There is a chasm between customer expectation and product delivery.
In marketing, everything you do creates an expectation. Your proposition is a promise.
Customers can only be confident that you deliver on your promise once they cross that chasm and make a purchase. What they discover has huge implications on customers’ satisfaction — and, therefore, your brand and business performance.
View this week’s chart to see data showing the effect of setting the right expectations with customers — data that you can use to win arguments in any meeting when you sense your marketing department, campaigns and clients are going awry.
(As seen in the MarketingSherpa Chart of the Week newsletter. Click to get a free subscription to the latest research and case studies from MarketingSherpa.)
We split 2,400 customers into two groups. We asked one group of 1,200 about a specific company they were satisfied with and then asked further questions. We asked the other group of 1,200 about a specific company they were unsatisfied with and then asked further questions like …
How well do the products/services of [company name] do their intended job?
To see 34 more charts from the study, download the free report.
Marketing is a promise
It creates an expectation — and it is marketing’s job to set customer expectations accurately.
As Jerry Seinfeld sarcastically explained when he won an honorary Clio award, “In advertising, everything is the way you wish it was. I don’t care that it won’t actually be like [that] when I actually get the product being advertised because, in between seeing the commercial and owning the thing, I’m happy, and that’s all I want ... We know the product is going to stink. We know that.”
Seinfeld highlights the importance of customer-first marketing. Yes, consumers are a skeptical bunch. However, when they believe a product does its intended job, there is a huge benefit. As you can see in the chart above, 91% of satisfied customers said the product did its intended job well or very well — and there are huge benefits from having satisfied customers, as you might expect, like customer loyalty.
On the flip side, 41% of unsatisfied customers said the product did its intended job poorly or very poorly.
It is easy to alienate customers when the marketing message doesn’t align with the true value delivered
But it takes much more to create a satisfied customer than to lose one. The most popular response of satisfied customers (49%) was that the product did its intended job very well. However, the most popular response from unsatisfied customers (35%) was that it did its job fairly.
In other words, to have a satisfied customer, you most frequently need a five out of five match between expectations set by marketing and true value delivered by the product (a.k.a being rated "very well"). But you can lose customers most frequently by even having a three out of five fit between expectations set by marketing and true value delivered by the product (a.k.a being rated "fairly").
Seinfeld tells us that we know the product is going to stink — and conventional wisdom would agree. If you point this out to people, many would likely say they are skeptical of an advertising promise. However, if that were actually true, would they be alienated so easily? Doesn’t it seem like they still expect a good product when marketing promises them one?
“[The fact] that so many people perceive the same product differently means there's a problem with the marketing — not necessarily the product. I often see this when I'm navigating the endless options on Amazon. The same product typically has both five-star and one-star reviews. And many of those one-star reviews don't say nearly as much about the product as they do about the consumer’s expectations,” Kevin Knight, CMO, Experticity, told me.
Find the ideal customers your product serves better than your competitors
“One of the root causes in this disconnect between marketer and consumer — between expectation and need — is short-sightedness. Some marketers fixate too much on near-term metrics (like clickthrough rates, conversion rates and even sales) without taking into consideration long-term effects on brand perception and loyalty.
“The solution ultimately lies in better understanding who your consumer is,” Knight said
No product is perfect. No service is truly everything to everyone. Find out what your product does best for customers and accentuate the positive. Because, keep in mind, you don’t need to promise the world to every possible customer to be effective. You need to find your ideal customers and explain how they will benefit.
Mitch Fanning, VP of marketing at Clickback, emphasized the importance of building trust with the customer: “When you consistently over-deliver on one specific benefit or promise to a niche audience, you create trust, which in turn builds a strong brand — unfortunately, the opposite is also true.”
Kevin Knight also advised, “One tried-and-true tactic that's particularly effective here is to create a muse — a personified representation of your target consumer. If you make sure your marketing speaks directly to your muse, you'll minimize, if not eliminate, the disconnect between expectation and experience.”
Make the right promise with your marketing, your advertising and your entire business strategy
And, if the right fit isn’t there, create a product and brand that delivers what customers want. For example, 365 by Whole Foods Market is the organic grocer’s value-concept store. This is a great example of customer-first marketing and a customer-first business. Whole Foods took a chance in “competing with itself” by launching a new brand that would better serve a specific segment of customers — younger customers and those who are more price sensitive.
“There’s a lot riding on properly setting consumer expectations. With more choices than ever before, it's a buyer’s market. A consumer who feels let down by a brand can generally find ample competitors ready to meet their current — and future — needs,” Knight concluded.
Value Prop: Is There True Value In Your Marketing Proposition? (from MarketingSherpa sister publication, MarketingExperiments)
Jerry Seinfeld ripped apart the advertising industry on its biggest night (by Zachary M. Seward in Quartz)
The Honor Of Marketing: Connecting Real People To Real Value (from MarketingSherpa sister publication, MarketingExperiments)
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