Good Marketing is Southern Hospitality
I recently vacationed in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Georgia with my family. We had a wonderful time hiking, exploring, fishing, white water rafting and just being adventurous. As I reflect back on this vacation, it occurred to me that I also experienced parallels between our vacation and successful marketing.
Everywhere we went my family and I were treated with courtesy, respect and warmth. And, I’m not referring to how the employees of business establishments treated us (although they were consistent in their treatment). We found the citizens of the community to be genuine, helpful and giving. More than once, people went out of their way to answer questions or offer assistance with sincerity and a smile, or just greet us with a sincere “hello” and have conversation about anything.
Content Marketing Parallel
In contemporary marketing, we speak of the importance of providing great content to your audience to build trust and relationships online. Our vacation planning was easily facilitated by the ease of access to information about the area. Before we scheduled our vacation in the Blue Ridge Mountains, we did plenty of research. We found an abundance of useful information including things to do and places to stay. I was particularly impressed with the consistency of the information we found online, and the experience we had with human interaction offline. This experience is effective content marketing. It was the total experience that made it effective. It was the integration of an online and offline experience that made it a good one. This total experience is what I am willing to talk about. And, that’s called word-of-mouth, the most valuable kind of marketing.
Social Media Parallel
For years now those of us that have embraced social media in business have been stressing the importance of producing great content that delivers on the 3 Es and building a strong community online comprised of authenticity and transparency. Often these words aren’t understood in a business context because so many people in marketing roles are used to doing marketing differently. Authenticity used to mean being truthful in advertising. Building community used to mean building your mailing list. Trust used to mean having a track record of product quality. And, customer service used to mean being accessible to customers and answering their questions.
But, this experience made me realize that social media is really just a human extension of how people want to behave naturally. I am convinced that “southern hospitality” (as it’s known in the U.S.) is a global human phenomenon. A business is made up of people. The technology tools at our disposal enable people to build communities online with authentic human interaction to create experiences both online and offline that build trust and authentic engagement resulting in positive experiences. Of course, no one is perfect and negative experiences can occur. But, a strong community can deal with anomalies.
I’ve spoken a lot about the risks of social media. As I continue to ponder these risks it occurs to me that they are really risks of doing marketing wrong. Some of the examples I’ve provided of mistakes made by companies are marketing mistakes, not social media mistakes. Businesses need to develop a strategy of southern hospitality and carry it through in their online and offline channels. Perhaps most important, the people in the business must have a southern hospitality mindset. The tools used to execute on this mindset may vary, but the consistency of the mindset is what’s most important.