Service is the New Marketing
By Josiah MacKenzie Vice President , ReviewPro | May 29, 2011
A recent Econsultancy study revealed 86% of online consumers distrust advertising messages. Decades of hype, hyperbole, and unfulfilled expectations mean that people are now turning to others they can trust for advice: friends, family, and consumers like them online. In contrast to only 14% of consumers trusting corporate messaging, 90% will trust personal recommendations. A separate survey from eMarketer showed consumer reviews are trusted twelve times more than a manufacturer's product description, and a study on the influence of online reviews in the summer of 2010 revealed that 92% of US internet users read product reviews in the buying process. For hotel executives, the impact is very tangible. World Travel Market's 2010 Industry Report reported 35% of travelers change their choice of hotel after browsing social media.
"The days of controlling the message are absolutely over. At best you'll be invited in to co-create and participate with consumers."
– Wendy Clark, SVP of Marketing Communications, Coca-Cola
If online reviews and personal recommendations are the trusted source of information today, how can we encourage more of these? Recommendations are the result of personal experiences, and personal experiences will always trump marketing claims. It's one thing for a company to make a promise in advertising, and quite another to deliver on the promise. Unfulfilled promises increase the likelihood of negative word of mouth, but consistently fulfilling a brand promise builds goodwill and loyalty. In either case, consumers will be going online to share their experience with the world.
As this happens, the importance of Service increases dramatically. Service has the opportunity to become the new marketing. By delivering extraordinary Service worth remarking about, companies stand out from competitors, encourage positive word of mouth, and deliver the most memorable sort of branding.
If you look at the traditional goals of marketing – customer acquisition, loyalty building and repeat purchases – it becomes clear all of these are based on the consumer's perceptions of a brand and their memories of prior experiences with that brand. If I have to choose between trusting my experience with a company or trusting their advertising, chances are good I will trust my own experience. Because of this, delivering great Service is the best way to win loyalty. Surprise and delight are triggers of positive word of mouth. It would be good for us to follow the advice that Napoleon Hill once wrote:
"Tell the world what you plan to do, but first show it."