Customer advocacy is a strong tool in the arsenal of a marketer, but there is also a delicate balance between getting customers excited and potentially crossing a line and making them upset. Let me explain.
I am one of the 190,000+ people who put down a deposit on the new Ford Bronco when it was announced in March 2020. The world was in disarray, as COVID was just digging its teeth in and nobody really knew what the future was going to be like. During that time, Ford announced the release of the all-new Bronco. It was a truck that had been discontinued for years but was going to be making a big splash with a new redesign that balanced retro cool with innovative technology.
I was excited from day one, so I went online, put down my deposit and waited for the next steps. Over the coming months I was given emails talking about the new release, and sent videos that provided an amazing preview, allowing me to decide which model I wanted to buy. I went online, built my Bronco and sent the info to the dealer. I was all in, very excited and telling people about it! I was an advocate.
Then COVID crushed the supply chain. First the chips that power the computers in the car were on back order. Then there were issues with the hard tops. My dealer had the wrong order for me. The release of the Bronco was delayed, but if I made some shifts in my desired build, I might be able to get it in 2021, worst case 2022.
I made revisions. I spoke to the dealer. I thought to myself, “I can compromise a little and still wait a little longer,” because I was excited. I was an advocate for how they handled the process, even with the challenges laid out in front of them.
As some of the models started coming off the assembly lines, I viewed them on Instagram and read reviews, further fueling my excitement. I even got that long-awaited email that my Bronco was going to be built in the next month.
Then, after waiting 18 months, and after seeing stories of people who received the same email that their Bronco was being built only to then hear rumors that their builds were still not arriving, or arriving damaged, I got another email.
Ford was hyping the release of the all-new, all-awesome, Bronco Raptor edition. The Raptor is a highly customized, deeply loved Ford truck, and the name was being applied to the Bronco. That meant a new edition was on the way.
But what about my build? They sent out a hype video via email to “loyal patient customers” to announce the new model. They sent that email to those of us who have been waiting for 18 months plus, who have endured delay after delay, and who have been fans for the car since it was announced.
To those of us who have not yet even seen the car we agreed to buy, you are trying to upsell us? I was still an advocate, but my opinion of the brand was hurt.
Dear Ford: Read the room. Know your audience. To send us an email that tries to get us pumped for a car that we are NOT buying because you have not even delivered the car we DID agree to buy is a slap in the face.. At least have the decency to wait until we have received the car we agreed to buy before you start trying to sell us a new one.
What you are doing is annoying your most loyal customers and teasing them that some people may get that new version before the loyalists even get theirs. That may not be the case, but it certainly feels that way.
I realize this is a trivial annoyance in the grand scheme of things, but I’m a marketer. I believe a marketer should have thought this through, but I fear they didn’t.
I know how that meeting went. Someone said, these customers are our most loyal advocates. so let’s tap into them. It was probably some director of marketing who came up with this idea, but they never checked with customer support to see how many people were asking “Dude, where’s my car?” T
his was a marketing idea generated in a vacuum, and it fell flat. I went and read some of the comments on the Instagram feed from posts about the Raptor and many people were just like me -- annoyed and insulted.
Dear Ford, know your audience. Please deliver the cars we have all been waiting over a year for before you start trying to sell us something else. Make sure your marketing team is connecting with customer support and understands the feelings we all have. Check the news and see what people are saying.
This will go a long way toward maintaining that loyal fan base and ensuring you deliver on and meet the expectations that were already set. That creates loyal customers. That creates advocates. I am not lost yet, but I am teetering. Please don’t push me over the edge.