August 19, 2010

Missing the Boat on Brand Ambassadors

3 minute read, in Behaviour / Marketing / Perception

Every employee in your organization is in the marketing department.

That means that no matter how much money you spend on advertising (or social media, PR, direct mail, etc.) your employees’ feelings about where they work creates the most significant impression on consumers.

As Seth Godin points out, if you’ve ever walked into an Apple Store you’ll know what I mean. I think I have a crush on every single guy who works there. Helpfulness is so sexy. But I digress….

I just spent some time in Muskoka at Touchstone Resort. To put it plainly, Touchstone is a fancy place.

What does fancy mean? Well, there’s a guy who comes and grooms the beach daily, a gym, salt water pool, daily housekeeping and (get this) call and book ahead and someone will come to build a fire for you right at the beach. THEY BUILD YOU A FIRE. Amazing, right?

I think you get that this is not typical cottage living.

Touchstone also sells cottages–whole cottages or fractional ownership. And, while I didn’t experience any heavy handed salesy stuff, I did notice that they offer a free ‘Daycation’ visit to anyone interested in having a look around the place.  Make no mistake about it, they want to make a favourable impression on those who visit because they want you to buy.

When it came to creating favourable impressions, Trevor, the lovely gentleman who took  my kids, my parents and us on a pontoon  tour  of Lake Muskoka took the prize. He was a genuine, decent, friendly guy. When we asked, he  told us about the resort–how the fractional ownership thing worked, how the resort was doing, the developers behind the place. He glowed with enthusiasm and pride. He’s a teacher in during the year, riding the boat and landscaping the resort are his part time gigs.

Then there was the experience with management. My folks( who admittedly love their air conditioning) had very little cool air flow in the master bedroom. They weren’t just being neurotic. I can verify.

They were paying the tab for the place and they wanted someone to come check it out. Someone did check it out and left claiming that something was wrong with the ductwork and they’d need to call in some backup. That was the last we heard from them.

My folks called and left three messages for management. No response. Now, I’m not saying my folks aren’t somewhat high maintenance. But that aside, no one returned their calls.

So, what did Touchstone teach me about brand ambassadors?

Trevor was the ideal brand ambassador for Touchstone. When you’re trapped on a pontoon for an hour, there’s lots of time for conversation. And, if the conversation drifts to the benefits of buying at Touchstone then all the better. Especially coming from a guy like that. If that was deliberate on Touchstone’s part then I say  “good on em!”

On the other hand, the radio silence from Management created an entirely different impression. What does it say when no one answers your call. We’ve all been in this spot and know it’s unsettling. In the case of Touchstone it says you probably shouldn’t buy a place there. It says nobody at the top is accessible and no body cares. It’s a take the money and run situation.

It seems to me, when it comes to creating employee ambassadors Touchstone has half the equation figured out. It’s ass backwards from how most places do it–friendly, helpful management but crap on the ground people. But the result is the same. An inconsistent brand experience.

And when that brand is a premium brand like Touchstone, every impression matters.

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