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United Breaks Guitars: a B2B Case Study on Word of Mouth

  • B2B Marcom

  • Last week my wife and I were vacationing in Sarasota. While there I continued my search for a Fender Stratocaster - an iconic electric guitar (I've been playing for over 30 years and have always loved that Strat sound). My beloved vintage Telecaster is about to go on the block, or maybe just on the shelf).  Anyway, there are numerous permutations of the Strat (different neck materials, neck shapes, neck radii, fingerboard materials, electronics, etc.) so it is important to evaluate as many variations as possible. My search has had me strumming in Syracuse, Binghamtom, and Utica as well as picking in Clearwater, Tampa, and Sarasota. That's how musicians are. We are passionate about our instruments and will go to great lengths for them.  Last week I found an absolute beauty. I could tell it was just what I wanted as soon as I played my first few chords. After an hour of playing I put it down and walked away. Why? Because I can purchase a similar guitar closer to home and because I simply didn't want to deal with flying it home from Florida. That's how bad my fears are regarding air travel service.

    Sadly, someone learned their lesson the hard way. Even sadder, that person is a business, a professional musician named Dave Carroll who plays with the Canadian band, The Sons of Maxwell.  Thanks to HubSpot's Mike Volpe for the tip on this story.

    Sad for Dave because his "business partner", a $3,500 Taylor guitar (trust me non-guitarisits, this guitar is absolutely excellent), was ruined by United Airline's baggage handlers' egregious mishandling of the instrument. The baggage handling was so bad that passengers watching the plane being loaded started commenting on how a guitar was being tossed about. To Mike's horror, it was his. He witnessed the whole affair and, upon arrival, found that his beloved guitar was broken ... by a business vendor, a professional partner hired to transport him, his band, and their gear. To Dave, that guitar represents food on his table, and more.

    Sadder for United Airlines because, after a year of unacceptable service (ending with United telilng Mike, "Too bad") Mike wrote a song. Sadder for UA because I am the 137,986th person to view Mike's video of the song on YouTube. Sadder for UA because Mike only posted the video two days ago!

    Talk about word of mouth! In this case, the "mouth" is a professional musician, a business person who has honed their unique brand of communications to a keen edge. To say that Mike has a way with words is an understatement - just listen to UNITED BREAKS GUITARS. To say that over an eighth of a million musicians (more mouths) have experienced and shared Mike's word of mouth mesage in the past 48 hours (in spite of the Michael Jackson hoopla) is saying ... well ... a mouthful.

    Be careful when providing service. Our customers in the B2B arena are equally as passionate as consumers. They LOVE what they do. In many cases they dedicate their lives to their professions. Your service really matters to them. This is a situation where there is little difference between B2B and B2C practices. When supporting your customers, always do what is right. Given today's opportunities to spread information to peers, can you afford to "break guitars?"

    I just refreshed the YouTube page. The count is up to 148,325!  After you view it, stop back and comment to me on what the count is up to.