What’s Making Your Clients Happy? from VacationOwnership.com

 Jason Tremblay of VacationOwnership.com
Article in Resort Trades by Jason Tremblay of VacationOwnership.com

Valentine’s Day seems like an ideal time to talk about happiness, and in this case, specifically the happiness of your customers and clients.

The following article was published in the January issue of The Resort Trades and looks at why social media is often less about communication and more about triggers in the pleasure centers of the brain.

Our deep appreciation to The Resort Tradesfor permitting us to reprint the article, in its entirety  here on The Timeshare Authority blog.

What’s Making Your Client’s Happy?

by Jason Tremblay

Most of us grew up hearing the admonition, “Never talk to strangers.” You’ve probably passed this wisdom along to your own children. But if you’re still communicating this once-sage bit of information to your offspring, you can stop, because talking to strangers is now what we do. Through blogging, tweeting, posting comments and status updates, we share and over-share the details of our lives with people we know and millions more we will never meet.

Around the world, 62 percent of adults now use social media. Twitter users collectively tweet over a billion times in any 72-hour period, Facebook (the most popular social media platform) has 901 million monthly active users and every month the online population spends the equivalent of 4 million years online. But this article is not about social media… it’s about happiness.

Your clients are online because it makes them happy

People aren’t spending hours of their day online, commenting to and reading the comments of strangers because they have to; they are doing it because it makes them feel good about themselves. Online communication with others is a way to exchange ideas, but the reason it resonates so deeply with us is much more complex and subliminal. According to Dr. Pamela Rutledge, Ph.D., director of the Media Psychology Research Center and author of the blog, “Positively Media,” voicing our thoughts online reaffirms to each of us a sense of prerogative, that it is our undeniable right to speak out and be heard.

By connecting with others, we feel a greater sense of group affiliation and identity. We feel validated that people – even those we have never met – share our thoughts, experiences and opinions. Connecting with others online allows us to take risks, to explore new types of friends, and by engaging with strangers in communication, to increase our own sense of self-efficacy. As Dr. Rutledge points out, the Internet is more than a communications tool that makes us happy. Online expression is actually a resource for experiencing a long list of the most common “happiness makers,” including laughing, sharing, seeing the smiles of children and puppies, connecting with others, expressing love, feeling freedom and savoring the sense of autonomy that comes from making our own choices.

How did we overcome our fear of strangers?

Because online expression speaks to our inner selves, stimulating feelings of happiness, we not only feel good about voicing our thoughts to strangers online, we transfer that sense of well-being to the online comments we read from others. Total strangers, whose intelligence or credibility is a complete unknown to us, become a reliable resource because we see them communicating in the same way we are communicating. We feel a bond and a sense that, “this person is like me” and as everyone is sales knows: like attracts like.

Forget the fact that the person commenting about your business or your resort may be a serial killer or sharing his or her thoughts from the psych ward, 70 percent of Internet users say they trust the consumer comments they read online regarding a brand or product. Even more jolting is the reality that 86 percent of Internet users say they don’t pay attention to television commercials or billboards. Instead, they look at search results and consumer reviews to help them make their decisions in choosing products and deciding how to spend their money. Where your company appears in Google rankings or the Bing or Yahoo search results determines your marketing success.

Consumers today may not trust you, but they clearly trust each other. Yet we can’t be too critical of them for being put off by traditional marketing efforts. A recent Harvard Business Review blog post, titled, “Marketing is Dead” cited a 2011 study by Fournaise Marketing Group in which it was revealed that corporate executives don’t like their marketing (or marketing departments) either

  •  73 percent of chief operating officers surveyed said that chief marketing officers, in general, lack business credibility and the capability to generate sufficient business growth.
  •  72 percent of CEOs say they are tired of providing money in their corporate budgets for marketing initiatives that can’t be guaranteed to increase business.
  • 77 percent say they are fed up with all the messaging about brand equity that sounds promising but can’t be linked to any identifiable, trustworthy financial metric.

We could hide our heads in the sand, hoping social media and online consumer-to-consumer relationships lose their marketing leverage. The vacation ownership industry could continue marketing timeshares in the way they have always done. But reliable studies show that brands that engage their customers online and via social media have customers who are more loyal to them than do brands with a minimal online and social media presence. Consumers who are connected online to a brand purchase 20 to 40 percent more from that brand than do consumers who lack an online relationship with the company or brand. And why wouldn’t they? When consumers interact with your brand online they are likely to be relaxing at home or treating themselves to a break within their workday. They have a chocolate bar, a cup of coffee, a soft drink, or perhaps a cold beer or a scotch nearby. When consumers connect with you online, they are already involved in behaviors that are pushing all the right buttons in the pleasure centers of their brain. They are in their happy place before they even begin to process your message – a message that, thanks to the World Wide Web, is available to them 24/7, 365 days a year, anywhere in the world they have Internet access.

Online engagement hasn’t killed traditional marketing; it is becoming today’s traditional marketing. As marketing professionals get better at finding metrics for assessing the success of their online marketing efforts, corporate criticisms and marketing department distrust may improve.

Successful companies will learn to reward both consumers who spend dollars and consumers who influence others to spend dollars. Companies that thrive, including those in the vacation and shared ownership space, will do so by creating as many opportunities as possible for their clients, consumers and prospects to experience their brand via the avenues that already make these consumers happy. And when timeshare consumers get in their happy place, you’ll likely find yourself feeling a whole lot happier, too.