The Best Marketing Strategy ever: Just CARE.

Please, for once… Just CARE and do the right thing.

I was recently forwarded an email from the customer success & experience team at my company, which was incredibly humbling. Basically how it started out was… our customer success manager reached out to an individual customer with a short holiday message, simply thanking them for being apart of our companies journey, and in exchange hoped to send the customer a gift card to a favorite restaurant of their choice. Now, this wasn’t something out of the ordinary for our team, because this is the type of dialog that we frequently have with our customers. We’ve had many customers refer to their experience as a sort of “friendship” with their rep, because at the end of the day, each party really enjoys what they’re doing and the people they’re working with. The simple act of CARING about someone, not only being a customer, but caring about them on a more personal level is so easy in practice — yet so many companies and individuals neglect it. It’s empathy. Understanding the person as just that… a person.

What happened next was the best part.

The customer responded to the email, saying how much they appreciated our offer to send them a gift card, but the customer took us for a twist! They said,

“I appreciate the offer very much. I really like the product and the people so it’s a pleasure to help. Do me a favor and get a target gift card (or something similar) and give it to a cleaner or security guard in your building — or someone else you think might have a need. That would make me very happy.”

Our response? “Damn, do we love our customers!” This simple act demonstrated some of the values that our employees all embody in some way… giving, sharing, helping, reciprocating and not expecting anything for what we do. This email exchange between the team and the customer was quickly shared across our staff with some great replies flying into our inboxes. We were all thrilled that a customer actually out-cared us!

In a world where most companies only focus on the ROI of an exchange, it’s nice to break free from that. I think when you only focus on the ROI, you miss a lot of opportunity to build an actual relationship and brand with your prospects and customers. The idea of not worrying about the ROI can be directly connected to the question of, “what makes a good brand?” The answer to that question is… CARE. Just care about the prospects you’re trying to bring in and the customers you have. They’re not just a number in the system… they have a life, job, aspirations and troubles just like you and I. So, stop thinking about them as a number. Stop focusing solely on the sales number or the marketing cost-per-acquisition. And do things that might not provide instant ROI, but things that in the long run will build the relationship. Don’t leave a bad taste for someone… just care about them as a person. (note: I’m not saying cost per acquisition is not important, but you should at least separate CPA from the experience you provide in a lot of situations).

Gary Vaynerchuk, the serial, outspoken-entrepreneur has this same exact view with brands. He likes to say, “Separate Sales/Marketing from Branding… they are not the same.” And he’s right… your sales and marketing might add to the brand, but in terms of the output you’re creating, they must be thought of differently. This is why many companies lose at what they think is a “brand awareness” campaign, because they’re asking their team “where are the dollars?” and “what was our cost per click” instead of asking the question, “how did it make them feel?” and optimizing for that end goal, because that my friend… is the key. Now, clearly you want to see business grow, but I’m a believer in the long-term strategy, not the short sprint. So Please, For Once… JUST CARE.

For more on CARING in Marketing, watch Gary V’s 2012 Keynote: