Marketing isn’t just about getting customers for the first time – but to get them to come back repeatedly. Sometimes, the best marketing your business can do is to do the right thing by people who aren’t and never will be your customers.
Marketing your business is more than just buying advertising. It’s more than spending time at trade fairs. It’s more than banners and business cards. The goal of your marketing is to earn a permanent spot in your audience’s mind.
If you’re smart, doing the right thing during a weather tragedy can earn the loyalty of an entire community.
The weather may be unpredictable – but your marketing doesn’t have to be.
In Houston, Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale opened up two of his furniture store showrooms in August of 2017 to shelter tens of thousands of people who were driven from their homes due to Hurricane Harvey. Allowing homeless people and their pets to take up residence in your furniture showrooms may not seem like marketing in the traditional sense, but it was. Social media came alive with people heralding this act of kindness. News stations from across the country carried the story while local residents vowed via social media that their next furniture purchase would be from “Mattress Mack.”
It’s easy to draw a straight line between Jim McIngvale’s actions and future profit. After all, many of those refugees were going to be needing furniture when the flood waters receded. It was the right thing to do – with a clear path to the bottom line.
What’s less obvious is the actions of the cruise line industry in reaction to Hurricane Irma and Maria.
I’m writing this just hours after Hurricane Maria destroyed what Hurricane Irma left intact in Puerto Rico. I learned that cruise ships are providing supplies to the islands devastated by these two killer storms. Even though residents of these islands are probably not potential cruise customers, their actions have certainly changed my mind on whether I would cruise again.
A bit of back story – I went on a Caribbean cruise earlier this year. As the ship made its way to Cozumel, it lost power throughout the ship. While power was restored within an hour, conditions on the ship deteriorated rapidly. The hall on our floor began to smell like sewage within the first 30 minutes. I later learned from a friend on a deck above me that one of the sewage pipes inside a wall actually burst. The stories told by the people on the well publicized “poop cruise” popped into my mind with amazing clarity. I hadn’t given those stories a second thought when I booked this or previous cruises. As I watched them load a fresh group of passengers onto the same ship that had limped into port, I vowed that was my final cruise.
Never again. No way. No how.
Then I learned of the hurricane relief efforts of that cruise line along with others. I was immediately aware that I was GLAD I had patronized their cruise line. As a matter of fact, I began thinking that I should book another cruise….
People are emotional critters. They recoil when a business treats people badly. As a resident of Florida, I heard dozens of tales of how badly local business treated their employees in the face of an impending hurricane. Employers threatened to fire employees who wanted to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Irma. Those stories spread like wildfire in the days before and after the storm. I know for a fact that one business is feeling the effect of that negative word of mouth.
When the shit-storm of negative word of mouth hits, the only way you can respond is to become a huge buyer of broadcast media. That’s what one local car dealer had to do when the owner of a small auto repair shop discovered what they had done to an elderly woman he had sent their to buy a car.
Lou is a good guy. He had repaired the cars of a man and his wife for decades. When her husband passed, she came to Lou and told him she couldn’t bear to drive her husband’s car. The emotional pain was too great. So Lou recommended she visit a local car dealer selling cars known for their reliability. She went there on a Thursday. Monday morning, she returned to Lou’s shop in tears. The salesman at the dealership had locked her in a room and sold her the most expensive car on the lot and added every expense possible to the car. He even added light up tire caps to the eighty year old woman’s car. Lou called the dealership in a rage. Even though the time to rescind the deal had passed, he had hoped that the dealer would do the right thing. The dealer and salesman both said the woman was an adult and made an adult decision. I’m sure they thought that was the end of that, but it wasn’t. Lou went on a tear – contacting every local group who would listen. Upon learning of this injustice, other agencies and companies publicized this story.
I moved to the area about a decade after this happened. I noticed the sign in his shop and asked about it. I asked because this dealer absolutely saturates the market with his advertising. Now I know why. It’s what you have to do when this kind of negative publicity hits the fan.
The moral to these stories: You can do what’s right and reap the rewards or you can act like a jerk and pay the consequences. By doing the “right thing” for people who will never be a customer, a cruise line has retained at least one customer who had previously sworn off cruising.