Zappos Marketing Chief Offers Five Rules of Marketing

Discussion
Mar 26, 2010
George Anderson

By George Anderson

In an interview published on the Fast Company website,
Aaron Magness, director for brand marketing and business development at Zappos,
offered five principles that he believes are key to his company’s success:

  1. “Customer service is the new marketing.” The consumer is in charge and the
    days of the retailer dictating the terms of the relationship with the customer
    are over.
  2. You need to “communicate with your customers, don’t market to them.” Shoppers
    are interested in a two-way dialogue that helps them get what they want.
    Getting what they want creates loyalty, which doesn’t happen by pushing messages
    out to them.
  3. It is not important to be perceived as being interesting. Instead, companies
    need to demonstrate interest in what customers think. “A lot of companies
    try to launch a really creative campaign, but lack the follow up to the
    brand promise,” Mr. Magness told Fast Company. “Your campaign should
    highlight what your brand promise is, not try to invent one.”
  4. You need to “wow” at all personal interactions, be they with customers, employees
    or vendors. “Personal relationships and interactions drive everything. You
    need to capitalize on them,” he said.
  5. Company culture is key to success. “Hire
    great people, treat them like adults and let them do great work. The rest
    should come naturally on its own,” Mr.
    Magness told Fast Company.

Discussion Question: What is your reaction to Aaron Magness’ five marketing
principles? Is there one in particular that you would bank on?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

20 Comments on "Zappos Marketing Chief Offers Five Rules of Marketing"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Susan Rider
Guest
Susan Rider
11 years 1 month ago

My personal favorite is number 5. If you hire great people and they’re passionate about your company, they will perform extraordinary feats and the customer will be Wowed!

Marc Gordon
Guest
Marc Gordon
11 years 1 month ago

Sorry Susan,

I have to go with #1. It’s sad to say, but customer service has only become a marketing tool because so few retailers actually practice it.

Dick Seesel
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

These are customer-centric principles, and good ones. It’s a particular challenge for web-only retailers like Zappos to provide a shopping experience that feels “personal” to the consumer, since she never deals face-to-face with a company associate. All the more important for the “company culture” to be Job One, to give the other four principles a better chance to succeed.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
11 years 1 month ago

The people part of the equation is very important in retail. Your team represents your brand and Zappos has done an excellent job of acquiring the best talent. It shows in how customers perceive the company. What is important to note about the other 4 rules is that the word ‘customer’ is in each and every one of them. Enough said.

Max Goldberg
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

These are all great points. I would, however, maintain that there is a place for push advertising messages. Traditional advertising can inform consumers and alert them to new products and services or special promotions. That being said, push advertising does need to be followed by a great customer experience. Too many companies are content to push advertising to consumers and not pay enough attention to great customer experiences.

Roger Saunders
Guest
11 years 1 month ago
Magness very effectively summarizes in these five points why Zappos has been recognized by American Express and the NRF as one of the leading retailers in terms of customer service, based on BIGresearch surveys of the American consumer. Each point is one on which Zappos excels. And, they work at each one each and every day. Don Schultz, Ph.D. and Martin Block, Ph.D. from the Medill School at Northwestern University have authored their latest book , Retail Communities, Customer-Driven Retailing. They point out that these same models are verified from 8 years of consumer research — listening to “Attitudes,” “Observiing Behavior,” and “Understanding Future Purchase Plans.” Their studies call out the fact that “the customer is boss” — it is more than a slogan in today’s world. The customer is in control. Retailers need to understand that there are many different types of “customer communities” and “media options” in which to connect with them. A book that is well worth the read for those who are seeking the a deeper understanding of how their organization… Read more »
Carol Spieckerman
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

I like all five and would add “Consistency is king.” All of the keys have to be practiced consistently or your brand will lose credibility. This is especially true as social media tempts with its many options; you can end up being everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

Marge Laney
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

All of these principles are music to my ears; a symphony. It is no wonder that Zappos is on top with a culture that values their customers for more than just the money they spend. They “get it” — that service is personal and that every connection either builds or breaks the relationship a company has with its customers. If more companies would take a page out of the culture play books of companies like Zappos and Lululemon, they too could achieve that illusive Trifecta of Happiness: happy associates, happy customers, and happy stockholders.

Michael Tesler
Guest
Michael Tesler
11 years 1 month ago

It is eye opening to see a larger retailer get what most smaller retailers are missing. Great customer service is not just knowing someone’s name and being friendly to their kids (though there is nothing at all wrong with that … it just is not the definition of great customer service). Great customer service is knowing and/or finding out exactly what customers want and quickly and efficiently giving them that and more.

