Word-of-Mouth Advertising

The word INTEGRITY is written on the children’s whiteboard in their room. “We are working on integrity”, I tell them.

Instead of using the word integrity I could have used terms like truthful, honest, trustworthy, reliable, or reputation. I mean, we are talking about whether or not they are actually practicing piano and drums like they say they are. I have reason to doubt them, especially, since they enthusiastically want to practice when I am walking the dogs. Timing just happens to work out that their 20 minutes of practice finishes just before Jody and I walk back in the door.

“What is integrity?” they asked.

I said, “It is simple. Integrity means: Do what you say. Say what you mean.”

If my children can embody integrity they will be successful in business and life.

Our entire trip to Guatemala was done entirely because of integrity and word of mouth marketing.

Word-of-mouth is one of the most credible forms of advertising because people who don’t stand to gain personally by promoting something put their reputation on the line every time they make a recommendation.

In 1996, Jody rented an upstairs duplex from a couple. This couple adopted two infant girls, a few years apart, from Guatemala. Through the years, our contact with the family was sporadic, largely through holiday cards. In 2011, I contacted them because I was aware that they had made visits back to Guatemala. This was an email from them:

“As I told Beth we were just in Guatemala two weeks ago and had a great time. We had our 4th visit with the girl’s birth families that went very well, due in large part to working with de FAMILIA a FAMILIA   in Guatemala. We started working with them in 2001 and they successfully located both families. They have continued to work with us over the years to maintain contact and facilitate our support for the families. The women of de FAMILIA a FAMILIA are Guatemalan women who are very committed to the people of Guatemala and have a great grasp of the complexity of the relationship between adoptive families and their children’s birth families.”

Shortly after this email, Jody, Antonio, Crystel, and I met with this family to talk with their now teenagers about their experience meeting and staying connected with their birth families. Antonio and Crystel were sharp-eyed and attentive as the teenagers shared their Guatemala travel stories and photographs.

Within minutes of us saying goodbye to the family, Crystel said, “I want to meet my birthmom.”

I contacted de FAMILIA a FAMILIA the next day.

Our experience with de FAMILIA a FAMILIA in locating Antonio’s and Crystel’s birthmom’s surpassed our expectations. They documented the search for us with photographs and script. We saw pictures and read about the birthmom’s response to knowing that their son and daughter from the United States were searching for them. All of us felt like we were following behind the movie camera as it rolled.

When the time came for us to travel to Guatemala, de FAMILIA a FAMILIA, recommended that “I would suggest that you contact Nancy Hoffman for your transportation and hotel arrangements.”

I contacted Nancy Hoffman of Guatemala Reservations the next day.

Nancy also surpassed our expectations. I made the initial contact with only giving her the information of the dates that we were flying to Guatemala. She took it from there, asking me all the questions that she needed to provide us with a tailored itinerary for our 10-day stay. Prior to our trip, she stayed in constant contact with us via email and when we were in Guatemala we had her personal phone number. The two hotels that she booked for us were perfect for the adults and the children. The transportation she provided for us was safe and reliable. I could clearly tell why de FAMILIA a FAMILIA would recommend Nancy Hoffman.

In one of my emails to Nancy I asked her if she could connect me with anyone from the project Amigos de Santa Cruz and I told her that we were also interested in visiting San Juan’s medicinal and curative plant garden.

“Hi Elizabeth – a good friend, Lee Beal, (from the USA) works as a guide and is associated with the Amigos program and also with the folks in San Juan. You can contact him directly. I contacted Lee Beal and subsequently have written many posts about our experience with him and his organization.

de Familia a Familia, Nancy Hoffman and Lee Beal built their reputation by doing what they say and saying what they mean. 

After our Integrity discussion piano and drum practice has increased in length. Sometimes, I still mention the word Integrity when I ask them how long they practiced. Antonio and Crystel know what I mean.

Now, I’m trying to explain to them how NOT saying something or not volunteering information when they ‘should’ be volunteering information is also a form of honesty.  But … we are all works in progress. Even so, I hope I am starting to impart the idea that at the end of the day our reputation is our individual responsibility and it starts with having integrity. And, when we have integrity, no one can take that from us. It’s ours and it is personal to who we are.