The Importance of Being Earnest

My wife is not a Sex and the City (non-affiliate link) fan.  And in the honor of full disclosure, I cannot tell you how happy that makes me.  The craze of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda is one that never entered my home, but that doesn’t mean I know nothing about it.  Recently I read this report about how Carrie has switched from Apple computers to HP in the new film and outside of contractual obligations, I can’t even begin to tell you why.

I am an Apple fan. There, I said it.

I have had my iBook G4 for 5 years and have had no problems with it.  I love my iPod, I want nothing more than to own an iPad, and my wife recently bought a 17″ Macbook Pro for when she starts at Nossi College of Art and Design in the Fall.  I am not an affiliate for Apple, simply a fan, and so far this post seems like it has nothing to do with marketing or promoting your brand, but I’m getting there.  I want to tell you about the experience we had buying my wife’s new laptop and why it is SO FREAKING IMPORTANT for you or your sales force to act like they give a rat’s ass about your customers.

We’ve all met them: salesmen who seem to scream, “I work on commission.”  My wife and I shopped around and on a recommendation went to an authorized re-seller or Apple wares who shall remain nameless (although it rhymes with Schmakauthority).  When we got there, we walked around for maybe 10 minutes before someone approached us, even though the store was practically empty.  When the salesman finally came up, he did listen to what we wanted and then seemed to take the sale from there.  He did no investigating about the Nossi discount we were told to ask about besides asking another worker standing hear him who had “worked there longer” and then immediately began recommending additional products to purchase along with our $2,000 computer.  So far, all pretty run-of-the-mills sales.  When we began telling him to put the additional items back, he argued with us and basically called us irresponsible until he realized we were seriously not going to also purchase the $500 of additional equipment.  At this point we were aggravated and just wanted to purchase the computer and leave.  Well, he didn’t have the computer in stock (not his fault in the slightest), but to compensate, he tried to get us to pay for it anyway with him and pick it up later this week.  When we told him we weren’t interested in that option and were on our way out the door, THEN he told us that ordering it offline might be a better option because we would receive it quicker and save more money.  Long story short, we drove 10 minutes down the street to the Apple Store and bought the computer, a printer and Microsoft Office from a salesman who actually gave a crap named Owen and walked out with everything that day.

I know that’s a long story, but what does it have to do with your business or brand?  Make sure your customers feel like you care about them.  That’s why listening is so important.  Listening should always be your first step into any marketing area because people know when you don’t care.  The Internet has changed many things and the area of consumer trust is no different.

Companies in Glass Houses…

The need for transparency within an organization has never been higher.  With the amount of online chatter and fact-finding, it is almost impossible to lie or trick your consumers into believing only what you want them to believe.  Whole Foods learned that lesson when their CEO pretended to be a regular Joe-Schmo online while Redfin learned the benefits on being totally honest online.  One company got raked through the media for devious actions while the other garnered respect throughout the online community and was pulled from the brink of bankruptcy, I’ll let you guess which is which.

If a Company Says Nothing in the Woods…

On the other side of the coin, if you have no online presence and there is no one to stick up for you or answer your customers’ concerns it makes you seem uncaring and disconnected.  Comcast’s Frank Eliason (@comcastcares) was one of the first to create a Twitter Customer Service engine to help their customers who needed answers quickly.  Read the case study here.  Pretty amazing stuff.

It’s not longer good enough to “be there” and sell stuff to customers.  Run-of-the-mill sales tactics (i.e. “assuming the sale”, “bait and switch”, “owning the conversation” etc.) don’t cut it anymore because people are better at smelling bullshit.  The principles of marketing (product, price, place and promotion) still have a place and should always be built into the core of your strategies, but I’d like to add a P if you would let me:

Presence

I mean this in every sense of the word.  Whether you are strictly online or you have brick-and-mortar locations, be present.  Make sure you are really there for your customers physically and mentally and not simply there for yourself.  Listen, care and think about what is best for the individual(s) you are with (and don’t only care once you know the sale is dead).

I think if organizations tried a little more to be Trust Agents and a little less to be “good salesmen,” more relationships could be built and both sides would see more benefit from those relationships.

Or maybe I’m completely wrong.  Maybe we like to be bullied into sales or tricked by the Weapons of Influence (as coined by Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D. in his book Influence), maybe the world would be a better place if others decided what was best for us.  I’ll bet that’s what you want, right?

Let me just wrap that up for you.  You can meet me at the counter to pay.

jS

(P.S. – I am not an affiliate marketer with Borders, Apple, Amazon or any other store/brand.  The products and stores I talk about are strictly ones I feel something for one way or the other.  If my circumstances change and I DO become an affiliate marketer for any of them, I will be sure to let you know.)

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About Joey Strawn

Digital marketing sociologist and public relations specialist with experience on national and local campaigns with a love for film and the things it says about our culture and business. Joey is the Senior Social Media Strategist at ISM in Nashville, TN and is in the business of helping people and companies deal with the new universe of social media in their marketing and PR endeavors.
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