Message & Media: Reputation Guaranteed
Whatever business, product or service you market, two of your most valuable assets are your customers and your company's reputation based on what customers and non-customers think of you. One feeds the other to fuel your bottom line.
For direct marketers, reputation is a key influencer in getting people to act. Your reputation is a part of your direct marketing offer. Your offer is everything you are willing to give in exchange for response. It is what pushes a customer over the edge of indecision.
Try these tips for building credibility, solidifying your good name and generating more response.
• Guarantee it. Have a guarantee that establishes and reinforces expectations, and state it in simple language. First-time buyers look for a guarantee. Established customers take it for granted until they have a problem.
Promote your guarantee wherever it's appropriate and wherever your customer will look for it. This includes order forms, sales brochures, catalogs, shopping carts and checkout pages, letters, product packaging, shipping boxes, product-related Web pages, e-newsletters, QR code links, package inserts, space ads, and even sales receipts, email order confirmations and delivery trucks or service vehicles.
Here's a guarantee found on the Best Western Orlando Gateway's hotel website that starts as a strong, positive, five-word statement. Unfortunately, the opener is followed by a two-sentence explanation that's punctuated with what I call a "deadly asterisk." From there it disintegrates into an italicized disclaimer.
Best Western Orlando Gateway's
100% Satisfaction Guarantee
We guarantee total guest satisfaction. If you are not satisfied with your accommodations or our service at the Best Western Orlando Gateway hotel, please inform the front desk staff. If we cannot correct the situation to your satisfaction, you will not be charged for your room.*
*Guest must advise front desk staff of problem right away, and give them an opportunity to make the situation right. If hotel staff is unable to satisfy the guest, they will credit the guest a maximum of one night's room rental. Not all international hotels participate in this program.
Compare this with this Lands' End guarantee: Guaranteed. Period®. If you're not satisfied with any item, simply return it to us at any time for an exchange or refund of its purchase price.
• Name it. Name your guarantee. It adds value and implies a benefit. Call it a Solid Gold Guarantee, Ironclad Guarantee, No-Strings-Attached Guarantee, Money-Back Guarantee, Unconditional Guarantee or something equally reassuring. Reinforce its importance with strong graphics.
• Do it. Advertising your guarantee is one thing, honoring it is another. Whether you are proactive or reactive in resolving customer problems, don't hesitate to admit you made a mistake and are ready to make it right. Orders get filled incorrectly. Emails get sent with links that don't work. Manufacturing runs have problems. How you handle customer concerns large and small is how you earn a reputation for being fair and square with those spending money with you.
Proactively, you can send an email, postcard or letter with your "Oops! We made a mistake!" message. High readership is almost guaranteed because of the nature of the message. And candor is good for your reputation.
Or you can wait to react to a stumble and respond as Keurig did. Here's the story: My first Keurig single-cup coffee maker arrived as a 2009 Christmas gift. After a month of making wonderful coffee-by-the cup, it quit brewing and had to be replaced. During the next 12 months, we continued to have problems. Ultimately, we received three replacement Keurig coffee makers, each with a free box of K-cups and each with a new one-year warranty. Despite the hassles (and caffeine-free mornings), we love our Keurig. And we have no doubt that Keurig stands behind its product and is willing to do whatever it takes to keep a customer happy (and continuing to buy K-cups!)
• Encourage it. Like your company guarantee, customer reviews/ratings build credibility, consumer trust and your reputation. Encourage and post both positive and negative reviews to strengthen your reputation as being an honest and balanced marketer. Customers and prospects value customer reviews as being candid, helpful and trustworthy.
For example, GEICO's website provides a graphic summary of its auto insurance reviews. Interesting to note, GEICO gives you 12 options for changing the sort order of their reviews including lowest to highest. Yes, you actually can read all the one-star ratings first, followed by the two-, three-, four- and five-star reviews with headlines ranging from "Unbelievably Bad" to "Best Switch I Ever Made."
I don't know where else GEICO promotes these ratings, but there are plenty of opportunities to do so using traditional, digital and social media.
• Reinforce it. Seize the opportunity to reinforce your reputation in creative ways. For example, I recently saw this sign on the back of a Staples delivery truck, "Top speed set at 60. It saves fuel and reduces emissions." Prior to reading the message as I sat behind the Staples truck at a stoplight, I'd never thought of Staples a being eco-friendly. Now I do.
The takeaway: Look for new opportunities to bolster your good name with both customers and prospects. With Facebook fans, YouTube videos, QR code links and the like, there are many ways to do it. Tap them.