Your business, even if you are a sole proprietor, is visible to your customers, clients and competitors, 24-7.
At any time of the day or night, your customers can see your website, read your blog, follow your Twitter, or talk about you to other customers. Potentially, there is someone talking about your product, service, merchandise return policy, lousy guarantee, great receptionist, rude sales person, etc., any where in the world at any time. In that sense, you only have limited control over your brand, and that means you cannot afford to make branding mistakes. Nor can you allow unhappy customers to perpetuate dialogue that is harmful to your brand. What control you do have over your brand needs to be carefully and wisely exercised. You can’t afford dumb mistakes that can be accentuated through “negative viral marketing.”
The point I’m making really struck me after an experience I had this past weekend. I was driving north on I-65 to visit family south of Chicago for Mother’s Day weekend. A white Chevy Tahoe passed my car going about 90 mph, swerving in and out of traffic and nearly hitting more than one other car. The windows of the Tahoe were covered with vinyl marketing messages (i.e., a car “wrap”), advertising an upscale painting company located in Illinois. As I watched the driver of the Tahoe endanger other people’s lives and property, I immediately thought to myself:
“I would NEVER hire that company to paint my house. If I can’t trust the owners to drive a car responsibly, why would I trust them in my own home?”
Welcome to the world of marketing in the 21st Century. It’s reality, so learn how to maximize the speed by which good news travels and minimize the bad news that can damage your brand. Actually, I like to say that good news travels fast, but bad news travels even faster.
To finish my story about the Tahoe. . . as I was driving, I called the phone number on the advertisement on the Tahoe. I left a “colorful” message on a voicemail, and I explained that the driver’s behavior was not only endangering lives but also damaging the image of the painting company. A few minutes later, I got this text message in response:
I’m sorry if my husband, who is driving my Tahoe, offended u w/ his driving. I called him and asked him to be careful on the highway. Have a nice weekend-
Although I might not hire this lady’s husband, I might hire her. She did a good job of damage control, and she might have saved someone’s life. Had she actually called me personally to apologize, I would have given her an “A” in damage control. She gets a solid “B.” After her call to her husband, he slowed down and greatly improved his driving. No one was hurt. No accidents occurred. It was a good day.
Clearly, it would have been better for this lady’s husband never to have behaved like that in the first place, especially as he drove a rolling company billboard up I-65. But she did the responsible and business-wise thing in apologizing, taking responsibility and fixing the problem. I am sure that she would have preferred a more positive marketing message from her car wrap, but she did minimize the damage to her company’s reputation with a phone call and a text message. My hope for her is that she learns from the experience and puts in place safeguards to prevent similar bad incidents that might harm her company’s brand.