The folks at Natural Running Store really get it. They understand that you aren't buying shoes. Rather, you're buying attention, special treatment and the feeling that someone cares about you.
This is a powerful example of how technology can amplify hospitality and help you build an audience of loyal, raving fans vs. simply applying digital to traditional marketing methods, i.e., email blasts and banner ads.
Don't create billboards, create engagement.
Taking a chapter out of Apple's fully integrated "system", the others (Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc.) are now in a full throttle war to get you to buy-in to their ecosystem. It's a simple formula...how much of your on-line experience stays in one portal? In order to secure more of your attention (translates into sales), each of these organizations must build both physical and on-line systems to make you feel completely comfortable. It needs to appeal to your tastes and be really, really simple and intuitive...a la Apple. Google isn't adding YouTube movies to sell movies per se. It's another reason for you to stay at home on the Google ecosystem. Why go to Netflix?
Kindle Fire, Nook, iPad...designed to keep you in the system.
Not so long ago, the measuring stick was which site you had your browser home page set to. Now, it's which ecosystem do you spend most of your time in.
You're chances of getting people to talk about you are much, much higher if you do something that matters. Building an ordinary hotel and selling rooms for a lower price isn't much for people to crow about.
You're on to something when what you've developed illicits...Did You Hear About...? Or, Did you See...? Or, You Just have to try...
Creating something meaningful that compels people to spread the word is your first order of business, whether it's for yourself or for your company. Without remarkable content, the rest of the road is much more challenging.
you actually get to sell your idea to the right audience...the reader.
Picked up this nugget from Seth's latest post...
"marketing involves effectively communicating a story about benefits to (and among) the people who will appreciate them"
That's it in a nutshell...all the rest of the stuff you hear about marketing is fluff. Of course there's a lot that goes into it. But, that's called work. Best get busy.
Recently someone asked me to weigh in on the concept of flash sales, specifically when used in the hospitality and travel industries. Essentially, a flash sale is a time dated offer that arrives unexpectedly and requires an immediate response to book the featured promotional rate. More back story can be found here.
I think these tactics are fine if they are relevant and anticipated by the customer and if they don't become too prominent in the marketing plan. In other words, they need to be the fallback during carefully selected periods. As booking windows become increasingly shorter, people are more comfortable with "last minute". But, penalizing the early birds, which often are your most loyal fans, definitely has consequences. What is gained short-term, might cost you more in the long run. Once the infrequent fire sale becomes the norm, fewer people are going to believe that your "normal" price is the real deal...then, trust is gone.
When making decision about marketing I often look through these filters...
- Does the idea support short-term or long-term goals? How much will the short-term gain erode long-term performance?
- Are we willing to offer this all the time and to our best customers? If not, why not?
- Will our customers trust us more or less when we do this?
- Does it build an audience of loyal, raving fans?
- Is the prospective idea or tactic easy or hard? Things that are easy (like buying ads) are not as meaningful and effective as doing things that are hard (building one on one relationships one customer at a time).
- If we do this, will it improve our care score? Will our best customers feel more cared for?
Nothing (no amount of marketing) replaces doing meaningful work that people are willing to pay a premium for. The keys are to find something you are passionate about and hoping there are enough people that agree with you.
Not anymore. In fact, there never was. People have never been dumb. Most just weren't motivated to seek an alternative, especially about things that didn't originate in their own town. You knew if farmer John's milk was good...you could ask a neighbor. It was much harder to know if the Sears catalog was lying to you. The problem wasn't smarts. There just wasn't a reliable way to learn. Enter ubiquitous high-speed bandwidth...today's internet. It changed everything, especially the rules about keeping people in the dark.
Last week a company tried to sell me spark plugs and spark plug wires for more than five hundred dollars. The same products were available outside the shop for under a hundred. The jig wasn't hard to figure out. When I asked them about it, no problem..."just bring in your own parts". A sucker punch. Here's a national, well recognized brand, categorically ignoring all the new rules of customer care and marketing hoping to pull a fast one on people. What do they really hope to gain? Makes you wonder.
Most trickery is more subtle. An ad campaign that promises the best meal while the restaurant is consistently empty. A website that boasts fabulous customer service while overbooking practices drive people mad.
Try covering up your lousy restaurant.
Try hiding the fact that your hotel is dirty.
Try fooling people to pay more for an airline seat.
Try keeping people from talking with each other about your service.
You can't do it.
On the flip side, try hiding the passion and enthusiasm of your best people.
And, try keeping your secret sauce a secret.
Or, try keeping people from spreading your fabulous idea.
You can't do that either.
So, are you going to do average work, spending time to keep people in the dark, hoping to find a few suckers? Or, are you going to get busy doing things you want people to talk about.
Unfortunately, you have to decide.
A friend recently ask my opinion on how he could spread the word about a new service. He was considering emailing people and posting notes on Facebook, among other things. After offering some suggestions for posting content to various online outlets (flickr, website, twitter, vimeo, linkedin, etc.), I thought about push vs. pull. Most people want to go out and tell (or yell) about what they have to offer...understandably, they're excited about sharing something new. And, while you can generate some results pushing your message with email, unsolicited ecards, etc., it's not the most effective way to get the word to spread. The best way is to allow yourself some time and create a bucket load of fabulous content that will garner some attention. Then, leak it out to some close friends, give some of your product away for free and give people access on as many relevant outlets as possible. Once you have a fan base, ask them if they would care for an occasional email update of your goings on. Repeat.
While it's far easier to hit send on an email blast, the harder stuff almost always works better and longer.
The old model, selling people features and benefits, doesn't work anymore. There's too much clutter. Unless you're a gazillionaire, you don't stand much of a chance. However, you could change your approach. You could adapt to a new marketing order and use advertising for a completely different purpose. You could use ads as an opportunity to begin a conversation... instead of selling products. A quick rewind of recent advertising history might help put this into perspective.
Prior to radio and TV, if you had something to sell to people outside your immediate area, you bought print ads and billboards. It was a straightforward system, the more ads you bought, the more you would likely sell. Soon, competitors started advertising too. And, "what" you said about a product was overshadowed by "how" it was said...the advertising profession was born. Things started changing with the advent of TV. Slowly, as more and more companies could afford to advertise, we started to see ads which were designed to entertain instead of sell. Some companies figured it was better to get people to talk about the ad, not just the product. That required loads of creativity and money...it was hard. But, those ads rose above the clutter. They convinced us that the people behind the products were interesting, imaginative and funny...that they were real people, not just big companies. Their ads created an emotional connection and started a conversation. Those companies won. Life was good. The internet (specifically, wide distribution of broadband) changed the game again. The cost barrier to entry was lowered to practically zero. Companies of all sizes and even individuals could get into the act. Viral marketing as we now know it was born. But, cheap led to a very low signal to noise ratio...lots of junk and more clutter than ever. Instead of working harder to start a conversation, companies abused the system and tried pushing old tactics in a new medium. And then, the death spiral began...ads became cheaper, which meant you could buy more ads, which led to more clutter and an increasingly ineffective mechanism. More and more people stopped paying attention.
Fast forward...If you think of customer conversations as the lifeblood of your business, you understand all this. You know how important it is for customers to go out and tell your story. Respectively, that's what you spend most of your time and money on...engaging with customers and reinventing your product and story to keep things fresh. And, as a new marketer you know that advertising is your chance to connect with people and stimulate conversation. You understand that it's not just a space to interrupt someone and sell them something. You've studied marketing history and know what not to do. So, you wouldn't waste time and money placing boring ads that look and sound like everyone else's. Instead, you would try this sort of thing.