Within the vortex of media disruptions today is the reality that money is less able to purchase market share than it was just a few years ago. The Web has done this, by changing the marketplace from one-to-many to its remarkable 3-way universe of up-down, down-up and sideways. Seth Godin hit on this in a wonderful post today, which is republished here with permission:
The Trip Advisor tail wagging the real world dog
More than fifty years ago, Duncan Hines (a real guy, unlike Betty Crocker), turned the restaurant business upside down. He began certifying restaurants as clean and safe, offering a sign for roadside diners that wished to welcome travelers from out of town.
The existence of his certification changed the way restaurants did their job.
Today, it’s sites like Trip Advisor and Yelp (among many others) that are transforming the way service businesses operate. Here’s how it works: at first, a business might try to ignore the system, but then they notice their customers talking about the reviews and their competitors. So some stoop so low as to attempt to game the system, sending sock puppets and friends to post reviews. But that doesn’t scale and the sites are getting smart about weeding this out.
The only alternative? Amazing service. Working with customers in such an extraordinary way that people feel compelled to talk about it, post about it, and yes, review it. It’s not an accident that Hotel Amira is one of the highest rated hotels in all of Turkey. They didn’t do it with the perfect building or sumptuous suites. They did it by intentionally being remarkable at service. And yes, the Holiday Inn in Oakland has the same story. They took what they had and then they deliberately went over the top in delivering on something that never would have paid off for them in the past.
Amplifying stories causes the stories that are built to change. Outliers are rewarded (or punished) and the weird and the wonderful are reinforced. Once people see what others are doing, it opens the door for them to do it, but with more flair.
The web changes everything it touches, sometimes in significant ways. Travelers ranted about poor service for a generation, but once the internet makes it easy to rank and sort and connect, the service has no choice but to change. Some businesses see Yelp and others as a tax, a burden they have to pay attention to in order to stay relevant, and they grumble about it. Others see these sites as the opportunity of a lifetime, a chance to deliver service (which takes guts and care, more than money) to get ahead.
Seth Godin has a remarkably clear view of reality these days, and what he’s saying is relevant not only for merchants of every ilk, but also for media companies — the people who used to be benefit from the deep pockets that used to fund messages of how wonderful they or their products were. Steven Covey wrote in his wonderful 1990 book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” that “you can’t talk your way out of something you behaved your way into.” How very true this is today.
In researching the deep cultural changes being brought about by technology, Umair Haque, the brilliant Harvard economist, published paper after paper years ago about what he and I were both calling “Media 2.0.” I recall one thought in particular about this phenomenon — that media companies would be better off investing resources in the products and services they create rather than spending a dime on marketing. I summarized this view in January of 2006 in The Economy of Unbundled Advertising.
In the blockbuster concept (of mass marketing), he notes, attention has the highest value and therefore commands the most dollars, because attention is a scarcity that can only be overcome with a significant marketing budget. In the new world, however, where the customer is at the controls, attention isn’t the scarcity, because the customer is already providing it — quality snowballs (products/services that users can spread) are where the new scarcity exists, and that’s why the value shifts from attention to production. This has profound implications for television, because its core competency is the providing of attention.
What Umair wrote of back then is what Seth Godin is referencing in his post today. Businesses of all forms are learning that the greatest sin today is stretching the truth just because you can. It will change everything, and it’s only just begun.