On Thursday, November 15, a small but chatty group filed into theater four of the Angelika Theatre at Mockingbird Station in Dallas for the monthly SMC Dallasmeeting. This was, of course, after enjoying a tasty pasta, salad, and breadsticks meal courtesy of Boston’s: the Gourmet Pizza Restaurant & Sports Bar. The speaker for the night was the author of Author of The Hidden Wealth of Customers, and president of Customer Reference Forum: Bill Lee.
Bill Lee opened up with small talk about the people he met during the dinner and network portion of the night, then got down to business by saying,


“I want to pose a question that has nothing to do with business, has nothing to do with customers, nothing to do with social media, and yet it has everything to do with all of those: How do you get teenagers to quit smoking?”

Lee went on to explain what most social media experts acknowledge but are still trying to grasp how to accomplish: the key to marketing integration on social networks is engaging with customers and letting them sell your business and/or product themselves. Let them be the powerful human motivators that they naturally are.

“Traditional marketing – including advertising, public relations, branding, and corporate communications – is dead,” said Lee.

But why? In just that sentence, Lee can easily anger thousands of business professionals and have lost the attention of hundreds of PR specialists. He does have a point, though. With several new companies and ideas being brought to life each day, and more competitors fighting for a consumer’s business than before, buyers grow tired of hearing the same sales pitch and the redundant advertisement points. Buyers are no longer paying attention to the companies’ statements, but instead to the reviews and recommendations of their families and loved ones.

Think about it: Say you went to a restaurant where you received slow service, were given terrible food, and to top it all off, when you asked to speak with a manager, you were treated with a snappy, non-caring attitude, and forced to pay the bill with no reconciliation. If you were to undergo a completely awful experience like this, you’re bound to tell anyone and everyone you know about it. We’ve all seen it before on places like Twitter and Facebook. “Don’t go to _____, their service is awful!” “Just got back from _____, and I’m NEVER going back there… I’d rather wait all day in line at the DMV!” These are just two examples from my personal Facebook feed in the last month. Each received likes and comments from others, either agreeing or asking more questions about each person’s experience.

Now, consider the opposite. Let’s say you go to a restaurant where you receive terribly-slow service, an “OK” meal, and ask to see the manager. This manager gives you a “complimentary meal for two” coupon, apologizes, and asks you to please come back and try them again for a better, free experience. You do so, and on this visit you are treated like royalty after showing your complimentary coupon. You enjoy speedy service, an amazing, three-course meal for two, with free added-on samples from your waiter, and are approached by the manager at the end of the evening to ask how this experience compared with your first. Sounds too good to be true? This is precisely what happened to me at Chuy’s in Denton, TX, and ever since I have been a proud and satisfied customer, telling everyone I know of my happy experience… including you, dear reader.

This is exactly what sparks a “rockstar advocate,” in Lee’s words. A customer who is enthusiastic with the company and/or product, and has status or community that they can share their love for the said company with makes for the best “rockstar,” and can help spread the good word about any given business around social networks in ways that would otherwise be near impossible.

Appreciate your customers and ask for their feedback if they’ve had a good experience. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to take a moment to help out a business/service they enjoy.

Learn more about Bill Lee at Lee Consulting Group’s website.

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