December 20, 2016

Marketing Charts: The channels your customers are most (and least) likely to disengage with


You spend significant time, money and other resources building opt-in email lists, social media followings, creating compelling prints ads, and investing in other channels.

Where is your investment most at risk? Read on to learn which channels customers are quickest (and slowest) to ignore, skip, discard, unsubscribe from and unfollow.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

Paul Simon famously sang that there are “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” Customers have almost as many ways to disengage with marketing.

We wanted to discover which ways they were most and least likely to leave your marketing, so we conducted research into 11 of the most frequently used channels. In October of this year, we asked 1,200 customers, “Of the companies with which you are generally satisfied, how often do you disengage with their marketing by doing the following?” and then asked another set of 1,200 consumers the same question — but about companies they are unsatisfied with.

(To make reading the charts simpler, we didn’t include the “Doesn’t apply to me” response, but the length of each bar shows the amount of respondents the channel did apply to. Also, since MarketingSherpa’s audience is heavily invested in digital channels, we outlined digital channels in white.)

Here are four lessons I gleaned from these charts…

Lesson #1: The successful marketer focuses on more than just marketing

As you can see from the data, unsatisfied customers were more likely to often or always disengage with every channel we asked about by a significant amount. For example, 33% of satisfied customers never or rarely unsubscribe from email while 13% of unsatisfied customers said the same.

In other words/numbers, a satisfied customer is 154% more likely to stay on your list than an unsatisfied customer.

This means the successful marketer should think big. Yes, following best practices is important. But they are not enough to keep customers subscribed. Use this data to justify marketing having a seat at the table for important business decisions. Don’t just let marketing’s role be to send email campaigns and work with advertising agencies.

Marketing should be the voice of the customer throughout the company, ensuring all business decisions are made with customer satisfaction in mind. If not, your email marketing investments will underperform by 154%, for example.

Lesson #2: Pick your channels based on how well your company is currently serving your customers

As I mention above, your role in marketing should be to help create satisfied customers. And if your organization currently does a good job of satisfying customers, a high commitment channel like email marketing is likely a good investment. Half of unsatisfied customers often or always unsubscribe from email while only three out of 10 satisfied customers do the same.

However, if your company isn’t quite there yet, it might make sense to be practical with your marketing investments (while striving to improve customer satisfaction at the same time). All customers were least likely to unfollow a YouTube channel, with a small gap between satisfied (27% often/always) and unsatisfied (37% often/always). You might shift more of your investment into a low-commitment, trust-building activity like online social media videos to build engagement with customers while you increase trust by improving the product, service and customer experience.

Lessons #3: Some channels are universally disliked

Skipping online pre-rolls ads was one of the top ways customers disengaged overall; there wasn’t much of a difference based on customer satisfaction — 51% of unsatisfied customers skipped this form of online video marketing (third most chosen response) while 43% of satisfied customers did (the most chosen response).

Lesson #4: It’s not just which channels you choose, it’s also what you do with them

Of course, let’s not overlook what content and marketing messages you’re actually sending to customers through these channels.

When I shared the data with Jamie Beckland, Vice President of Product and Marketing at Janrain, he emphasized this point saying, “As MarketingSherpa’s data shows, [consumers] might give a little more rope to brands they trust… However, no company should ever get too complacent.”

Janrain recently surveyed nearly 600 U.S. consumers about interacting with digital properties: “Our recent Customer Identity Trends survey uncovered similar insights into what people expect out of a digital customer experience,” Beckland said.

Jainrain found that 31% are willing to share their information with entities they know and trust, 45% will do so if the brand simply makes it clear what they will do with their information, and 47% will share if their information will only be used by that company.

“In other words, people want to know there will be a concerted effort to deliver them relevant information,” Beckland explained. “If and when they do receive irrelevant messages, punishment is swift and often harsh.”

To his point, Jainrain found that when people receive irrelevant message, 85% will at least unsubscribe from an email list, while 27% will go as far as to stop buying products or services from the company altogether. “This is a major problem when you consider that more than a quarter receive 10 irrelevant messages per day or more,” Beckland said. 

Put your customers’ interests first

There’s a commonality in the discoveries from this data. Whether it’s working within your business to help satisfy customers or making sure you send only relevant information to those customers, putting your customers’ interests first will mean less customers will disengage with your marketing.

Of course, that is easier said than done.

“So if it’s generally agreed upon that customer-first marketing is essential to survival, let alone growth, why do companies struggle with it so much? Marketing benchmarks are difficult for many executives to reset,” Beckland said.

He continued, “It’s difficult to justify sending fewer, more targeted emails, and risk programs not delivering against quarterly targets. Unfortunately, the long-term damage caused by this approach is likely to outweigh any short-term gains. Once you forgo tailoring an experience to the customer, you can expect them to cut off communication, or worse, take their money somewhere else.”

Related resources

Customer Satisfaction Research Study: Data from 2,400 customers reveals how far companies must go to please (and alienate) customers

Marketing Chart: Does customer-centric marketing fall short of satisfying the customer?

Identity Trends Across the Web: 2016 (U.S.) (via Janrain)

Customer-first Marketing: Do you put your customers’ interests first?

MarketingSherpa Summit 2017 in Las Vegas – Learn from inspirational stories of customer-first marketing

Earn a graduate certificate in Communicating Value and Web Conversion from the University of Florida


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