peer recommendation.” — Alex Bogusky
My flight from Spokane to Seattle arrived on time. Unfortunately another plane was at our assigned gate and it was departing late. My 30 minute layover was quickly turning in to a sprint from one end of the airport to the other. If I missed the flight from Seattle to Atlanta the week was going to go off of the rails. When we finally reached the gate I had 15 minutes left. If you’ve been in that situation then you know the feeling.
I charged out of the plane and there’s this guy. He’s the other dude in the picture. He was smiling, wearing a Delta uniform, holding a tablet with my last name on it: Plughoff. “That’s me” (neurotic sub-text: is something wrong, is my daughter ok, is my wife safe, did something disastrous happen?) He shook my hand. “Mr. Plughoff, my name is Thomas and I’d like to escort you to your next gate.” Please bear in mind, this sort of thing had never happened to me. I fly a lot and usually suffer the stresses like everyone else. This changed everything.
Thomas opened a side door on the gangway. A metal rolling staircase led down to the tarmac. A white Porsche was at the bottom of the stairs. Thomas said, “If you’ll come with me I’ll drive you to your next flight and you’re already checked in.” A minute later we were speeding across the busy runway, from one end of the airport to the other. It was unbelievable. I might have welled up a little bit. Thomas continued, “We watch our frequent flyers and if there’s a tight connection we help them so they don’t miss the connection.” “Why?” I asked. Why would you do this? It defies every negative association with flying. Too personal. Too, too, thoughtful. “It’s our way of saying thanks,” he said. He walked up the stairs to the departing flight, opened the door for me, and once again thanked me for flying Delta. Every stress, frustration, ire–was immediately replaced with gratitude. It was the first thing I shared with someone when I reached my destination.
Every business owner I know thinks about effective advertising, on-life, off-line, all the time. They’re advised to allocate thousands (in some cases millions) of dollars to make the phone ring–hoping that the investment will generate enough cold leads to keep the machine running. They pay for clicks, calls, impressions. None of which are uniquely persuasive. Nor warm. To which I’d say this: I’m one guy. But the Delta experience has generated at least 150 peer-to-peer referrals. Many of the people I’ve told this story to are also frequency flyers. Instead of spending all sorts of money in order to generate cold leads why don’t more companies learn what Delta knows: There are quietly loyal customers that will become happily loud advocates if the experience is elevated, if the engagement is personal, if they know you beyond a membership number, and if they make an ordinarily stressful process extraordinarily enjoyably. A company that is culturally dedicated to delighting customers doesn’t need to spend as much money generating cold leads. Thrilled customers will gladly pay it forward.