Seth Godin is a pretty smart guy. I own several of his books, and I typically enjoy reading his blog to get interesting snippets of marketing conversation.
His posts are usually short and aren’t always earth shattering, but they always have a clear underlying message, and they almost always get me thinking.
Today’s blog entry was no different, but I wanted to add a small corollary to his post.
As he has stated on many occasions, Seth’s message was once again that the company that “wins the battle” is the one that creates new and unique ways to interact with their vendors and customers, the one which doesn’t act like a “faceless factory.”
Here’s my addendum: You need to be a “faceless factory” before you can be anything else.
Let me explain what I mean.
Most of the time, in a business-to-business environment, we want a product or service that we never have to think about. 99 percent of the time, I want my cell phone vendor to be “faceless” because I want to simply know that it works. I want my service to work, I want my phone apps to work, and I want to have as many “bars” in as many places as my chosen plan affords me. Without that, my ability to “engage” with that company is meaningless.
Now it’s not that I don’t care at all about the “face” of the company. If I’m forced to work with their customer service, I expect to be treated well. But the fact is, no matter how stellar the customer service is, any time I have to deal with “the face” means I’m dealing with my cell phone vendor, and not doing something else.
Now I think Seth would agree with me that once you reach that “99th percentile” of trust, then you’ve got a shot at reaching out to your customers, to reach out in unique ways that make you valuable. Create a sense of loyalty that leads to lasting engagement.
But “lasting engagement,” or “customer loyalty” doesn’t exist if we haven’t reached the “99th Percentile of Trust.” Become an efficient, solid, reliable “faceless factory” as fast as you can—and then start building your “brand.” When Dave Elkington and I founded XANT in 2005, we knew that “long term marketing strategy” was going to be about #8 or 9 on our Top 10 Start-Up Actions List.
If 15 percent of your “customer engagement” is working like crazy to get them to ignore the fact that your product stinks, offering discounts and unique “buy ins” isn’t likely to motivate them.
I’d rather every cell phone company take every dollar and cent they spend on “customer loyalty” programs, and put them towards making the most efficient, well-run, high-impact call center they can—since it’s the real “face” I have to deal with on the rare occasions that I interact with them.
And the next time I think about blowing some money on a pet marketing project, maybe I’ll talk to the COO, and see if that money can go towards making our product better instead.