Half the people who live within a 3 mile radius of the restaurants, have never been to a Houlihan's or were lapse customers. The only people who really knew about Houlihan's was employees, current customers and a "few" others. They do limited mass media advertising. They really win their customers over one at a time. They are in an environment where their competition have millions of dollars to spend in mass media. That climate made them look at other ways to work with marketing.
They started with emails to 100,000k members. Customers are focused on culture. And Houlihan's focuses on the customer. The CEO reads every single customer comments, Jen responds to 70% of them. What they have noticed lately, they have been getting more fan mail. She believes this is because of the change in the environment, that customers want to help take control of the brand.
They get a ton of fun, funny comments.
2/3's of brand mentions occur in the top 8 industry categories - Food & Beverage is at the top. Realizing this, they still had budget constraints, so WOMM was the way to go.
They first developed a questionnaire that helped them to find out who were their biggest promoters/ brand lovers are. They gave each person a "brand lover score", They took the highest scoring people and approach them to join "HQ", separating them into 2 groups. "Brand advisors" they use them to get an insight, they are their best customers and most frequent. The other part is for the "HouliFans" Greater group of people. They've basically invited all customers - HouliFans get WOM out.
They approached the Brand Advisors first, they expected 600 to join. They recieved 2,500 - they all get special things (previews, special tastings, etc.) What's interesting is that as this community has grown and they've even formed their own groups.
Jen then shows us the "HQ" part of the Houlihan's site. Front Burner is "hot new" usually updated once a week, Polls tied into WOMM campaigns or to get further insight. "Advisory" area is a special protected area, not all Houlifans can get into. All users can add photos, they have in-boxes, can update profiles. Jen & her team have their own profiles, and they respond to every email and message.
One of th first questions they asked the advisors was "WWYD" - if you were in charge at Houlihan's what would you do? Over 400 customers posted, over 1500 viewed. They had heard their customers were upset about a menu item removal. The community proved this to be true - they had a "fajita freakout". None of the people on the operational level didn't want to bring back the fajitas. But they realized after this that they made a mistake and they brought it back. They told their members about it first. They admitted to the community they screwed up, because they didn't know they had a "thing" with the fajitas - they loved the marinade. They learned that people were coming to Houlihan's just for the fajitas, and not moving into other menu items.
The members were shocked that Houlihan's listened. Lots of posts about when the people were going to visit again.
Two months later, them made some enhancement and opened it up to their "HouliFans" - where they emailed their entire database. They emailed over 165k, and had 7900 join.
The first thing the Houlifans saw was a promotion for their Diva Wednesday promotion around Sky Vodka and Sex in the City movie. That was the first WOMM campaign, 2nd campaign, was an introduction of a new seasonal menu. Advisors were invited first, and invited them to come in and invite a friend for 2 free entrees. Point was to reward advisors, when they had spots left, they invited some HouliFans. The did this 2 weeks ago, and then invited them back to give feedback about it. This campaign so far 600 people in the tasting itself, and about 1/3 of them completed survey, 35% did WOMM about the new menu.
Jen blocks off her calender from 8:30 to 9 and then 4:30 to 5 to be in the community. It takes commitment. She talks with members of the community, answers their emails and also questions in forums as well as engaging in conversations about brands and new promotions.
Members get rewarded with points for different actions in the community. They move people based on engagement in the site to become advisors.
They are starting Live Chats - this Wednesday with will Chef Dan.
She's learned that they have very loyal fans that generally want to just help. But this is a commitment and resource intensive, but honestly its an hour a day that is the best way to be spent. If consumers want to be so involved in our brands, we have no choice but to change.