February 07, 2017

Marketing Chart: What consumers think of companies’ marketing


Marketing is used to shape perception. But what is the perception of marketing itself? And more specifically, how many companies have marketing that is perceived in a positive light? Read on to see what 2,400 consumers told us about companies’ marketing.

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

In October 2016, we asked 2,400 U.S. consumers: Of the companies you interact with, how many put your needs before their own interests in marketing?

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To see 27 more charts from the study, download the free report.

A huge opportunity for marketers

As we’ve shared previously in the MarketingSherpa Chart of the Week newsletter, the top reason customers are unsatisfied with a company’s marketing is because the company is not practicing customer-first marketing.

Which is why today’s chart is so powerful. When we asked how many companies put these customers’ needs before the company’s own interests in its marketing, only 7% of customers said that almost all companies did and 16% of them said that many companies did.

In other words, 77% of American consumers think that many companies do not practice customer-first marketing. So if you do practice customer-first marketing, you will stand out from the crowd and have a significant competitive advantage.

“It’s not surprising that so many customers think companies don’t practice ‘customer-first marketing,’” said Kristin Zhivago, President, Cloud Potential.

“As marketers, while we endeavor to master the latest ‘tactics,’ we have abandoned basic principles. Tactics win battles, but principles win the war. One of the most important principles is that the customer comes first. With the ability to interview customers and the reams of data provided by online tools about customer desires and behavior, marketers can no longer claim that it’s too difficult to know what their customers are thinking.”

Zhivago credited automation with one example of how some companies are not following customer-first principles. “How many companies answer their phones with a helpful human being rather than you-jump-through-our-hoops voicemail? How many companies provide an email address rather than an anonymous web form on their site?,” Zhivago asked.

Customers certainly think customer-first marketing is possible

As we’ve publicized the study, most of the feedback has been positive. However, there has been some skepticism and an idea that this approach is impossible. For example, I chose a skeptic as a source for the first Chart of the Week article about this customer-first marketing study (in which you can also see a full definition of the term) to provide a counterpoint to the idea of customer-first marketing. “The term ‘customer-first’ is a bit misleading as it implies that the company puts its customers’ needs above its own. This isn’t what companies do — or should do,” he said.

However, according to this week’s data, only 8% of customers said none of the companies they do business with practice customer-first marketing. Which means that 92% of customers think that at least a few of the companies they conduct business with do, in fact, practice customer-first marketing.

And customers are likely to act on this positive perception as well. As mentioned, customer-first marketing is more likely to produce satisfied customers. And, as expected, satisfied customers are much more likely to recommend a company to others — 61% of satisfied customers said they are very likely to give a recommendation.

Zhivago provided an example. “One woman told her friends on Facebook that she had been subscribing to Chewy’s dog food shipments. Her dog died, and she got another shipment of dog food shortly afterwards. She told the company. Not only did they tell her they would refund her latest purchase, but told her not to send back the food. Instead, they recommended that she donate it to an animal shelter. And, shortly after that, she received a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Chewy is a shining example of ‘putting the customer’s needs before [its] own interests in [its] marketing,’” Zhivago said.

(And look, Kristin and I just gave them some more positive word-of-mouth marketing.)

So, follow this customer’s advice, who responded to the survey by saying, “Companies: put the interests of clients above yours. The customer is always right.”

Related resources

Learn a customer-first methodology in the Communicating Value and Web Conversion graduate certificate program from the University of Florida and MECLABS Institute (parent research organization of MarketingSherpa)

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

Make Your Customer the Hero: How HCSS saw a 54% increase in annualized revenue without mentioning the product

Customer-First Marketing: How a lawn care service startup increased overall growth 10% by bringing customers into the development process

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