Who Drives Better, Men or Women?

This is part thirteen of 13 (whew!) in the Experience Design 101 series. For links to all the articles in this series, click here.

Growing Your Business, Organically

There was a time when a firm could pick a target market, put ads where the target audience would see them or send direct mail to their home, and wait for responses.

In a society cluttered with intrusive “push” messaging, the consumer is moving past this model—and businesses of all sizes are scrambling to catch up. According to Forrester Research [free registration may be required], in 2006 only 15% of consumers agreed with the statement, “Advertisements help me decide what to buy.”

What does help? Word of mouth (WOM if you’re into acronyms), based on the Experiences your customers are having with you. One study suggests that only 3.4% of face-to-face word of mouth conversations are [directly] stimulated by promotional efforts (Journal of Services Marketing, via Buzz Canuck blog). You may not pay moms to start word of mouth campaigns about your newest carseat, directly creating word of mouth, but you can create the great Experience with your product that will organically grow word of mouth, and grow your business in the process.

Who Drives Better?

Some suggest women are better conveyors of word of mouth.

Our experience at VisionPoints suggests that those who have benefited from the power of word of mouth are better at making quality referrals, and perhaps this is a more traditionally female province, as in the carseat discussion above.


There are many professionals who are used to relying on referrals for their business (doctors, lawyers, financial services professionals, architects…). Men and women in these professions know they need word of mouth to help the next client find them, because traditional advertising has never been as successful for industries of a personal nature.

As blogging and web search-engine optimization catch on, even more men (still the majority of bloggers and web developers) are exposed to the power of word of mouth, through Internet growth concepts like linking out, commenting, and trackbacks, which are essentially cyber-referrals. Consider Leo Babauta, who used layers of cyber-word of mouth to grow his readership to over 21,500 in just six months. (There’s a great interview with Leo about his blog’s phenomenal growth at ProBlogger.)

Will bloggers make more referrals in their “real” lives as a result of discovering this power?

Mars and Venus try WOM

As I finish out my baker’s dozen of Experience Design 101 articles, I am appropriately back at my favorite bagel shop.* There’s a group of afternoon regulars (three men and a woman) at the table next to mine, and they are giving a wild, rapid-round of referrals to each other. Although the group varies a bit, it’s always like this—I’ve heard the group go through financial advisors, investments, even dates! Today it’s doctors.

The woman gives details, stops to find an extra business card, looks through her cell phone for the number for a specialist. The men give briefs, running through a checklist of about twenty suggestions in just a few minutes. The men are engaging in word of mouth, but aren’t the guys more likely to go to the doc the lady suggests—card and phone number in hand—than to remember one doc in a list of 20 from one of the other guys?

(Or will they call the friend later to say, Who was that doctor you mentioned who works on Foulk Road….)

I’d say at this table Mars and Venus are going to have different results from their WOM efforts.

CUSTOMERS drive better sales

One usual customer satisfaction measure is, “How likely are you to refer this provider?”

I’d rather see the other end of this referral, and ask, “How likely are you to act on this referral?” In all practicality we can’t do this, but to grow, this imagined question is an important focus.

What can your firm do, to ensure more detailed raves, and referrals that are acted on? The woman above didn’t rattle off everyone her friends and family had ever seen, but rather concentrated on really trying to convince the folks seated with her to see the people she thought were tops. She gave “actionable” referrals because she was a fan of the two docs—I heard her describe the experiences as “friendly,” “quick,” “personal,” and “efficient,” among other phrases. She even contrasted them with other docs her family had tried and been unhappy with in their two specialties. She was a loyal, engaged customer of these doctors. The conversation was not directly stimulated by a marketer.

Maximum Customer Experience created the opportunity for growth here, one trusted conversation at a time.

Organic growth like this is not controlled by you, the business owner, but cultivated, and encouraged. Like a natural garden, with patience, planning, and careful execution, you’ll see results far beyond your original efforts.

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson


*Einstein Bros., Marsh Road north of Wilmington, Delaware


P.S. Join the conversation! We’re just getting started, encouraging WOM about Experience Design. Subscribe to the Maximum Customer Experience Blog for free, and get email or RSS updates using the subscription area at top left!

P.P.S. TX to Brian Clark of Copyblogger for his Blueprint for a Brilliant Blog Launch. (I hope this is half so brilliant.) Brian, did you have any idea that a launch could span three months?