5 things that are killing your marketing effectiveness and your business’ reputation

Your business spends a great deal of money every year on marketing, advertising, public relations, sales promotions, etc. So why aren’t they working? You may have some “broken windows” in your business that are killing your marketing effectiveness and, ultimately, your business’ reputation.

Broken Windows Theory was originally developed in 1982 by two social scientists for use in criminology. It looks at how things, such as actual broken windows, send signals to people and how those signals affect people’s behavior. For example, if there isn’t a store clerk in view, this might signal to people that no one is watching. If they think no one is watching, they might be more likely to steal. Marketing and PR guru, Michael Levine, applied the Broken Windows Theory to marketing in his book Broken Windows, Broken Business.

Stemming from his book and other readings, below are the top five types of broken windows that can kill your business’ marketing effectiveness and reputation:

1. Facilities

How your facilities look, feel, etc. sends signals to your customers. For example, if your organization’s locations look run-down, this signals to your customers that you may not be performing well and that you may not be around for a long time.

On the flip side, if your facilities are desirable to customers, they may be more likely to frequent your business for that reason alone. Think about the cleanliness standards at McDonalds restaurants and how that has impacted their business. The general rule of thumb is that McDonalds has clean restrooms. For this reason, road travelers and picky moms regularly stop at McDonalds for no other reason to use the restrooms. But, those travelers and moms, either out of guilt or hunger, might also make food purchases.

“If I had a brick for every time I’ve repeated the phrase Quality, Service, Cleanliness and Value, I think I’d probably be able to bridge the Atlantic Ocean with them.” —Ray Kroc, McDonalds

2. Product Quality

Whether your product is an actual product or a service, it’s important that it meets customer expectations of quality. If it doesn’t, you tarnish your reputation with that customer, their social circle, and possibly create some negative press for your business depending on the severity and reach.
"Quality Food Products"
For example, Toyota’s 2010 safety recall caused the company a lot of negative press, lost customers, brand value, and lost sales. It’s possible that some of these customers will come back, but many may not, and now potential customers will think twice before purchasing a Toyota vehicle.

3. Customer Service

Let me be very clear about this, if your business has poor customer service, none of your advertising and marketing efforts will work. Poor customer service will overshadow and kill your marketing effectiveness every time.

If this age of social media, online review sites, and direct publication to the Internet, it is very easy for someone who has experienced poor customer service (or product quality) at your business to sound off to everyone in their social circle about it in an instant. And, as we know, people trust their friends more than advertising when making a purchasing decision, so a bad review from a friend could be very detrimental to your business.

If a good example will help, check out what happened when Maytag upset Dooce’s author and how she used Twitter to express her dislike of the company to her 1.5 million followers.

4. Communication

For this one, I want you to put yourself in the shoes of a hiring manager and…

Meet Joe. Joe is interviewing for a position in your company. Because of how you do your interviews, you end up interviewing Joe three times. At each interview, Joe appears to be different. He gives a different resume each time with basically the same information, but with some variations. One time he’s dressed in a full suit, then the next he’s in khaki’s and a polo shirt. Then the next time he’s dressed in slacks and a sport coat. One time he comes in and acts very formal and professional and then the next time he is very laid back and acts like you two are best friends. Then the next time he comes in, he acts very distant.

Would you hire Joe? Why not?

Because he’s inconsistent and you don’t trust him, that’s why not. Now, take a good, hard look at how your business is communicating. Is it consistent? Does your business effectively communicate to your customers? Are you communicating to the right people?

Broken windows in communication can happen in a wide array of ways, but a good example is the fallout after an offensive tweet on Chrysler’s Twitter account. In minutes, one piece of poor communication destroyed a good portion of the Chrysler Company’s recent marketing efforts.

5. Pure Irony/Hypocritical

I’ll be honest, this is my favorite type to point out. There isn’t a good way to describe these other than just plain hypocritical or ironic. You only need to look through a few of Failblog’s posts to find examples of where businesses go wrong and ruin their reputation in this way. For example, here’s a good police station fail and a good pricing fail.

But, on a grander scale, a good example is the Dove Evolution campaign vs. Axe commercials. Dove’s campaign focuses on promoting real beauty, healthy body image, and self-esteem in women. Axe’s commercials show unrealistically proportioned women who are merely sex objects. The irony here is, both brands are owned by the same company, Unilever.

So, there you have it! Now go find the broken windows in your business and fix them! For more information on how, check out my video about marketing effectiveness.

Post originally published on my MSU Journalism blog, Fit To Type.

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