Advertising can take you only so far

Make sure customers’ experience is in line with marketing promise

Sacramento Business Journal – by Debi Hammond, Contributing writer, Marketing

Loyalty. It’s what retailers and marketers want but few are able to garner. Even as a marketing professional, I find my loyalty swayed by, what else? Advertising.

My husband and I purchased a sporting goods product a year or so ago and the service was fine. Not exceptional, but very good. So, as we were contemplating another purchase, we were compelled to try a new store that has been doing a great amount of advertising with a compelling message. The problem? They simply didn’t deliver on their message.

They claim to be the “friendliest” sporting goods store, but quite frankly, they weren’t all that friendly. They were running a radio promotion that said if you came in you’d get a free T-shirt, so when I inquired about it, I was simply told “we’re out.” The sales guy wasn’t really rude about it, but he wasn’t really friendly either — or accommodating. He didn’t offer a rain check or even an apology.

Given that it was two days before Christmas, I decided to go ahead and make the purchase I’d gone in for anyway — a T-shirt my husband wanted. I bought the shirt and before I left the store, I pulled it out of the bag to look at it, and it was stained. Of course, they didn’t have any more in the size I needed, so I asked if I could get a small discount. The answer? “No, but you can return it.” Really? That’s so “helpful!”

What the sales guy probably didn’t realize is that although that day I was there only to buy a T-shirt, I was also there to determine where my husband and I would be making another, much more expensive purchase. I had been frequenting another retailer but chose to check this one out because of their advertising and endorsements. Advertising can definitely drive traffic, but it’s a company’s ability to deliver on its brand promise that matters most.

More recently, I had quite the opposite experience at a large retailer where I simply expected mediocre to poor customer service. A year ago I purchased four counter stools from Pier 1 Imports.

No more than a few months after the purchase, a screw started breaking through the leather on the seat. It was a quality issue, so I finally called customer service. To my surprise, they were not only helpful, they actually treated me like a friend or family member — doing whatever it took to make it right.

Instead of following some corporate guideline, they told me they were going to brainstorm with the local store manager to find a solution to ensure I was happy.

They no longer carried the chairs I purchased, so in the end they gave me the difference of the original purchase price from the final clearance price — which was quite significant, so I could use those funds to find someone to fix my chair.

Just in case you were wondering what it looked like!

It was unbelievable. Everyone I dealt with made me feel like, well, a customer. A very important customer. They went so far above and beyond that not only will I tell everyone about my amazing experience with them, but they now have a customer for life. That’s one place that will continue to enjoy my loyalty.

Advertising is extremely powerful, but nothing is as powerful as the last three feet. So the next time you invest in that advertising campaign, be sure you have the right people in place to deliver upon what you promise.


Debi Hammond is president and chief executive officer of Sacramento-based Merlot Marketing, Inc. Reach her at

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Link to article at Sacramento Business Journal.

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