Las Vegas hotel mogul Steve Wynn knows whom to impress to generate positive word of mouth. The creator of the Mirage,
Bellagio, and the Wynn Las Vegas hotels said it's not the high rollers or political fat-cats. His most important audience is Las Vegas taxi drivers.
"Visitors to Las Vegas will ask a cab driver about a place, and believe everything he says," Wynn told attendees at
THE Conference on Marketing. "I have never built a hotel without having special bathrooms and vending machines set up for cab drivers." He also invites their families to special events at his hotel. "We need word of mouth. It's the most powerful force in marketing."
Marketing and advertising can have the best creative in the world, but it's gaining the trust of your customers
that makes the biggest impression. That comes from gaining the trust of employees first, Wynn added. "Marketing is as
fundamental as building the employee dining room," he said, adding that they need to experience what customers
experience. "I've got to be consistent in human relations." As an example, he said that for his new Wynn Macau
property in China, he is learning the local language. "Everyday I take lessons in Mandarin, so I can talk to
my employees first and my customers second."
And he walks the walk. Wynn has gained attention for paying above-average wages and for his friendliness toward unions. "When employees like me and feel good about themselves and the business, they tell me how to run it."
Wynn also spoke about the personal customer relationships that are possible yet often overlooked in big companies. "It's all about us people, one on one," he said. But, "if you know enough about customers, you can have intimacy and choice."
Since he was speaking at a marketing conference, Wynn also shared his approach to reach customers. "Marketing is about getting people to trust us," he said, adding that the job of advertising is to get the public to arrive at their own conclusions about a product or service. "Telling the public what to think never works."
Home Depot gets back to customer basics
The theme of customer intimacy, choice, and discovery was present throughout the conference. Almost every speaker touted the importance of word of mouth, Net Promoter Scores (Reichheld's customer-loyalty metric), and transforming customers into advocates.
Home Depot CMO Roger Adams spoke about how customer centricity is the key to improving its reputation after recent turbulent times. "We have to have a real emotional connection with customers," he said. "It's the part of the DNA of what Home Depot is all about." A focus on short-term stock prices and efficiency improvements over the past few years caused the chain to lose sight of customers, and ultimately led to former CEO Robert Nardelli's resignation in January.
Adams was optimistic about the company's renewed "focus on the customer," acknowledging that it is a long-term
plan. It starts at the front-line level, and works throughout the organization back to the CEO. "The customer
is on top -- everyone works for them," he said. "We are an enabler for what they do. The customer is in control." For
example, recent television ads feature customers telling stories of how they accomplished a home improvement task,
instead of what products are on sale.
As a marketer, it can be scary to let go of that traditional control, but Adams argued that it's the most direct path to
success. "We want to let customers draw their own conclusions about Home Depot."