In the “Mad Men” advertising era, a clever tagline, catchy copy and a neverending emphasis on “positive spin” was largely how marketing was done. With the ability of social media to quickly reward or punish companies with reviews, reports and rumors, it’s time to ditch the spin and concentrate on presenting the best product or service possible in an honest way.
Positive feedback from the social media world is the reward for doing it right— for creating something of substance that engages and intrigues buyers. Conversely, organizations showcasing substandard offerings cleverly cloaked in a bunch of spin will likely get their butts kicked in the marketplace—if not now, then certainly down the road.
Thought leader and very popular blogger Seth Godin addresses the evolution in an interview by Marketo Chief Marketing Officer Sanjay Dholakia. Godin points out, “Most marketers have come from an environment where everyone is selling exactly the same product. The way you won was with a clever tag line. That is the world of ‘Mad Men.’ Modern marketers say, ‘Well, of course Apple people are waiting in line to hear Apple’s announcement because they’re actually doing something new. They’re not just spinning the old’…Their role is coming up with an experience, an environment, a service, a product, that people can’t help talking about, and then consistently delivering on that.”
Godin continues, “Say you start a real boutique hotel. Then you make sure the right people are staying there in the first few weeks. Word gets out among their circle of friends, who talk to the next circle and the next, and the hotel is sold out. Or you can start a fake boutique hotel, which Hyatt Hotel is trying to do. You skip all those steps and make it look like a boutique hotel. And then you’re puzzled and surprised when there isn’t a line out the door. The reason there isn’t a line out the door is that the people you were hoping to connect with can tell that it’s not a real boutique hotel.”
It’s important to note here that Actor Will Rogers, born all the way back in 1879, had his own version of this concept— so its roots are in fact long established. He said simply, “If advertisers spent the same amount of money on improving their products as they do on advertising then they wouldn’t have to advertise them.” Bottom line, create great products/services and a stellar customer support team, and let the good times—and positive buzz—roll.
Peer-to-peer outweighs marketer claims
Increasingly, consumers want “unbiased” third-party endorsements. According to Godin, there is “more reliance by consumers on peer-to-peer connections and less on the message they hear directly from the marketer.”
The ubiquitous nature of social media makes it relatively easy for prospects to scour reviews and fo-rums to see how the company rates. In this realm, legitimate testimonials, endorsements and case studies featuring clients, colleagues or partners can be far more influential than unsubstantiated claims of excellence. Bottom line, where possible let raving fans tell the company story.
People are fed up with “pretend” customer caring
Godin complains about the pervasive customer service culture where companies tell you how important your call is, followed by long hold times and interactions where the customer service rep is rated by how fast they can get you off the phone.
He notes, “That’s the opposite of customer engagement. This company spent a lot of time and money to set up a phone queuing system. Then when you talk to them, they don’t care enough to talk back, or if they do talk back, they put someone in your face who has been programmed to be a cog in a machine…If you’re serious about engaging the customer, you realize that the most valuable moments you have are when the customer is using your product, on the phone with you, actually engaged with you.” Bottom line, people want to be heard, not handled—and to be dealt with in a forthright and supportive way. Companies failing to do so will increasingly become prey to companies that do.
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