August 08, 2017

Marketing Chart: The outsize impact of customer-first marketing on word-of-mouth


When we set out to research customer-first marketing, our hypothesis was that a customer-first approach would lead to more satisfied customers and, therefore, more business success.

But when we saw the stark contrast of the numbers, even we were astounded at the yawning gap between how satisfied and unsatisfied customers behave.

Read on to see the differences and grab this week’s chart to use in your own presentations as you make the case for customer-first and word-of-mouth marketing initiatives.

(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.)

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

We split 2,400 customers into two groups. One group of 1,200 was asked about a specific company they were satisfied with, and the other group of 1,200 was asked about a specific company they were unsatisfied with.

As previously reported, one of the top differentiators between satisfied and unsatisfied customers was whether the company practiced customer-first marketing. For example, the most frequent way unsatisfied customers described the marketing of the company they were unsatisfied with was “The company does not put my needs and wants above its own business goals.”

And satisfied customers are more valuable to the business in a host of ways, including that essential understanding of whether your customers are promoters or detractors, as encapsulated in a Net Promoter Score, for instance.

That brings us to the question for this week’s chart. We asked those 2,400 consumers …

Thinking about [company name] how likely are you to do any of the following?

And the below chart shows data for: Recommend company to others. (Please note: percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.)

To see 34 more charts from the study, download the free report.

The power of customer-first marketing

You probably assume that satisfied customers are more likely than unsatisfied customers to recommend your company. That’s just common sense. But would you guess how much more likely they are to recommend? Check out how extreme these numbers are.

There is a 771% greater probability for satisfied customers saying they are very likely to recommend a company to others. On the flip side, there is a 2,100% greater probability that unsatisfied customers say they are very unlikely to recommend the company to others.

So how can you create customer-first marketing to create more satisfied customers that will ultimately recommend your company? This is a topic I’m very passionate about, and I reached out to some experts in the industry to get their thoughts as well.

All good marketing begins with customer understanding

Better serving the customer with customer-first marketing starts with better understanding the customer.

“Organizations need to understand needs and expectations across the entire customer lifecycle. When you get into the belly of many companies, you discover that each function or business unit may be using different tools or platforms to gather customer insights. Yet, few successfully integrate across functions, which is a huge missed opportunity,” said Kathy Baughman, President, ComBlu.

“This data should stimulate organizations to build a ‘customer-first’ culture that strives for cross-functional collaboration and information sharing,” Kathy advised. “This requires process efficiencies, skills alignment, back-end integration of the tech stack, solid governance and well-defined KPIs.”

In addition to data that is represented in bits and bytes, don’t overlook qualitative data as well from increasing customer intimacy on a more personal level.

 “‘Simple.’ ‘Save.’ ‘Faster.’ These are all marketing terms that are used consistently, yet does the ‘average’ marketer spend time meeting with customers, talking to customers or former customers?” said Jeanne Hopkins, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Ipswitch. “If the employees in every tier within a company spent the time understanding WHY the customer buys your brand, it might keep marketers from leveraging trite terms, stale sentences and overzealous optimism in their copy!”

“Customer-first marketing is not just a marketing program or campaign. It is a culture that needs to be embraced by all employees, not just the Customer Success or Client Satisfaction teams,” she said.

Use that understanding to elevate the customer

Of course, data is just the beginning. Typically, data is used to target the customer with customer-centric marketing.

And marketing to customers with more relevant information is certainly effective.

But to get to the next level of effectiveness and create satisfied customers who will (as the chart shows) recommend your company to others — don’t just target the customer, elevate the customer.

Here’s a nice example from Alicia Tillman, CMO, SAP Ariba. “Marketing today is less about trying to control and dictate your own spin on the message — and more about how you influence the customer experience,” Tillman said.

“We, for instance, recently launched an initiative called #MakeProcurementAwesome. It’s not at all about SAP Ariba or our messaging.  It’s about giving our customers a voice and a platform to share stories of how they are working to transform procurement within their organizations and drive purpose-driven change because that is the greatest way customers are influenced today.”

(click to enlarge)

While marketing initiatives aimed at elevating the customer are crucial, think outside of the marketing box as well. You can elevate the customer in creative ways when you think beyond only practices traditionally defined as marketing and increase customer intimacy to help you bring humanity to your interactions with customers.

“The data in this report show how important it is to follow your customers on social media, highlight their successes (as organizations and individuals) via various channels and, in general, simply thank them,” Hopkins advised. “Consider a trade show event. If you know a customer, how are they rewarded for their loyalty? How do you help them to stand out in a sea of prospects as a leader in their field?”

Related resources

Marketing Chart: What consumers think of companies’ marketing

#MakeProcurementAwesome (SAP Ariba’s marketing initiative)

Is Your Company Naughty Or Nice? Consumers Want To Know Before Buying (from the MarketingExperiments archives)

How To Gather Competitive Intelligence: 5 tactics to research your marketplace

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