On the WSI blog, we write a lot of words about specific marketing tactics and industry news. There’s also been a fair amount of digital ink spent on process related topics, like the importance of strategy and a great customer experience. We try to dive as deep as we can while remaining relevant to a wide variety of businesses.
This post, however, is different. A couple recent conversations with friends and co-workers shed light on something I’ve never considered but know is absolutely true: service is a form of marketing.
Now when I say “service” most of you will think I mean customer service, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Customer service, as in the team of people who takes care of customers when problems arise, is important. We have many posts outlining why and how to improve your brand’s customer experience (like this one).
By service I’m referring to any business or industry that involves providing direct service to customers. Whether you’re a hair salon, dental office or restaurant, the service you offer is also one of the best and most effective marketing tactics you’ll find.
Here’s the scoop on why you should view your service as a free marketing campaign.
The reason service as marketing isn’t the most obvious thing in the world is somehow, some way, businesses that sell services don’t put enough effort into making that service an actual marketing tactic.
There are too many examples to mention, but here’s a recent experience of my own that underscores how easily companies drop the ball.
Roam Mobility is a prepaid US SIM card provider. For Canadians who usually pay hefty prices for roaming plans when they visit the States, Roam Mobility offers a cheaper, prepaid alternative.
Before my last trip to the US, I ordered a Roam Mobility SIM card for $9 Canadian. My trip was only three days, so I purchased unlimited talk, text and data for $4.95/day. Considering the best available option from my Canadian carrier is $35 with limited data, meaning I’d still have to worry about usage, I was pumped about the lower cost.
That is, of course, until I got to my destination in the US only to find out I didn’t get service in the area. After two days of back and forth with Roam Mobility’s email-only support team, I was informed my device “Is not compatible with our LTE frequencies in the area you’re visiting.”
Great. That would have been good to know before my trip. Or even when I first contacted support, so I could just cancel my plan as opposed to trying to troubleshoot it for half the trip. Roam Mobility ended up giving me store credit for two of the three days I bought, but refused to refund the first day because I used a couple MB of data when I first crossed the border, well before I arrived at my destination.
I understand it’s cell phone service and quality can vary depending on a user’s location. But I expected a service, and when I didn’t receive it, I assumed Roam Mobility would compensate me. Instead of giving me a $6 refund, they doubled down and stood behind their service...which didn’t work.
In my opinion, Roam Mobility had two opportunities for free marketing. The first was their actual service, and the second was their customer service, which could have turned a poor experience into a good one. When you have a $6 refund vs. the potential lifetime value of a customer, it’s an easy choice.
An Ace Example of Service as Marketing
Now for the other side of the coin.
My co-worker was recently telling me about a golf trip her husband and his friends went on to Arcadia Bluffs, a resort in Northern Michigan. Now by all accounts, the golf course is stunningly beautiful. Arcadia Bluffs is ranked #13 on Golf Digest's 2017 list of America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses. One look at this picture my co-worker’s husband took and I believe it. The place looks incredible:
Given the beauty and pedigree of Arcadia Bluffs, you’d assume golfers who play there would speak only of the views from the tee boxes and greens overlooking the bluffs and picturesque Lake Michigan. Or about the perfectly manicured fairways and epic pot bunkers. And indeed, my co-worker’s husband raved about these things.
What’s interesting is the group also had an equal amount of praise for the services they received throughout their stay.
The waitstaff went above and beyond to ensure they had everything they wanted. Their luxurious rooms were spotless when they returned from golfing each day. The forecaddies and marshals worked tirelessly to ensure the pace of play was reasonable and all groups got their rounds completed on time. And every staff member, from the gardeners clipping flowers to the front desk clerk, asked them if they were enjoying their stay and if there was anything else they needed.
There is no doubt the entire Arcadia Bluffs team understands that their service is a free marketing campaign. When you have a place full of so much natural beauty, yet people who visit talk just as much about the services they received as they do about watching the sun set into the lake-filled horizon, you know the service is something special.
If you aren’t taking advantage of your service as a marketing campaign, this post should be all the proof you need.
I’m not a golfer, and yet here I am, gushing about a golf course based on the service and experience I was told about in a third-hand conversation. Through this post, hundreds of readers from various parts of the world will get exposed to not only the vistas of Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club, but also the service and experience they deliver.
The above paragraph didn’t cost Arcadia Bluffs a dime, but it is absolutely marketing for their brand. They didn’t ask me to write it, and before I shared the post with them on social media, they weren’t even aware of it.
By contrast, it could be argued that Roam Mobility received negative press in this post. I still believe their product, which is itself a service, is great, but only in theory. I had a poor experience and the company did nothing to remedy it. At the very least, it’s a missed marketing opportunity.
If your brand offers a service, or a product that comes with a service as part of the whole experience, follow the lead of Arcadia Bluffs and view your service as a free marketing opportunity. You’ll thanks us – and them – later!