The Truth Doesn’t Matter Anymore in Business
I had never been to Durango before. For that matter, I had never been to Colorado before. After a couple of short flights, I was sitting the small mountain community known as Durango, CO.
The weather was perfect! The sun was shining and the temperature was in the upper 60’s.
After checking in my hotel, it was a hair past 1:00pm local time (making it a little after 2:00pm back home) and I was starving. Having never been to Durango before, I decided I would ask the bellman for lunch recommendations.
He asked what type of cuisine I was in the mood for, and my response was, “Doesn’t matter to me. What’s the best place to go for lunch?”
He recommended a local place with, according to him, “the best lunch in town!” So off I went.
The hotel was nestled on the West side of downtown, with the Animas River and Perins Peak on the other side. You couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful setting.
As I walked across the street and into Durango’s quaint downtown, I did what any distrusting Millennial would do, I pulled out my phone and launched Yelp.
I knew it! For some reason I knew I couldn’t trust the bellman’s recommendation. Not that he didn’t seem trustworthy; after all, he had no reason to lie. Not that we were generations apart in age – there couldn’t have been more than five years difference in our ages. But my distrusting self wanted a second opinion for lunch… and according to Yelp, his recommendation was terrible!
I was only going to be in Durango for 6 meals, less than 48 hours. Why would I want to waste one of my meals on a restaurant with 2.5 out of 5 stars on Yelp?
After quickly scanning Yelp for other restaurants nearby, I settled on a local place with 4 out of 5 stars…and I wasn’t disappointed.
But here’s a critical point – people would rather trust a few strangers they’ve never met than trust one person face-to-face. Argue all you want, but it’s true.
A few days ago I was having coffee with a friend of mine who owns a local restaurant. He shared how amazing it is that people passing through town on the interstate discover his restaurant.
With no signs, no advertising, and no parking, strangers discover his restaurant on a regular basis. How? Well like me, these travelers are using an app on their phone to look for places to stop and eat lunch as they’re passing through town.
Three important takeaways for every entrepreneur:
1 – Advertising is NEVER as effective as others’ recommendations
The most creative, the cleverest advertising will never outperform the effectiveness of a few positive recommendations from others. The restaurant in Durango, or my friend here locally, could spend thousands of dollars each month trying to convince people to come dine at their restaurants and it would all be in vain if others encouraged people to avoid the restaurants.
With apps like Yelp and Urbanspoon, your potential customers now have 1,000’s of other peoples’ recommendations in the palm of their hand. This can be extremely powerful or extremely frightening, depending on your perspective.
We recently returned from a weekend trip to Houston. And although most of our time was spent at the Galleria and at the Houston Children’s Museum, when we wanted to find a “good” place to eat, out came my iPhone and the Yelp app.
The search criteria was simple – a great kid-friendly place for breakfast on a Sunday morning. Yelp found exactly what we were looking for… a restaurant with over 600 hundred reviews and 4.5 out of 5 stars; a place famous for their green eggs. This place was Baby Barnaby’s Café. And it lived up to expectations.
A few important things to note:
1) There were literally over 100 restaurants that would have been closer.
2) We had to get up and leave early because, according to the reviews, this place got packed and the wait could get long.
3) We completely ignored billboards and in-room magazines chock-full of ads for restaurants.
4) We chose to get up early, get the kids (all four of them) up and dressed and drive across town to a place we’d never been and never heard of… solely based on the recommendations of people we have never met.
2 – The Most Effect Advertising Is Creating Remarkable Experiences
As the world becomes more flat, as Thomas Friedman would say, advertising mediums will continue to become more diverse and scattered. Not that long ago, most business owners had less than a 1/2 dozen options when it came to advertising their businesses. Today there are easily 20, 30, or more options to consider when developing your marketing plan.
Which is the best for you? Which will yield the highest ROI? Even companies with the most sophisticated marketing teams and data to validate their every decision have difficulty when deciding where to allocate their advertising dollars for the highest ROI.
Today, wise entrepreneurs know they must instead spend time carefully engineering their customers’ experiences. They view every interaction as an opportunity to create a remarkable customer experience.
Howard Schultz calls Starbucks a third-place. Not home, not work, but a third place. A place you want to meet your friends and family. A place you want to go for an experience.
Blake Mycoskie created an experience each time someone purchased a pair of his shoes by donating another pair to someone in a third-world country in need of a pair of shoes. This is an experience that customers can’t help but share with others.
Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw spent years visioning what Zingerman’s would one day look like. A big part of what they envisioned had to do with experience. Today their mission statement clearly defines what the customer experience should look and feel like:
We share the Zingerman’s Experience,
Selling food that makes you happy.
Giving service that makes you smile in passionate pursuit of our mission.
Showing love and care in all our actions to enrich as many lives as we possibly can.
3 – Your Opinion Really Doesn’t Count
We live in a world of anonymous reviews and instant feedback. With apps like Urbanspoon and Yelp, each and every customer now has the world listening to their experiences.
Statistics used to show that for every good experience, people would tell two or three other people. And for every bad experience, they would tell ten or more people. But now, with a smartphone in every pocket or purse, they can tell the world.
You can believe that you provide the most remarkable experience in the world. You can believe that your customer service is phenomenal… but your opinion really doesn’t matter.
Only the opinions of your customers matter. If you believe you provide remarkable products and service, and yet you have 2 out of 5 star rating on Yelp, then your opinion is skewed. And your opinion may be costing you significantly.
I’m in no way suggesting that you should make changes based on every negative review that you receive. I am suggesting that you pay attention to what the majority says and make decisions from there.
We live in an experiential world. Society today craves experiences far more than things. People would rather talk about what they experienced over the weekend than what they purchased.
You can, and should, use this fact to your advantage. Look for opportunities to improve each and every customer interaction. Look for ways to make each customer feel special. Put yourself in their shoes and view each interaction through their eyes. Once you’ve mastered these techniques, you will know exactly how to position your business for providing optimal products and services which result in the highest ROI possible.
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