As marketers, we’re well aware of the big brands that do a great job in branding and marketing: Nike, BMW, Apple, Southwest, etc, etc. I find it more interesting to take a look at lesser-known companies who do a great job of marketing to me, personally, and see what lessons I can learn.
These days, a lot of it boils down to customer service. Here are some examples; what are some of your favorites?
[Note: Chic-fil-A qualifies as “lesser known” because no one where I live has ever heard of it, other than the college football bowl game.]
No matter where I visit Chic-fil-A — from Virginia to Georgia to Texas, in a mall or in a free-standing restaurant –- the cashiers and the managers have made me feel like a part of the family. And a really nice family at that. God bless ’em!
The food is generally way better than other fast food. But even when it isn’t significantly better, I’d still rather go to Chic-fil-A. McDonald’s came out with a faux-Chic-fil-A sandwich about a year ago. Good sandwich. But the in-store experience, from the friendliness, cleanliness, in-store design, free refills of fresh-squeezed lemonade, to the simplicity of the menu, doesn’t hold a candle to the original.
Give credit to Chic-fil-A’s long-time and consistent management team for doing all the little things right. How right have they been? Look here, and at the video at the top of the page.
Also, give some credit to their ad agency, The Richards Group in Dallas. They’ve given Chic-fil-A a sustaining idea — the “Eat Mor Chikin” campaign — with mischievous cows urging you to lay off the burgers. The campaign features those wonderful 3D billboards scattered across the South. Richards has given Chic-fil-A great advertising for 15 years, and is in the process of developing some exciting social media efforts.
This isn’t as big a story as Geico by any means. What Geico has done, with the help of The Martin Agency, is amazing. More on that later.
But Amica was recommended to me in 1985 by a good friend who told me: If you have a good driving record, you won’t get better car insurance at a better price than Amica.
The secret, he said, is that they don’t advertise –- and they pass the savings back to you! Now you have to appreciate the irony of two 80’s-era ad guys buying into this. And on top of it all, at the end of the policy year, they send you a dividend check.
Every year or so, I’ll just check around and make sure Amica is still offering me the lowest premium. They are. Geico, Progressive, Allstate and others can’t touch them.
What’s more, they’ve done everything imaginable to keep me happy. They’re great on the phone, they keep great records, they recommend ways to cut my rate, and they never have a fit when I’m late with a payment. And I never have to watch a cheesy Amica commercial on TV.
Being an Amica member has made me a better driver (for fear they’d dump me and I’d have to pay higher rates elsewhere), and loyal besides. Amica has been my insurer from Raleigh to Portland to San Francisco to Spokane. If you’re a good driver, do yourself a favor, and give them a call.
OK, I promised more on Geico and The Martin Agency. Martin and Geico just celebrated their 15th anniversary a couple weeks ago. (Coincidentally, Martin picked up Geico the same year that Richards picked up Chic-fil-A. Was something in water that year?) In that time, Geico has gone from 2% of the auto insurance market to 14%. In the process, they’ve made advertising history. I’m told that the VP marketing at Geico is one of the all-time great clients. Not surprising.
To be honest, I’m not sure how the whole thing works.
Rosaur’s says it is employee owned. Yet the same union represents Rosaur’s employees that represents much larger supermarkets here in the Spokane area, including Safeway, Alberson’s and Fred Meyer (a unit of Kroger). At the same time, Rosaur’s employees are noticeably more professional and more outgoing. They make shopping a pleasure.
The stores aren’t particularly nicer. The prices are fairly mainstream. The merchandise is fairly mainstream. And it’s not that the other stores’ employees are unfriendly – not at all. But maybe the answer is here.
You could say that the big chains haven’t learned how to get the workers on their team. Or you could say that the big chains’ management have their heads up their butts. At Rosaur’s (employee owned, don’t forget), the employees work longer hours, and are more able to develop friendly relationships.
I’m thrilled to shop price and go just about anywhere if the deal is right. But Rosaur’s is “my” supermarket.
[Note: I still don’t understand the employees need a union to represent them to the management… if the employees own the joint. Other grocers with noticeably great service — Trader Joe’s, Ukrop’s of Virginia — are non-union.]
Another local example. Now, while I could drive to Lowe’s or Home Depot in about the same time as driving across the South Hill to Miller’s, I know Miller’s is a better investment in time and money.
First, it’s that people thing again. After I had shopped Miller’s just a few times, the staff was addressing me by name. That would happen at Home Depot.
On top of that, every sales associate at Miller’s knows what they’re talking about. They’ll tell you how to wire something, how strip and refinish a floor, which outdoor insect traps work the best. At Home Depot and Lowe, the staff’s knowledge is hit and miss. Which wouldn’t be such a problem, except that they advertise a much different message.
Maybe you can save a buck or two at the big stores, or find merchandise the neighborhood hardware store just can’t stock. But just as easily, you could get the wrong advice, the wrong product, and end up paying too much.
My advice, should anyone ever ask, is always “you should go by Miller’s first.”
OK, not a lesser-known example. But they have connected with me in a personal way. Great telephone support and follow-up. They make you feel like you’re a big-time customer, no matter what.
When you call, they let you know how long your wait is likely to be – then they beat the estimate. Their agents are intelligent and well prepared. And they’re willing and able to make a bad situation right.
A work partner recently ordered an iMac. The next week Apple came out with a new model. They contacted her to tell her about the upgrade, and gave her the newer, more expensive model at no additional cost. Would any PC makers out there do the same thing?
Now, if only they’d open an Apple Store in Spokane.
I love this topic. I’ll write more on it (promises, promises). In the meantime, I’d love to know: Who is doing a great job of marketing to you? It could be in any category — the only requirement is that they’ve made a connection that makes you a raving fan.