David Zahn
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

Don’t know if I could say that one is mightier than the others – but if one is missing, it surely will be noted by the customer. Excellent article and great topic.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

I resonate with the all of the principles, especially the first principle, “Customer Service is the New Marketing.” The only thing I would change is the term “customer service.” I take my car in for service. I prefer the term “customer delight.”

Customer delight has to be strategically integrated with other business objectives such as profitability, ROI, and market share. Customer delight should be a company’s key competitive strategy.

The challenge is to make it integral, manageable, and measurable. It should not be viewed as an add-on or an after-the-sale phenomenon. Remember the words of Peter Drucker, “The only purpose of a business is to create a satisfied (delighted) customer.”

Many companies “talk the talk” but few “walk the talk.” The time and technology are now available. But is the commitment at all levels of the organization?

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

Let me respond point-by-point.

1. “Customer service is the new marketing.” Are you kidding me? Businesses that didn’t respond to market demands have failed since the dawn of time.

2. “Communicate with your customers, don’t market to them.” Agree, but this is nothing new. Apple Stores have done this with their Genius Bars for years. They attract customers who want to learn about their products, and end up selling more toys because they have educated their audience.

3.”It is not important to be perceived as being interesting.” You think iPods aren’t interesting?

4. “You need to “wow” at all personal interactions.” Isn’t that making yourself “interesting”? (see previous point.

5. “Culture,” “Hire great people.” ABSOLUTELY! As Whole Foods has done since the beginning.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

All good points but if I had to pick one I’d vote for Number One.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

Every point that is made in the article is important and they all work together to create success. I love the addition of consistency to the list. But my favorite is WOW in all people interactions. At Zappos, this does not only mean WOW the customer but to WOW the customer you have to keep wowing the employees. That old adage is so true–treat your employees the way you want your employees to treat your customers.

To all of the people who read this, here is a suggestion. Next time you are in Las Vegas get away from the strip for about 3 hours. Call Zappos and tell them you would like to take the tour that they offer of their facility. No charge and if you do not have a car they will send the Zappo Mobile over to your hotel to pick you up.

You will get a great look at how they attract great employees and great customers. It’s not all about the money.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

The hardest of these is a dialogue with consumers. So much of retail is around one-way communication from retailer to customer. I remember asking a retail CIO what his mechanism was for answering emails from customers, and his answer was “Are you kidding? We can’t answer emails!”

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
11 years 1 month ago

Am I the only one to notice that his list does not specifically mention the basis for it all–“merchandise”? His list is good, but the selection, extent and range of footwear that is offered by Zappos is what truly separates them from the rest and draws people to the site again and again. Once there, his 5 points kick in and are apparent, but without an ongoing concentration on the goods they sell, the 5 points will not mean nearly as much.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

Good points. Execution is the real challenge or these points would not be a topic of discussion.

Ian Percy
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

This is pretty unarguable stuff. It reminds me of corporate statements about “Our Values” where they list virtues like “Honesty,” “Collaboration,” “Customer focus,” etc. My response is “What were your other choices?” Did you discuss the value of dishonesty? How about a theme of “Every man for himself?” Or “The customer be damned!”

Honestly I think this discussion leaves out what it always leaves out–and that’s the fact that employees seldom see any connection between their work and their life. Most employers have no clue what employees want in their lives. Work, for far too many, is an evil necessity because they all have bills and want stuff. If people saw a real connection between their work and their dreams these ‘marketing rules’ would be as natural as breathing.

Bill Hanifin
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

You can’t help but like the list. It not only makes intuitive sense if you are following current marketing trends, but comes from a source of credibility in light of Zappos’ active involvement in social media.

A few comments:

#1 & 3. Customer service being the new marketing is recognition that customer loyalty is created through attention to all aspects of the customer experience, not just rewarding the transaction itself. Behaving in this way by definition should “act out” the brand promise.

#2. Communicating with your customer and creating a two-way dialogue is not a new thought and I note the huge gap between data collected and data smartly utilized by large retailers. The tools are there, but what about the commitment?

#4 & 5. The fruit on the tree of “Company culture done right” should be delivery of consistent “Wow” experiences across the business. This is much easier to control and deliver in a pure online retailer than one with brick and mortar.

Phil Rubin
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

There’s no question that Zappos has figured it out and done a lot of interesting things. There is a reason that they were such a good fit for Amazon and it’s reflected above: customer centricity. It’s what drives their commitment to service, relevant communications (though I’m not sure that’s really one of their strengths), wow experiences and hiring people who “get it.” Those kinds of employees – loyal ones – beget loyal customers.

Interesting that there is no mention of measurement, though there is undoubtedly a big component of what they do that is based on measuring what they do.

wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

If you had to choose one, what principle do you think is most critical to market success?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...