From time to time, there is a new buzzword floating around which creates possibilities for new services and businesses. Existing companies are expanding their activities or doing a pivot to optimize revenues. It is most commonly seen on the Internet, where approximately every 1.5 years we have a new (or rather re-worded) phenomenon or method which would give you the advantage. Well, it’s rather hard to build your advantage on something everyone else is doing, but that’s altogether a different story. Sure, you can stand out if you do this better than the rest, but there is only room for three on the podium.
Sometimes I think that most people forget what is crucial.
After almost 20 years of working in the online industry, I have seen my fair share. I was watching how overnight groups of so-called experts literally popped up like mushrooms. Furthermore, people were creating new companies capable of delivering those services; SEM, SEO, and inbound marketing to name a few. The weirder the buzzword, the better. To be honest, it’s pretty funny how the world has gone crazy about content marketing. People have been communicating with each other since forever and since the moment that printing became popular (thank you, Mr. Gutenberg!). People had the opportunity to touch the actual content. In one day, or rather overnight, it became apparent that not only content was a king, but also content marketing. Sure, it was the workers at Google who first suggested that content was extremely important but this wasn’t any revelation. What they did were shed light on the apparent: the things that are more visible on the Internet.
Tell me, what is the most common reason for people to use The Internet, besides for entertainment purposes? Answer: the most common reason is to solve some problem, to find the response to an important question. I know I sound like Captain Obvious, but it was the big companies that first started to create content. Which is obviously good. Sharing knowledge is great. Sharing is caring. I’m happy whenever companies share their knowledge; because knowledge is progress. But I have the constant feeling that many forget what is much greater than the content itself, for example, search engine optimization, usability, analysis, presence in price engine comparisons, etc.
Everyone has experienced that moment in life when one is about to buy something more expensive than just bread in the supermarket. For instance, whether you’re deciding to buy a new laptop, TV set, some household appliance or even something more expensive like a brand new car. We do research online gathering all the necessary information about the product we want to buy to make the best-informed decision (here is where content marketing comes into play) but at the end, there is something more at play here. On the other hand, we also do it in situations where we don’t want to spend a lot of money but invest in something even more important to us: our time and reputation. Do you know already what I mean?
The word of mouth or the whether our friends recommended product.
Before the Internet era, it was a little bit more complicated. You actually had to make a call at the very least (perhaps a few phone calls), or you actually had to meet someone. Today, all you need to do is to write a comment on Facebook and press “post.” That’s it.
What’s interesting is that everyone is doing this, even marketing specialists. What is strange, however, it that when it comes to making an offer there is a lot of information about tools and activities except that which is most important. This reminds me of a few interesting situations in training sessions I had led. Participants would ask me what to do when unpleasant comments about them as employees appear online. I then proposed to solve the problem together. And you know what? There was probably only one instance when someone asked, “O.K., but what if these comments aren’t really telling the truth?” The fact of the matter is that instead of getting into a debate in the comment section your first instinct is to make a change in your company?
You can spend tons of money on advertisement, but if your advertising is not going hand in hand with your service or product in the long term, you are just losing money. Contrary to belief, you don’t need a big marketing budget, but if you have the proper approach or the approach that will allow you to stand out to a client, your actual customer will be your best source of PR
Today a few friends on Facebook asked:
– Do you know of a good insurance agent?
– Do you know of a good repair crew?
– Do you know of the best place where I can buy a laptop and receive the best advice from its salesperson? – Do you know where in the city I can do a fun activity in an awesome environment?
Trust me; no one will recommend spending a dime on marketing from a reputational perspective. Paradoxically there is no need for much; simply being reliable and honest is enough. I know of one gentleman who makes furniture. He has orders for the entire year and many years after that. He lives off the recommendation of his clients thus no marketing is required on his behalf. Literally nothing.
Do you think that there are different rules for your companies?
It is the same, but times have changed. In the era of ubiquitous Internet and various communication platforms, reputation should be the overriding objective. There is a saying that a politician and a fly can both be killed with newspaper. Nowadays, many companies can fall under by using commonly available, legal tools like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. That is why it is so important (it was always important but today it’s simply more visible) to remember that every action, every person in the company has to do some form of marketing, PR, and employer branding all at once.
How the company is perceived depends not only on product and advertising campaigns but also on the behavior of each of the employees, including in their free time. Consider whether you would trust your money to the bank, whose employees put fancy pictures online from parties that the would make the gentlemen from the Rolling Stones proud? Yes, I know most people like to have fun, and it makes no sense to play the hypocrite. However, this is the age where people assess and evaluate with relentless severity and without mercy. The same may happen when your customer service does not attend the customer in the proper way. Even worst is when someone from c-level is behaving improperly, so before you start to scream at your employee, just consider if you’re not participating in the project “My manager on YouTube” if you know what I mean.
I am aware that people make mistakes, the more actions you take, the bigger risk of error. It’s all about statistics. But I do not have any doubt that we are witnessing a phenomenon that I call the “Internet of Recommendation”, where the most important factor in determining whether someone will buy something or not is the recommendation of our friends and acquaintances.
Recommendation tends to be relatively safe, because it is unaffected with the risk that we found in a group of “ambassadors” brand only. It is our friends who share with us their honest opinion coming from their own experiences. This is especially important to small and medium-sized businesses and the ambitious, who dream of conquering the world. Contrary to appearances, this can be executed with very little effort. Actually, it was always possible but today thanks to the Internet and people whose world consists of being online or glued to their mobile phone it makes it many times easier. As simple as loosing your good reputation without a moments notice, it’s worth to keep in mind the Internet of Recommendation.