Marketing Without Faking It – A Case Study

by Jason Falls |
Jason Falls
Jason Falls

Case studies always present the best inspiration. It’s not that we’re necessarily an imitation society but knowing that something worked once makes us more confident in trying it ourselves.

On Friday, I was presented with a powerful example of how one person, who readily admitted she was new to social media and feels, “half of the things on Twitter I don’t understand,” not only used Twitter to reach a potential customer, but won a brand enthusiast.

I received a private Twitter message Friday morning that said, “I hear you’re in Austin. I would love to treat you to a meal at Z’Tejas on 6th. Let me know so I can talk to the GM.” The message was from the Z’Tejas company account @ZTejas. My curiosity was piqued, not only because I wanted to know why they selected me but if they actually had a targeted outreach strategy during South by Southwest to drive business to their Austin location.

When I responded with, “Are you open for lunch today?” a nice conversation began between me and the Twitter account’s operator, who I later learned was Z’Tejas marketing director Deborah Topcik. She was Tweeting from her office in Scottsdale, Ariz. I told her I’d be happy to try the restaurant, but was really interested in her Twitter strategy and asked if she would share.

Before I tell you the really good part of the story, let me say that I anticipated I would have a really nice case study to write about relative to targeted outreach. For a restaurant to target 20-30 influential bloggers, filmmakers or musicians in Austin for SXSW and invite them in to try the food, is pretty smart. Even if only five or six take them up on the offer, they’re going to post Twitter messages, invite some fellow attendees who will do the same and so on. If the restaurant were able to land someone with a vast network, they could literally have lines wrapped around the building to get in just to eat with a cewebrity.

I thought I would be telling you all about how Z’Tejas strategically used individual outreach to drive both trial and organic buzz at a very word-of-mouth oriented event. But the case study I discovered in talking with Topcik was even better.

My questions were straight forward. Why did you choose me? How many others did you choose?

Her answer was astonishing. Topcik, who handles marketing for 10 locations of Z’Tejas around the country, realized I was in Austin and just thought it would be nice to offer me a chance to try her restaurant. How she got to that was a bit six-degrees-of-separation-ish, but she saw I was in Austin from my SXSW tools post from last Thursday. She said she thought to herself, “I know that I guy. I follow his tweets every day.” So she invited me. That’s it. There was no real strategy behind. She was just being nice to someone whose blog she reads and Tweets she follows. (She said she got to the post by reading a social media smart brief containing a link to it. She found the smart brief thanks to a Twitter post from Brian Fluhr [@marketingoc]. Thanks to both for linking to SME!)

The learning we can take from this is that when a business communicates like human being, connects with a customer and treats them like they would treat a friend, even the smallest gestures can reap the biggest rewards. Deborah’s outreach wasn’t a carefully planned strategic effort orchestrated to drive buzz. There was no market research involved. Deborah took off her marketing hat for a minute and provided a social gesture of thanks to someone whose blog she read and Twitter stream she followed. Even though the gesture ended in someone trying her product, she did it out of basic generosity.

Hugh MacLeod once said, “The paradigm shift is away from ‘messages’ and toward ‘social gestures’ — which can’t be faked.” Deborah Topcik may have stumbled onto it, but she marketed Z’Tejas in the best possible way: genuinely human.

I went to lunch at Z’Tejas Friday and took five friends with me. We all tweeted about the food and experience, both of which were outstanding. I’ve recommended it to several friends looking for a new dining experience here in Austin and I posted a review of the location on Yelp. (Not to mention, I’ve used the experience to share this post with you here.)

The prevailing wisdom, or perhaps faulty research, tells us when customers have a bad experience they tell 10 of their friends. I would offer that when we give them a genuine experience — one that can’t be faked — we’ll tell more than that.

So what can you do to bring the genuine to bear for your business? How can we, as marketers, stay true to this principle on scale? The comments are yours.

About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).