A while back (before the dawn of social networking, or at least before the dawn of the popularity in social networking) I was having a conversation with a couple of marketing execs. The conversation turned to tattoos and how someone had sold his bald head as ad space for a company. Many thought it was a great idea because even though the ad was the better part of permanent, you could always grow hair to cover it should said company not pay the monthly bill. The conversation then eroded into how much is a forehead worth? How big of an emblem would you agree to host and for how long? How about your back? At what price would you agree?
As marketers we are always looking for the next big way to draw attention to ourselves (or more importantly our product).We love terms like cutting-edge and vanguard. We strive to be unique and the first ones “to market” with an idea. But with the advent of social media we’re coming to realize that everyone is a marketer. Schools have recognized this for a long time. That’s why instead of having teachers hock candy bars to us, they send little Jimmy peddling his goods around to all of his family. Social marketing is an every day push. You are more apt to buy from little Jimmy, because you know him, then you are to be won over by a slick campaign. After all, who can say no to Jimmy’s big brown eyes and chocolate-smudged face?
The best bang you can get from your buck (in marketing) is to get people excited about your product. Get people talking to one another. Don’t let them hear it from you, let them hear it from their best friend, colleague, grandmother… just get people talking. (Whether that’s through an online member community or not is best left up to your product or service but it never hurts to give someone a platform upon which to sing your praises.) Hyundai is trying to do just that in a very transparent ad campaign. If you’ve heard the commercial they even give cred to social networking saying this deal is so good we know you’re going to talk to your neighbors about it. (It’s the one where they give YOU money for six months.) Almost like they’re daring us to converse about it and what d’ya know — I am.
But you don’t have to stir up buzz through a great deal, you can do it through incredible customer service. I dread calling any kind of company if I have an issue that needs to be rectified. The idea of dialing a number, speaking into a voice recognition system, having to repeat myself twenty times before I finally give up and press 0, drives me a little crazy. Then you finally get a hold of someone and you can only hope they give you the right answer. And not just the answer you want to hear but the one that will make your issue go away. I’ve had so many bad run-ins with customer service that I just assume every time I pick up that phone I’m going to talk to the one person in the joint who has no idea how to help me and doesn’t want to figure it out. Don’t let that be your company. Wow them with service staff who are knowledgeable, courteous and fun to talk to. Getting back to the fact that everyone is in marketing, don’t let my first impression with your company be my last. Empower your employees to represent you and invest money in making them well-trained and happy.
There’s a long forgotten saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” I promise you that stories of terrible customer service and junky products spread faster and last longer than the good ones, so you do have to work to get people talking about you in a positive light. But when you come to recognize that everyone is a potential member of your marketing department and make it your goal for every connection to be a positive one, you will become a company with an army of brand evangelists. Word of mouth takes work but not as much as approaching people to tattoo your logo on their heads. Plus, let’s be honest. It’s not their heads you want anyway. It’s their hearts.