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Lemonade Stand

I was listening during my morning workout to the Marketing Over Coffee discussion that John Wall and David Meerman Scott were having about how wireless connectivity is essential, and why more event venues don’t invest in decent Internet connectivity.

When you think about it, this is fundamentally a result of believing that customers are a cost. If you operate a venue, absolutely you want to run it responsibly, keeping expenses reasonably low while providing the best experience possible so as to get people to come back. It’s a balancing act that a lot of venues have forgotten, aiming squarely at lowest possible cost, period. In fact, businesses in general have forgotten this fundamental principle, that customers are not just a cost.

Think about the oxymoron that is most companies’ customer service. It’s treated as a cost center in nearly every P&L statement at every company. How can we reduce costs? How can we get customers off the phone faster? How can we close cases faster? Then go look at a handful of companies’ Facebook pages and see what customers are saying. The ones who get that customers are not a cost, that customers are a marketing method, invest in the things that cost money and the results are strong word of mouth marketing and evangelism. The ones who don’t get it (hint: choose a telecom provider or an airline Facebook Page to look at) get lit up like a Christmas tree for their poor service.

If you change your mindset to believe that customers are a marketing method in the same way that social media is a marketing method, that television advertising is a marketing method, that direct mail is a marketing method, then what would you change? You’d look at ROI, for one. What’s the ROI of an improved customer service initiative? It’s not rocket science to measure – anyone familiar with NetPromoter scores knows how to measure this. Survey your customers on a scale of 1 to 10 about how likely they are to recommend your product, service, or brand to a friend. If your scores go up and they correspond to an increase in sales, then you’ve got a working model to measure your customer service ROI like a marketing method.

You’d also change your budget and perspective: instead of just going the lowest cost possible, you’d invest in the highest ROI possible. What things could you do that would generate huge returns? To the point that started this post, if you as a venue already offered a great experience, adding high capacity Wi-Fi would generate huge returns because the amount of social sharing and word of mouth would increase. People would post more photos on Instagram, people would stream more video onto YouTube, people would do all of the things that you’re probably paying to have done now if you made that investment and measured it.

As an example, when I drive down the road and see a McDonald’s (disclosure: a client of my employer), I see two important things about it: clean restrooms and wireless Internet. The company has done a good job of both, and if I go in there for either of those reasons, chances are I’m going to buy something too, even if it’s just a cup of coffee. When I see competing chains, neither of those things occur to me as a near-guarantee. Given a choice between a McDonald’s and any other fast food establishment, the only other one that comes close is Starbucks. They’ve both chosen to invest in the customer as a marketing method, and it pays off regularly.

Do you believe customers are a cost? Or do you believe they’re worth investing in as a marketing method?

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