Marketing your business is more than just buying advertising. It’s more than brochures, banners and business cards. The goal of your marketing is to earn a spot in your audience’s mind.
Sometimes the best way to earn a spot in your audience’s mind is by doing the right thing. Smart business owners know that doing the right thing during a 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 had already begun to deteriorate rapidly as the halls began to smell like sewage within 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 well publicized “poop cruise” stories popped into my mind with amazing clarity. I hadn’t given those stories a second thought when I booked this or previous cruises. After the cruise ended, I watched a fresh group of passengers board the same ship that had limped into port. At that moment, 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. 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 weeks later.
When a 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.
A local mechanic had repaired the cars of an elderly couple for the better part of three decades. A year after her husband passed, the woman told Lou 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 left his shop and 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. After hours of emotional abuse, he ended up selling her the most expensive car on the lot. He then 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 made it his mission to make this story known. He contacted every local group and media outlet 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 even though I was new to the area, I was well aware of this car dealer. He absolutely saturates the market with his advertising. Now I know why. Ten years later, he’s still fighting to keep ahead of this negative publicity. 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. The internet is filled with stories of Texans who have pledged their loyalty to “Mattress Mack.”
By the way, these “good deeds” are known in the business as “earned media.” In many ways it’s better than going viral. Local and even national media have picked up these stories, extended the good will these acts of kindness have generated for months and even years.