What Selling Shoes Can Teach Us About Marketing

What can we, in the entertainment business, learn from a shoe company’s marketing? A lot! 

“Your relationships are your brand.” 

–Tony Hsieh,  CEO Zappos.com

Zappos.com is quickly becoming one of the most popular and hottest online retail properties in the world and they’re doing it by bearing their sole (had to say it!) with social media. For example, Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh has over 400,000 followers on Twitter (see last month’s The End Result on using Twitter).  Their secret to massive success according to Tony is “making personal and emotional connections.”

A recent interview on Mashable.com highlighted the keys to success: 1) Your Relationships ARE Your Brand; 2) Deliver a Positive Experience and 3) Embrace Transparency.

Your Relationships ARE Your Brand

Zappos believes that every interaction impacts how people view their company. Tony put it this way, “Brand building 50 years ago consisted of a few marketing people in a small room to decide, ‘this is what our brand will be’, and then spend a lot of money on TV advertising — and that was your brand. Today anyone, whether it is an employee or a customer, if they have a good or bad experience with your company they can blog about it or Twitter about it and it can be seen by millions of people. It’s what they say now that is your brand.” Those conversations are going on right now about thousands of radio stations, including yours.

Deliver a Positive Experience 

The positive experience extends beyond Zappos gracious return policy. One call rep spent two-and-a-half hours on the phone with a caller; another spent five hours, both trying to address the caller’s needs. When asked if they got in trouble for spending so much time on the phone with one person, they laughed. They emphasized that their goal is to connect with people who call and to meet their needs. Is there an opportunity for an off-air listener interaction strategy that would wow them and have them spread-the-word?

Embrace Transparency 

Openness is a key element at Zappos. Jo Casey, the Help Desk Coordinator emphasized the importance of the freedom to be themselves, saying, “Anyone can do what we do, but nobody can be who we are.”

And let’s face it: when given a chance, you are more apt to work with someone that you know versus a complete stranger. However, people can only get to know us if we let them, if we are transparent, if we bring “who we are” into our work. Tony said in our interview, “I think people worry too much about bringing their personal selves into business, when I think the way to succeed in today’s world is to make your business more personal. Twitter is also a great way of doing that.”

The underlying criteria in social media — in all of marketing for that matter — is to know your core consumer. Without a deep and thorough understanding of who she is and what she cares about, you’ll end up a drift trying to be all things to all people and not able to clearly relate to those listeners who drive your format and your station.

PPM confirms that not all consumers matter, that in fact, a small, powerful, geographically identifiable group of consumers drive your ratings and your brand. Those are the consumers to focus limited resources and attention on.

While many stations focus on what benefits to advertise and how to brand the station, we learn from Zappos.com that a successful approach focuses on making authentic connections that are rewarding to both listener/customer as well as personalities and other station folks alike.


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