In case you missed it, I’m a Customer Service guy. As a result, you might expect that I’ve butted heads with Marketing in the past, and you’d be right. Luckily for me and other champions of the customer experience, the world is changing.
I’m not telling you something you don’t already know when I point out that the marketplace has seen a very real shift of power in recent years. It’s cliché, I know, but the information age has given rise to the consumer. “Word of Mouth Marketing” is the hot buzzphrase these days because marketers realize their most creative and poignant ad campaigns are powerless against even the shortest, off-the-cuff-iest Facebook post from cousin Janice saying she didn’t like that blender you were thinking about buying for Aunt Jackie’s birthday. The irony is that word of mouth has always been this powerful. The only difference is that social media and, dare I say, Web 2.0 have given the consumer a bigger mouth.
So why do we care more about Janice’s opinion than Big Corporate’s?
Janice doesn’t have anything to gain when she tells you not to buy that blender. She just wants you to be happy. It’s the same reason you might check to see if something I link to from this blog is an affiliate link – “Does he really think that’s a good book, or does he just want to make fifteen cents when I buy it?”
Big Corporate ALWAYS stands to gain when we buy into its message, so we’re naturally skeptical. Furthermore, that skepticism is proportional to the amount Corporate stand to gain. In other words, the more they can profit, the more likely they are to lie, and the more distrustful consumers will be.
That’s why we love Janice. That’s why we hate Big Corporate. And that’s why earning the consumers’ trust isn’t easy, but that’s your job.
I’ll repeat that for emphasis:
Your job is to earn their trust.
If you have their trust, they’ll listen to you. If you have their trust, they’ll buy from you. If you have their trust, they’ll spread the word for you. If you really have their trust, they’ll even defend you when you screw up.
The first step, by the way, is actually being trustworthy. Believe it or not, that’s not obvious to everyone. The next step is to nurture that trust. Your existing customer is infinitely more valuable than a potential customer. Of course, we all want new business, but how much time and money do you spend finding, engaging, and converting a potential customer? If your current customers love you, if they believe in what you do and why you do it… if they trust you… they’ll do the finding, the engaging, and the conversion for you.
So that’s your job. Make them happy. Make them love you. Make them trust you, and the money will follow.