The Web is radically changing how we as marketers and communicators need to do our job. We need to change our mindset from organization-centric to customer-centric.
Over the years I have had the pleasure of dealing with some really great companies. My web hosting company is Verio and I am very loyal to them. They deliver good value and excellent service. Even in a crisis they performed well. I remember during Hurricane Katrina some of their servers went down, affecting my website. But they handled the whole situation with honesty and professionalism.
I have always been impressed with my newsletter provider, Newsweaver. Now, I publish a very basic text-only newsletter, and their system has many more options, but whenever I have had an issue their staff have been wonderful.
I'm demanding as a customer but also quite loyal once I feel the company I'm dealing with is treating me with respect. My training and profession is as a marketer and communicator and I believe these two disciplines are essential on the Web. However, I have to say that there is a dark and manipulative side to marketing and communications that has often held sway for the last 30-40 years.
This dark side is based on a deep understanding of human psychology. It knows that we are highly irrational and emotional and that if you press the right psychological buttons you can get people to pay more for lesser quality.
Amazon is one of my very favorite companies. I have bought all sorts of things from them over the years. I have never had a bad experience with Amazon and I have had some exceptional experiences that I will never forget. I remember once I got a CD case without a CD. I sent an email and got a very quick reply apologizing and saying a new CD was on the way. But what was amazing was what they said next: save the postage, don't bother sending the CD case back. That's trust. That is true branding.
"Before, if you were making a product, the right business strategy was to put 70% of your attention, energy, and dollars into shouting about a product, and 30% into making a great product," Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, recently told Charlie Rose. "So you could win with a mediocre product, if you were a good enough marketer. That is getting harder to do. The balance of power is shifting toward consumers and away from companies...the individual is empowered... The right way to respond to this if you are a company is to put the vast majority of your energy, attention and dollars into building a great product or service and put a smaller amount into shouting about it, marketing it. If I build a great product or service, my customers will tell each other."
As a marketer and communicator, are you in danger of becoming the needy child in the room? The game has changed. Are you still shouting with big graphical billboard ads and soft, soapy, meaningless language?
The customer isn't king anymore. They're dictator. Highly impatient, skeptical and deeply cynical of traditional marketers and communicators. But in an information-saturated, time-starved world, they are more than willing to be loyal if treated with genuine respect.