As Marketers we are used to giving our products and services a thorough coat of beeswax to make sure our businesses are in showroom condition before we expose them to customers. But online the customer wants to have a look under the bonnet, and what’s more they have access to the tools and channels to do just that, whether we want them to or not.
There is both massive opportunity and massive threat in this. The threat for those running second rate businesses and hoping to cover over the chipped paintwork and rust with a lick of paint and a drop of polish is that first rate marketing no longer covers over second rate business. Reciprocally the tremendous opportunity for marketers and business owners is that with the right online strategy, the relationship between how well you run your business and how positively your business is perceived, has never been closer.
Reputation is the lifeblood of any business, and on the web finding out about the reputation of anything – a business, a town, a person – is very straightforward.
With apologies in advance to the fine folk of Ballymena who may be reading this, I’m going to indulge in a little stereotyping that would make Andy Gray blush. Ballymena was in the news back in November 2010, because a suspicious object was found in the town centre. In response to the news story on the BBC website, across social media speculation was rife regarding what this object may have been:
An open mind?
Two people not related?
An open wallet?
A good looking person … aka a tourist?
The point is easily and loosely made, reputation precedes comment, and reputation is invariably magnified in social media.
So effectively what is already believed and known gets amplified and enhanced. Happy customers who have bought from good businesses comment on how well they’ve been treated and angry customers have the perfect vehicle to let the world know how lousy their treatment has been.
Contrast the fortune of Northern Ireland’s thriftiest town (said to be full of Scotsmen, but with their generosity removed – joking, I’m joking people!) with the fine folk of creative kitchenware company Lakeland.
In the current dwelling of this author, Lakeland are big heroes. My wife contacted them a few years ago when an item arrived with a minor fault to see how she could return it. “Don’t bother returning it Mrs Dunlop,” they replied, “that’s too much trouble for you, we’ll send you a new one right away”. Late last year she received a customer feedback note, and made a small comment about an item she had received, and stressed that the issue was so minor that she would never have mentioned it but for the fact that they had asked. Lo and behold, a fortnight later, a new item arrived.
Take a trip into social media and you’ll see that my wife isn’t the only person feeling the love for Lakeland. They only need to say the most casual things and they are showered with affection. A comment last year about a customer service award they won resulted into 100s of ‘likes’ and dozens of comments from customers saying how well deserved the award was.
Lakeland love nothing more than opening the bonnet on their business and letting as many people as want to, have a look inside. Because they know that the more people see what they are really like, the more people will like them, buy from them, and recommend them to their friends.
This isn’t the only win for Lakeland. I don’t know for sure, but I bet you they need to spend less on beeswax than any of their competitors.