Word of Mouth

Word of mouth marketing is something we all know about. Your reputation is everything. But, what if every one of your customers knew you and your whole family?  What if every one of your customers could talk to each other?

That’s what it’s like in a nearby beach town where I was a house sitter. Recently, I spent a whole day waiting for local business people to show up for work. Don’t get me wrong. This is not a complaint piece. I volunteered for this beach townhouse-sitting assignment years ago and love it.  I travel on the Long Island Railroad (www.mta.info) from Manhattan to handle repairs, collect mail, take delivery, and plan events or whatever is needed. I’m here almost every week come rain, shine, sleet, snow, or power outage.

Having access to this place allows me to live out a fantasy ‘simple beach town life’— at least for a weekend. I identify with those hardy stories passed down from our ancestors who all came from small towns:  “You had to fish and hunt everyday if you wanted to eat.” “I walked 10 miles barefoot to go to school.

Since Hurricane Irene, (remember August 2011?) the refrigerator has not been working. There’s a roof leak that caused a square foot sized water spot on the dining room ceiling. A recent guest thought the large plaster chips hanging from the ceiling were modern light fixtures! LOL! There’s also a slight bulge where a few wood floorboards buckled. I’ve documented everything with photos for the insurance company. I used the storm damage as an opportunity to break in my new camera, a Canon Power Shot G12 (www.use.canon.com). The insurance adjuster has already cut the check. So now, all we need to do is get everything fixed. Right? Right!

I have been on the roof deck many times and could not find a single tear, hole, or knick. Where is the leak coming from? We need a specialist. So, the property management company gave me a list of local businesses. Over the years, I have gotten to know some of them. There are a lot of family-run businesses here in this small town. Almost everything is done by word-of-mouth. Reputations are built that way—the old-fashioned way!

While the fridge and dishwasher were being serviced, I asked Joe of Joe’s Appliance, if he knew Randy of Randy’s Roofing. He gave me that look like, “Oh no, not Randy.”  Pause. ”Yea, I know him 50 years! We grew up together,” Joe said.

“Randy stood me up twice already,” I said. “Lady, you need to report him to the property management company. He’s making it bad for the rest of us,” he said. Joe knows that I’m not a local. This time of the year, in December, when all the tourists gone, the locals need work. Joe told me that they talk about it all the time. I could tell Joe was riled up.

Well, I didn’t report on Randy yet. I called someone else. To Randy’s credit, he did call me twice while I was in the middle of tattling on him. He said that he just took a whole roof off of a house and could not leave yet. He explained that he worked according to daylight and weather conditions. He said it was better to see my roof deck in the rain and also said it sounded like a “simple patch job.”

Somewhere in this story I think we can appreciate word of mouth marketing, one’s reputation, find best practices and apply those lessons to our own business. Meanwhile, I spent a beautiful, sunny December day at the beach.

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