Give It Away, It’ll Come Back

by Elmer Boutin on February 23, 2011

There are many marketing experts out there recommending you give stuff away in order to attract paying customers. Whether it’s knowledge, product, “stuff,” or whatever, the idea behind it is not only to offer samples but to build up your brand’s good karma. The idea is, if you give good things, good things will return to you. You shouldn’t “give to get” because greed and selfishness doesn’t work in this. It needs to be more of a culture of just being helpful.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

A friend of mine was at the mall with her daughter. When they were done with their shopping, they went out to the parking lot to find one of the tires on their car was flat. My friend had noted a slow leak in this particular tire, but she certainly didn’t expect this.

She related that three choices came to mind immediately where she could take the car to get the tire fixed: a mass merchandiser, a warehouse club (both in close proximity to the mall), or the Discount Tire store located on an out-parcel of the mall. She chose the Discount Tire.

She limped her car over to the store and asked for someone to check the tire and fix it if possible. They pulled the tire off the car and found a large bolt stuck in the tread. This wasn’t some small thing, mind you, it was one of those large machine bolts. It rendered the tire unfixable.

At this point, my friend said she was rather frustrated. She didn’t have the money to buy new tires and really didn’t want to drive around on the doughnut-style spare. Still, she needed to do something. Meanwhile, the shop’s manager told her not to worry, that they would get her going again.

After about 20 minutes, she’s told the car is ready to go. She expected that they pulled the spare out and put it on the car and that she’d have to pay $20 or so for the labor. In her opinion, too, this would have been a fair exchange.

Instead, the people put on a used tire, with a fair amount of tread on it, replacing the damaged one. The cost to her? Zero.

Not only was she telling my wife and I this story, she’s out there telling everyone she meets about the great experience she had at Discount Tire. And now I’m telling the story because it’s a great example of a company going above and beyond to build good will.

Now, this begs the question: Can this kind of activity generate measurable sales to show it’s really valuable to the bottom line? Unless someone specifically mentions my friend’s story or this blog post, the answer is “not really.” But, can this kind of activity over the long run generate a lot of good will and make Discount Tire the store that’s thought of as the “go to” place when tires are needed? You bet it will.

It’s also interesting to me that Discount Tire had a booth at PubCon in Vegas last year to promote their affiliate program. They seemed slightly out of place among the usual search marketing vendors. But, if they are trying to build up their online brand, PubCon seems a good place to start doing that. Perhaps there’s a pattern here.

I don’t know if my friend’s story relates customary behavior of all Discount Tire locations. If it is, their competitors better watch out. If you have experience with them, good or bad, please feel free to share them in the comments. I’ve heard enough, that I’d like to hear more.

Update: Just as I posted this, I caught a post from Dairy Queen about one of their operators doing something similar. Check it out.

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Google
  • Technorati
  • RSS Feed

Previous post:

Next post: