The Power of People We Know

For a while now, I've been receiving about one e-mail per week from Marriott. My guess is that I forgot to uncheck the "opt-out" box when using their on-line booking system a couple of months ago. I don't read the e-mails, just dump them like most other people do. I don't even take the time to unsubscribe because it's just easier to hit delete.

I tend to pay attention to e-mails I receive from people I know, especially my friends.  Why can't companies, especially those with a lot of smart people like Marriott, figure this out?

Consider this...people make friends with people, not with companies. And the bigger the company, the worse it gets. And, if you buy into the idea that your goal as a hotelier is to turn strangers into friends, and then those friends into customers (build relationships), I recommend you let people do that...not the company. Seems logical and obvious. But, judging by my in-box, it's not.

Granted, I wouldn't be any more inclined to read or answer an e-mail from the front desk agent who I spent only two minutes with. But, what if I had received a message, e-mail or phone call, from the general manager who greeted me in the lobby?  Or, from the housekeeping manager who helped me with a TV problem? In fact, anyone who made enough of an impression so I could remember them has a good chance of getting through. No, they're not my friends. But, I probably trust them just enough to let them get to the next step.

And, with regard to promoting specials, packages, etc., why not let a "person" use a blog, podcast or send out personal notes to help spread the word? Again, I'm more likely to listen if it's someone I know.

Of course, the problem with this personalized approach is that most companies don't want to do it....or, more likely, are too afraid to do it. They worry about controlling the message so that it's consistent. They worry about what a junior manager or line staff member might say or do that could somehow backfire. So, they play it safe and trick people into getting corporate e-mails, hoping 1%-2% will read and act. And, they will...for a little while.

Friends are far more effective in spreading the word than any other method. So, rather than wasting time and money shouting at people who aren't paying attention, why not figure out ways to leverage the relationships which have already begun, and make some new friends?