When we engage with customers, we don’t expect much from them.
We think of customers as part of the equation: we sell, they buy. Read any boilerplate marketing websites and you’ll see that no matter the product, service, or solution, that company offers a “great customer experience.”
Saying “have a nice day,” at checkout isn’t going to cut it anymore in business. “Above and beyond” doesn’t exist. As consumers, we expect relevant, personalized, exciting, transformative experiences every time we interact with a brand.
That’s a lot to expect from companies who claim to care about their customer, but rarely invest the money or the time to provide them what they need.
Put yourself in that special circle of business travel hell just for a second: your flight is delayed. And delayed. And delayed. You’re sitting there on the runway in a pressurized cabin, squashed into your seat, and you haven’t even taken off yet. And the clock keeps ticking.
a) Sit quietly and simmer, vowing never to fly again?
b) Complain loudly to your neighbors about this airline and how terrible it is or
c) Angrily take to Twitter, tag the airline, and proclaim to the whole world how terrible it is?
Perhaps you choose all three. Either way, option c is becoming increasingly popular for consumers. Many brands fear this: the public humiliation, the aggressive trolls, the haters, the people who cannot be stopped rampaging all over your brand image they’ve worked so hard to maintain. Before, those people wrote angry letters. No one but the trash can read those. Now, everyone can see every failure you have as a business.
Social media makes brands more accessible than ever. Jay Baer of Convince and Convert calls this marketing’s greatest opportunity. His research in his recent book, “Hug Your Haters,” tells us that ignoring those kinds of comments decrease customer advocacy every time and in every channel. It takes an already bad situation (providing poor customer service) and makes it worse. He argues that your haters are your most important customers because they’re the canary in the coal mine—they let you know what you’re doing wrong, and what you can improve, if you’ll only listen.
Enter: the marketer.
Imagine if, instead of the angry tweeter receiving stony silence (or worse, a response several days later), the airline responded right away to apologize—not company to customer, but person to person. Even if there’s no compensation or offer involved, it immediately dissolves your tension and anger. You realize that hey, these are people too.
It might even turn you from a hater into an advocate, thanking them publicly for helping you out. You might wait on the runway for a few more minutes, but you’ll know someone cares.
That is the power of the marketer.
When we think of marketing we think of a bullhorn or a town crier. “Hear ye, hear ye! I have this amazing product/service/piece of content!”
Increasingly, marketing is less about what brands do and more about what they offer. That might have nothing to do with their product. With the rise of inbound marketing, we think more about how we can help and educate and less about what we can sell. Engaging, insightful, and helpful content builds a sense of identity and community—and generates more leads.
This type of thinking allows marketers to reach out to their customers on a 1:1 basis, rather than shouting from the rooftops in a 1: many situations. Social media mixes both. While you can promote your content through your own profiles or through advertisements, a more successful social media strategy follows those principles of customer service—hugging your haters—and directly engaging with customers, both positive and negative.
That might be a question answered, a piece of helpful content shared, a GIF battle, or giving out a free trial. It depends on the situation at hand. Different marketing platforms open up additional touch points to the customer, which in turn opens brands up to additional forms of feedback.
To echo Jay Baer, you have to embrace your haters. As much as it’s painful to answer, or easier to let it go, engaging with them can not only diffuse their anger, but can turn them from a hater into an advocate.
And that’s pretty powerful.