I knew a girl in college who always dated “bad boys.” You know the type. Guys who lived dangerously, excited her—and occasionally scared her. So I was surprised when I ran into her not long ago and found she’d married a classmate of ours we’d always thought of as, frankly, kind of boring (actually, he used to say the same about himself). I asked her how married life was treating her and she responded, “Awesome! He’s such a good man and a great father. He treats me and the kids right, every day.”
What’s that got to do with marketing? Well, consider the following:
- Google decided recently that it’s a good idea to include users’ names and faces in “endorsed ads,” spurring the inevitable—and probably appropriate—negative reaction from Capitol Hill and privacy advocates (Update: Consumers can opt-out, if they choose).
- Meanwhile, Mashable has the story of how New York Comic Con sent Tweets from attendees’ accounts without permission:
“Fans, celebrities and press attending New York Comic Con on Thursday sent out laudatory tweets expressing excitement to be at the annual convention — or at least it looked like they did, as the tweets were published entirely without their permission or knowledge.” [Emphasis absolutely mine]
I get how actions like these might help these companies, at least in the short term. But, seriously, what benefit do these actions provide customers?
Peter Drucker’s “The Essential Drucker”
—one of my favorite books and an essential part of any business leader’s library—states as one of its core concepts that the primary function of a business is to create a customer.
Not exploit the customer.
Not deceive the customer.
And certainly not impersonate the customer to confuse others into thinking that customer thinks more highly of you than they might actually do.
Obviously, you want to make money from your customers. That’s OK. I like making money and highly recommend it to all my clients, too. But I mentioned last week that your customer really is king (or, if she prefers, queen). And the traditional response from kings and queens who feel they’re not being treated well usually goes something like, “Off with their heads!”
Trust plays a central role in any customer relationship, regardless of whether your value proposition focuses on customer service, technical leadership, or price. Customers don’t give their money to companies they don’t trust. Full stop.
Google dominates search activity among Internet users. But the AGFAM companies (Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft, along with Google) offer potential alternatives, as do offerings from IBM, Foursquare, Yelp, TripAdvisor and countless others. ComicCon attracts a passionate group of attendees, deeply engaged with their “fandoms.” But so do DragonCon, Otakon, and many smaller venues.
But being on top today guarantees nothing about the future.
The Internet changes customer behavior and mobile accelerates that change. Customers can find whatever they want, whenever they want, buy from whomever they want and can share that information with their friends, family, fans and followers, pretty much always.
So go ahead and impersonate your customers, use their private information as you will, spread messages in their name whether they want you to or not. The may enjoy the excitement you provide and may want a walk on the wild side, at least for a while. But, just like my college friend, no matter how much they might like dating the dangerous ones, their long-term relationships always will gravitate towards the ones who treat them right.
If you’re interested in learning more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.
You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:
- 3 Key Trends for 2013
- 2013 trends: It’s all e-commerce (Small Business E-commerce Link Digest)
- Why E-commerce Keeps Growing. And Why it Still Will. Thinks Out Loud Episode 39
- The Zen of Digital Marketing Strategy
- The Myths of Mobile Marketing
- The future of real-world mobile commerce
- 4 Fundamental Truths About the Future of E-commerce
- What’s the Future of E-commerce? Look to the Past to Find Out