Marketing is not the ‘Why’ of your business. Marketing is THE WAY you do business.
Inspiration comes from funny places, and this morning it was from a parked car blasting out the Fun Boy Three at a volume turned up way beyond 11. For those under forty-five who may have missed it, It ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it, was their top five hit in the early Eighties with very apposite lyrics.
Marketing is a billion pound industry which, depending on your viewpoint, is either a cutting-edge cognitive behavioural science, powering a Utopian future, or a dark, nefarious and manipulative cesspool that relentlessly harvests our souls and our freedom, in return for money. Maybe it’s a smidge of both.
For me great marketing is a truly intuitive and deeply human interaction based on trust, empathy and integrity. Time and again, I’m most likely to be drawn to products, places and services that have good humans, behaving humanely. Put another way, the best marketing is the way you go about your business.
My local pub is not exceptional and it has a good, but not great range of beers. The food is good, but not Blumenthaley, and probably a touch expensive, but they get my regular custom because of the way they go about their business. The staff are all the perfect blend of professionally attentive and easy-going chummy. They treat me, my kids and my dog like valued friends and the attention to detail is just on the right side of fastidious. There’s no snobbery but a lot of class.
I wrote in a previous post (You had me at ‘It’s fixed’) that the way you look after your customers when things go wrong says more about you than your products. The waterproof zip on my Musto jacket tore between the seam and the zippy bit after only a couple of weeks wear. A lovely lady sounded concerned and contrite on the phone and gave me simple return instructions.
Two weeks later it was returned, invisibly mended along with a hand-written compliment slip apologising for the fault and an un-requested cheque more than covering my return shipping costs. I was so impressed, I never cashed the cheque. It’s on the pin-board in my office as a reminder of how customer service excellence wins.
As a former boss of mine used to say like a mantra “It’s far cheaper and easier to keep a customer than to have to go and find a new one.” In that particular company we discovered, almost too late, that the tech support teams and on-site engineers were a hugely valuable part of the sales and marketing process. As one long-term customer put it “Keep my stuff working, fix broken stuff quickly for a fair fee, and you won’t need a salesman — I’ll always come to you first.”
More than that, happy customers are not just returning customers, they’re the best advocates. Our very best influencer marketing came not on the sunlit shores of Instagram, but from the dark depths of the IT pro’s forums.
Understanding this dynamic and making it a central part of your company culture is the keystone to building a brand that people trust. Keeping customers is simple. Keep them happy.
Small things can mean an awful lot, and we’ll forgive a less than perfect product in return for a great experience. You get a reputation for how you treat people — inside and outside your organisation — that will resonate far further and far more loudly than any ad campaign.
Do you pay suppliers and contractors on time, or even early, or do you tell your accounts department to hold off until they’re screaming for settlement? What makes you think that your suppliers couldn’t be potential customers, or that your contractors couldn’t be powerful influencers? They’re not likely to sing your praises to anyone else if their first thought of you is a constant struggle to get paid what’s owed on time.
As Uber found to their cost, if you treat your employees like shit and play fast and loose with your customer’s loyalty, you’ll suffer a very public backlash. Travis Kalanick got fired from the company he founded because as Sam Walton (founder of Walmart) pithily put it “The customer can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”
If you make sure that you put ‘good people looking after your customers’ at the heart of what you do, you’ll not only keep them, but they’ll tell their friends too. More than once I’ve written that your brand is a promise that you make to your customers. And great brands keep their promises.
If you want to build an important company or organisation that changes something for the better then your marketing doesn’t have to be a science (and certainly not a cesspool), it just has to be rooted in going about your business with trust, integrity and empathy.
As the Fun Boy Three wisely said: