Matching customer expectations with reality

Matching customer expectations with reality

At some point in our lives we will all be drawn in by the lure of powerful marketing, only to be utterly disappointed by reality when a product or service fails to live up to our expectations. Even if you’ve been lucky or studious enough to avoid falling into these traps, there will always be colossal failures such as Fyre Festival or even the NBN which if nothing else, demonstrate the backlash which can arise when companies over promise and under deliver.

Whilst marketing isn’t the only culprit in creating this misalignment, it is easy to see how it can be the catalyst that causes long term damage to your brand. Marketing is often used to provide ‘hype’ or demand which is absolutely fine however, issues arise when people are sold a dream that is completely disparate to reality.

Fyre Festival was marketed as the ‘Coachella of the Bahamas’. The hyped-up model-drenched utopia promised, worked exceptionally well in driving demand and buzz. Unfortunately, it soon descended into chaos as guests who had paid tens of thousands of dollars to attend, realised the second they arrived that musical acts had dropped out and that the luxury accommodation and gourmet food promised, was at the other end of the scale of expectations.

Even though the example is extreme, the take home is that for brand longevity, you need loyal customers who advocate on your behalf. The best way to achieve this is to continually meet or exceed expectations. When a brand fails in this respect, its reputation and long-term outlook become bleak. Marketing, being one of the primary methods for generating demand or awareness, therefore plays an important role in setting these expectations to align with reality.

Matchmaking the right product to the right customer

Marketing works best when the right product (or service) is targeted to the right customer, and effectively communicates the expected value of the experience. Great marketing works, when these expectations are surpassed, and customers advocate and refer your business throughout their networks.

Part of the role of marketing is therefore, to fully understand the features, benefits and value of a product or service, and be downright frank as to what type of customer that value proposition would be suitable for, rather than creating a pipedream vision of the product, to get a quick sale to a customer who is only going to be disappointed. It would be like dressing up a Hyundai Getz to look like an Aston Martin.

In order to set expectations of a product or service, the true benefit or value, needs to be articulated. If at this point the offer isn’t compelling enough, then the brand has two choices – either evolve the product or service to something more valuable or find an alternative customer segment that values what you provide. Getting real with your product or service not only ensures you are communicating to the right customer; it also avoids brands from burying their heads in the sand.

Delighting your customers

When brands are consistently meeting and exceeding their customers’ expectations, their reputation enhances through word of mouth, whether that’s over the garden fence or through Google Reviews. Equally, when brands consistently fail to deliver, their reputation becomes damaged and hard to salvage.

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a simplistic barometer used in marketing to evaluate the overall likelihood of customers to recommend a brand to their friends, family or colleagues, or in today’s digital world – the online community. Essentially, if customers score 0-6, they are detractors, 7-8 they are passive, and if they score 9-10 then these are promoters. The calculation is then the sum of promoters minus detractors, divided by the number of respondents:

(Number of Promoters — Number of Detractors) / (Number of Respondents) x 100

The NPS is a great tool for finding out quickly if you are meeting the expectations of your customers and depending on the score, will help you identify whether you need to improve the offer to meet expectations, or change the expectations your marketing promises.

For long term health and great return on investment (ROI) for your marketing efforts, it’s important to be delighting customers wherever possible as they will provide you with the greatest marketing asset – word of mouth.

Different customers have different expectations

You can try and sell ice to Eskimos, but it may be easier and more cost effective to sell it to someone more appreciative and in need of a cold blast. Similarly, marketing should target customers who are most likely to buy a product.

Traditionally, it was very difficult to focus on a specific segment or niche audience, but as digital marketing and particularly Google and social media advertising has evolved, it is now possible to target very tight profiles with great accuracy. By doing this, marketers can quickly drill down to customers who are most likely to buy your product, without spinning a yarn.

Therefore, if you cannot change the value or condition of your product or service, for example if it heavily relies on nature; marketing can retune the targeting and the offer to customers who would still value the experience. Alternatively, marketing can revisit the features and benefits to discover new compelling offers that would entice customers to experience the product or service.

Short term vs. long term success

Success is often assessed in short timeframes, with marketing departments or agencies employed to deliver results quickly – as they should. However, to ensure you are not simply papering over the cracks of a long-term issue, we advise brands to include some long term KPIs in their reporting.

The NPS mentioned above is a great simple tool to identify any positive or negative trends on the horizon. For a richer view of the customer and their experience, satisfaction or brand perception surveys can help keep your brand’s finger on the pulse in identifying unmet needs, unforeseen problems or changes in tastes, enabling you to evolve your offer to consistently meet the expectations of your ideal customer.

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