15 Jun 2011
And in his presentation he said something that really struck a chord.
“Marketing is every phone call, every text, every conversation you have. It’s more powerful and more important than any company website or corporate brochure or ad campaign. The people answering your phones or your emails – if it’s not you – are your strongest marketers and engagers. And, unfortunately, they’re often the ones we pay the least and appreciate the least.”
Now, if you’re a freelancer (like me) chances are you answer your own phone. (And pay your own bills. And buy your own milk and teabags.) But if you’re running a company, even a small company, are you certain everyone who works for you is representing your brand the way you’d like them too?
Take my recent experience with Virgin Active. I was walking back to the office from a breakfast meeting and on the spur of the moment I decided to check out my local Virgin Active gym. I’m already a member of another chain of gyms near where I live. But Virgin is closer to the office and would be handy for the odd lunchtime run. So I bounced up to the desk and had this conversation:
Me: Hey there, do you have a leaflet about the club and the facilities?
VA: No, we don’t have a leaflet
Me: Oh, ok can you just give me some information about the prices please?
VA: No, they vary each month. Someone can come and talk to you. You’ll have to wait about 15 minutes.
Me: I haven’t got time to wait I’m afraid. Can I just take a quick look round?
VA: No you can’t. Can you ring later?
At which point he scribbled a phone number on a Post-It note and handed it to me. Hmmmm. More pain, less pleasure as they (don’t) say in the Virgin Active ads.
I get that they may not have a brochure. So why not direct me to the website? And if you don’t want to give the prices out, why not say something like ‘we have special deals all the time. So to make sure you get the best rate I’ll get the sales manager to call you and she can run through them with you.’ Or why not give me the sales manager’s business card? Or, better still, take my card and say that the sales manager will call me? But nope. None of these happened. And I got three no’s instead.
So anyway, I get back to the office and I call the sales manager and leave a message. And an hour or so later she calls me back and was very nice. I shared the above experience with her and she was very apologetic and said ‘it’s frustrating when we work so hard in the sales office and it all comes undone at reception.’
That’s really the crux isn’t it? And it’s something Scott Stratten talks about a lot. It doesn’t matter how good your advertising is or how super cool your website is or how funny your viral is or how hard you’re grafting in the marketing department – if your customers or potential customers have a crap experience when they interact with your brand at the coal face, then in their mind your brand is crap. It’s a simple as that.
On Saturday I was shopping in Kingston and dropped into one of the more upmarket retailers on the high street. Cool advertising. Check. Slick website. Check. Nice clothes. Check. Sales assistants who are total bitches. Check. Three of them. All standing around chatting and laughing. They didn’t acknowledge me. Didn’t say hello. Didn’t say anything. I even had to say ‘excuse me’ to two of them who were blocking my route to a rail of dresses I wanted to look at. And still nothing. Seriously, I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Did they get my money that day? Nope. I spent it elsewhere. And yet that company’s marketing bods are probably cooking up their next marketing campaign as we speak. But I don’t care how enticing their ads are, they’ll never get my business again. Like, ev-ah. (Not unless they have a 95% off sale anyway.)
So what’s to be done? What would happen if companies halved their advertising spend and doubled their training budget? Oooh that’s an idea. And how about calling anyone in a customer-facing position a marketing manager or a marketing officer? Because, really, that’s what they are.
In tough economic times when people are spending their cash more carefully, where are they going to go? To the company that has awful staff but are ‘really good’ with social media? Or to the business that’s friendly, approachable and consistently helpful? I know where I’m going. Where are your customers going?