Article by Jay Lipe, US Marketing Author

Without great service, your company is doomed from the start. But what exactly constitutes great service? asks US marketing author Jay Lipe.

Every so often, I’m hired by a company to develop a marketing plan for its business. Yet after conducting my initial assessment I discover that the company’s lack of a marketing plan isn’t the problem. The real problem is the company’s poor service. For these companies spending any money at all on marketing is like pouring fine wine down a sinkhole; a complete waste. If your company’s service stinks, fit that first. Then worry about promoting your company.

The Pillars of Service Cool

Without great service your company is doomed from the start. But what exactly constitutes great service then? There are three basic elements; my Pillars of Service Cool.

They are: Timeliness, Follow through and Integrity.

1. Timeliness

In today’s ‘I want it now’ society timeliness can be your company’s trump card. Yet too many companies don’t seem to respect their customers time. Witness: In a recent study by Jupiter Research, 33% of all internet companies surveyed took three days or longer to get back to customers that had emailed for help.  A study by Portland Research Group found that the average consumer must call a company 2.3 times before having their issued resolved.

2. Follow through

What is a golf swing without follow through? Accumulated energy without an outlet. A beginning without an end. Effort without results. The same is true of a company’s marketing. You can have a terrible logo and pathetic signage but if you are known for your incredible commitment and follow through, you will be successful. Reverse the formula and you’ll fail every time. With diligent follow through your company will demonstrate its commitment beyond a shadow of a doubt. From this, you can expect to reap repeat purchases, positive word of mouth and referrals; the trifecta of successful marketing.

3. Integrity

Today’s buyers are a distrustful bunch. Is it any wonder why? Just look at the ethical lapses seen in todays’ market.

In 2005, Sony Pictures Entertainment quoted the praise of a non-existent film critic to promote several of its films.  For A Knights Tale, The Patriot, and several other films. Plaudits were attributed to David Manning, a supposed film critic at The Ridgeview Press. But at the time of the reviews, The Ridgeview Press, a weekly in Connecticut did not even have a film critic on staff. Sony was ordered to pay $1.5 million to settle a class-action lawsuit.

In August 2001, McDonald’s and the FBI revealed that an employee of Simon Marketing one of McDonald’s marketing agencies had distributed winning game pieces for the Monopoly and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire promotions to a network of accomplices. The accomplices then claimed prizes ranging from $100,000 to $1 million.

In 2005, Abercrombie & Fitch a favourite clothing brand among teenagers launched a T-shirt line featuring such alcohol-related slogans as “Don’t Bother, I’m Not Drunk Yet”  “Bad Girls Chug, Good Girls Drink Quickly” and “Candy is Dandy but Liquor is  Quicker”. The T-shirt line was quickly withdrawn from the market when complaints from the media and advocacy groups surfaced.

Marketers for these companies all showed an alarming lapse in ethics. To avoid blunders like these I recommend holding your marketers to a higher ethical standard: that’s why I have created the Lipe Code of Marketing Ethics:

The Lipe Code of Marketing Ethics

  • We will always be clear and truthful in our marketing communications.

  • We will never intentionally deceive or mislead our customers. If we do, we’ll apologise immediately.

  • We will fully disclose, in the large print all pricing information.

  • We will always respect the privacy of our customers.

  • We will always give buyers the ability to opt-out, quickly honouring their desire to do so.

  • We will stand behind our products if they fail to deliver on their promises.

  • We will listen to our customers needs and concerns and make every effort to incorporate their input.

  • We will not use strong-arm tactics to get people to buy.

  • We will always document claims, testimonials and comparative statements.

  • We will always accept responsibility for the consequences of our actions.

Don’t let years of creating your company identity be wiped out in an instant by an ethical lapse. Circulate this Code of Marketing Ethics to all your marketers and then hold them accountable.