Uber’s Missteps At Marketing And Its Effect On Our Industry

A company that hits major success has done so due to — at least we tend to hope — innovative, diligent, ethical planning that puts the good of the clients and its employees first. Of course that is not the case for all the multimillion-dollar organizations in our world, for there are those who only care about collecting as much money as possible without the slightest regard to whether their tactics hurt people. In the case of CEOs such as Travis Kalanick, that ideology ran rampant throughout his company, Uber, the TNC that has been a thorn in the side of affordable luxury limousines since 2009. He was not alone in this process, however, bringing a respected lawyer onboard to stave off the heat that would be creeping towards him, thus adding a partner who would also take a fall. What this entire debacle can remind entrepreneurs of is the value of taking your marketing inbound and not out.

In the new age of business, it’s extremely difficult to grab new customers unless you allow them to come to you by providing them with info that answers what they are looking for in the form of an item or service. Take the act of slogging as an example. What Uber did was send their employees out to entice Lyft operators to join their team, hitting constantly with ideas and actions that made them feel uncomfortable; they were dragged into a service they didn’t want. The drivers in these scenarios were forced into a decision stage before they were even aware there was a problem to be considered. A quote from a Business Insider article would go on to say: “Not only does Uber know about this, they’re actively encouraging these actions day-to-day and, in doing so, are flat-out lying both to their customers, the media, and their investors.”

Think of it like a marketing email. If you’re contacting someone with an offer without permission, it’s going to become spam because that individual never gave you the okay to speak to them. To add salt to the wound, the content of the message stinks and the CTA is just, “Hey, come on, join us.” In the case of these Uber drivers, they’re just spam in physical form, taking up space in a stranger’s personal car (which is way more annoying).

The hounding of opposing drivers didn’t end with slogging, as a special software program was used in order to track the amount of Lyft drivers on the roster and their exact location. Called “Surfcam”, this system was a massive competitive advantage that Kalanick sought because of his belief that the legal system had provided his company with a loophole, albeit a risky one. Putting two and two together, it is plausible to see that Uber deployed the software into the field and had its drivers slog the target until they agreed to join the other team, and it is another valuable lesson that can be applied to lack of inbound focus which led to the unearthing of their skeletons.

Strange marketing decisions affected not only the people who drive for them, but the people who pay to use their services. It was very common for Uber to engage in what is called “route based pricing”, which is essentially making assumptions on clients’ prices ranges based on their followed spending habits and location. From this business method comes two things: a) the drop in pay for the chauffeur, and b) the rise in cost to the passenger. If you expect a customer or affiliate to want you back, then it would be wise to follow through with your offer of being reliable and the best in the business, or risk the moral and legal consequences that will come.

The drivers for Uber were recruited with the belief that they are getting the best value of their time by making a great deal of extra money, but if it turns out that they’re not getting what they were expecting, chances are they will leave. And for the customer, it’s the promise of affordable, accurate pricing; without it, the trust they once had is now gone. Going back to the inbound/email marketing as a reference, the situation this TNC finds itself in stems from an insidious message with a nice header and preview text, and content that appears to be relevant to what a stranger’s searching for, but when they hit the CTA it pulls a bait-and-switch and gives them the exact opposite of what they were expecting.

So what effect could be placed on our private transportation industry? What it could do is push private services to look at how they market themselves and how they deliver those expectations consistently. The reason behind the heavy dosage of the inbound methodology is because it’s imperative for a brand to push what it can do for the customer without jeopardizing the ethics of business-to-customer communication. It is possible that there are people who may look to avoid our transportation services because of the ethical hang-ups of Kalanick and his company, but with it comes an opportunity to educate our current and future customers on the different styles between an interaction with Uber and an interaction with a non-TNC. By using intelligent marketing, we can highlight the professional nature of our services and prove that we have studied the actions of TNCs to ensure that our organizations never repeat the history of Uber.

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