We often treat service as a cost center and promotions as a profit center. Yet amazing service can spread faster than any advertising and there can be a hidden cost from too many promotions.
Years ago, I first discovered Utrecht, an art supply chain with stores usually staffed by artists. After an uncommonly helpful artist/salesperson helped me choose a set of technical pens, I became an advocate, and shared my experience with others.
I signed up to receive emails and get a loyalty card. I even gave my main email address, rather than the one I reserve for “brands that deal-spam”. Soon though, my inbox looked like this, with a slightly different deal shouting for my attention every 2-3 days.
My perception of the brand dropped and I began to see Utrecht as just another discount retailer.
Recently I had problems placing an order online with Utrecht (technical web site errors followed by a lengthy order delay with no explanation). Utrecht didn’t reply to a single email from me. They continued to send deal-spam, but nothing actually relevant to me as a current customer with a problem.
The Utrecht story illustrates a common world view in marketing. Many brands place more value on a promotion campaign designed to acquire customers than a service plan designed to keep them.