Why Do Companies Screw Their Best Customers?

Oculus Rift Early Adopter Promotion

Yesterday I received an email from Oculus that really pissed me off. The email invited me (an early adopter of the technology) to share the gift of VR. It went on to inform me that for a “limited time” Oculus was selling a package of one Rift + two Touch Controllers for only $399… almost exactly 50% off what I had paid for those two items about a year ago. And my initial reaction was What The F#ck!

Dance With The One That Brung You

So those of you that know me might know that I can be a little feisty… maybe I have a shorter temper than most, but that’s not the cause of my response. I was just completely flabbergasted that a company would go out of its way to inform me, an early adopter that waited months for my delayed Rift and then another six months to get the Touch Controllers, that bought the tech sight unseen or tested, and who then went on to demo the technology for friends and clients whenever I got the chance, would be insulted in this manner by the very company I had supported.

In short, I was a Social Agent for Oculus. I had shelled out top dollar for the product, spent thousands more building a computer that could handle the hardware and in general, doing everything that Oculus and/or Facebook could ever want of an early adopter.

And this is how they thank me? Not only do the slash the price 50% because their sales are pacing way behind projection and they’re getting their ass kicked by the competition, but then they ASK ME to market this promotion to my friends, family and colleagues.

Who the hell thought this was a good idea? Who thought this wouldn’t piss off a current customer? Who thought I’d want to tell my friends, “hey I was dumb enough to pay twice as much as you will, but dude…. got get this now!” and feel perfectly good about it?

Honestly, the only thing that makes sense to me is that Facebook / Oculus must have hired a marketing director from one of the big wireless service providers — AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile or Sprint.

ATT iPhone7 OfferI mean THAT would make perfect sense. Those companies have been dissing their current customers in favor of winning new customers for years. That’s why I as a loyal AT&T customer (who has put up with some seriously horrendous issues/service, etc., over the years) have to pony up $800 for my new iPhone 7 but you, as long as you’re porting over from another provider, get yours free with unlimited data as long as you’re a DirecTV customer.

Maybe it’s just how I was raised but I think you have to reward the folks that helped you get where you are today vs trying to get new folks to help you get where you want to go tomorrow. Hence the subhead above.

Your First Ten

Many moons ago, Seth Godin wrote a great little blog post where he introduced the idea of the First Ten. It was a simple but impactful idea for me. In short, don’t worry about winning the masses…instead, find 10 folks “who trust you/respect you/need you/listen to you.” Then make those folks immensely happy and they’ll each find 10 more folks that they’ll point your way. And then you make those folks immensely happy. And so forth and so forth until eventually, you’re talking to the masses and they love you.

What he was talking about was dancing with the one that brung you. And guess what… it works. We do a lot of work in the liquor industry here at Converse Digital and we’ve built numerous super successful, world renowned, influencer and ambassador programs founded on this simple, yet powerful principle.

Why do companies pander to the prospect instead of caring for the customer?

But yet, day in and day out so many companies pander to the prospect instead of caring for the customer. And then they turn around and blow a bunch of money on advertising to shout those offers to those prospects. Or worse, they spend a ton of money on Influencer Marketing programs to get influencers to act as Social Agents on their behalf.

Here’s a big idea.

Instead of spending a ton of money telling folks what to believe and paying social mercenaries to do the same on your behalf, why not just spend more time and money caring about the customer? Invest in your product or service to make it better. Invest in your customer to improve their enjoyment and experience.

In other words, rip a page out of Steve Jobs and Apple’s marketing playbook by “getting the consumer to want to recommend the brand, and without being paid for it.”

Now that would be real influencer marketing. The kind that money can’t buy and that lives a lot longer than that single Instagram post you paid $20,000 to buy because your Influencer had 200,000 followers!

The Role of Early Adopters in Influencer Marketing

Folks it’s really not rocket science. People listen to people…. that they respect and trust. That’s the whole reason you try and get early adopters. You need those risk takers. The ones that are willing to try something new, knowing full well they may not like it, it may not work as expected or (especially in tech) it may just not find traction and ultimately die an early death and your investment is basically worthless.

Rocket eBook I’m reminded of my first “Kindle” — the Rocket Ebook Reader [RIP]… $500 for an eBook that held 10 whole books!! I was so far ahead of the curve on this one. But then Kindles and Nooks came along and guess what, it’s now a really, really expensive paperweight. But that’s ok… as an early adopter of technology that is the risk I take. But hey, back in 1998/9 I was a total technology badass and I got to look super cool on the airplane reading my eBook and listening to tunes on my Rio MP3 player while everyone else was holding a paperback and probably not listening to anything.

That’s the deal with early adopters. They want to take the risk. And they are willing to accept the failure in exchange for the psychological benefit of being seen as knowledgeable or in today’s terms, and influencer 😉

And if you’re launching a new product, whether it’s a technology, a destination, a hotel, a restaurant, a new liquor or really anything, you need these folks to find you, buy you and love you. Then and only then will they support you and take on that Social Agent role that is so important to early brand success, especially for brands on a budget.

But once you’ve got them. Once they’re singing your praises. Once they’re on your side and helping you grow…. DON’T INSULT THEM REWARD THEM! Otherwise, you’ll lose them. At least as Social Agents, and that my dear friends is their most valuable role in your world.

</rant>

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About Tom Martin

Tom is 20+ year veteran of the marketing and advertising industry with a penchant for stiff drinks, good debates and digital gadgets that helps digitally challenged companies create innovative and effective digital marketing strategies. He is the founder of Converse Digital , author of The Invisible Sale and a contributing writer for Advertising Age. Tom guides clients through the digital marketing maze and helps companies teach their sales force how to Painlessly Prospect their way to more sales. Connect with him on Google+ or follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Comments

  1. Steve Place says:

    Amen brother!

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