Tell Marketing: The Customer Experience Begins with Them

October 15, 2012

One of the great challenges of creating a Hero-ClassTM customer experience is that often the first step in the customer experience occurs before your customer ever begins transacting business with you.

Sometimes, this first step is beyond your control, for instance, word of mouth. What someone tells a new customer about you — whether it be positive or negative — is the beginning of that customer’s experience with your brand.

Customer Experience Begins With Marketing | Backpacker

Just as often though, the first experience a potential customer has with your company is through exposure to your marketing. And that step is within your control.

Obviously, marketing has its own objectives — to drive new customers, to establish awareness, etc. Yet, once a marketing strategy is under consideration, an additional layer of analysis is deserved, one that analyzes the way an ad or campaign fits into a holistic view of the customer experience.

While this type of analysis has the potential to lead to an infinite number of causalities and results, three basic questions should help focus the discussion on the most important aspects of viewing marketing through the lens of the customer experience:

  • How does your marketing differentiate your product/service from similar products/services? Customer expectations are not only shaped by your own messages and messages about your company but also by industry norms and competition. Does your marketing provide either confirmation of or differentiation from competitive norms?
  • What expectations are likely to be formed in the customer’s mind through your marketing? Just like your brand (if it is established), your marketing makes a promise to potential customers about what they can expect when they buy your product or service. It might be as simple as the messages delivered by the visuals in your campaigns, or as explicit as a special offer. Either way, expectations are being set, and thus, you have to know…
  • Are you capable of delivering on the expectations that your marketing helps set? Aside from making sure you have the capacity to deliver the product or service to those who have received your marketing, is your marketing setting expectations that your product or service cannot possibly meet? Today’s noisy and competitive marketing landscape inspires ever increasing levels of gimmickry and hyperbole to garner attention. However, over-hyping only gets people in the door once; it does not keep them there. And keeping them there is not that easy when you have over-promised and under-delivered.

Could Considering The Customer Experience Have Changed The Segway Launch?

The 2nd and 3rd questions above might have been useful in the launch of the Segway.

Marketing Begins Customer Experience | Person on Segway

The Segway is perhaps the poster child for an over-hyped product that did not deliver. The expectations created were that the Segway would be a revolution in how people moved from place to place.

The Segway was revolutionary, in that it was different, but it was not a revolution because it caused more problems for individuals (rain, storage, municipal restrictions, etc.) than it solved. The Segway set extremely high expectations as a product that it did not deliver on.

Worse, the Segway was so over-hyped that it set expectations of large changes in the way whole populations would commute. It would deliver benefits to society, not just individuals. Too slow for roadways and too fast for sidewalks, the Segway quickly found itself unable to deliver on any of the macro social benefits that were promised.

Segway is still around — but as a niche product for tourism and security/law enforcement.

(PS. They are really fun to drive if you have the chance.)


Will viewing marketing through the lens of customer experience dramatically change the way you market? Probably not. However, understanding that your marketing has ramifications past getting customers in the door and extending to what they experience once they get in that door can inform a broader discussion of how your marketing has an impact later in the sale.

That understanding can help shape ads and campaigns so that they not only catch attention and inspire action but also create the foundation for a great customer experience that results in positive word of mouth and customer retention. It can help not just make a sale but lay a foundation for long term customer loyalty.

However, if you’re in a large company, good luck selling the marketing department on that.

Have you ever had a customer experience that differed from the expectations set by the organization’s marketing? How can you get marketing departments to consider the impact of programs on the customer experience when none of their success metrics are tied to it?

11 thoughts on “Tell Marketing: The Customer Experience Begins with Them”

  1. We don’t market per se, but we are each our own marketing machine individually as we are out and about. Also, there is a Lanier Upshaw way of doing business and if everybody is doing what they are supposed to be doing, it does make a noticeable difference between some vendor who just wants to quote price.

    Our premise is more about solutions, than value added service; everybody has value added services, right?

    Word of mouth, good or bad can have quite the impact on the measure of success in our world; I prefer the good.

    1. Since you have such a focus on face-to-face sales, the principle is really the same — just more obvious than in the marketing scenario. Whatever you say during a pitch sets the expectations for later in the customer experience, right? I think “the sit” is the first step in your customer experience. Promises made need to be kept later on.

      As for word of mouth… good works! 🙂

  2. What they should have done is equipped each Segway with machine guns and rocket launchers. That would have made them go like hot cakes.

    One of the big challenges businesses face is communication between departments. That is not profound nor particularly insightful but it is important. That communication is what helps/stifles good customer service.

    1. Funny you mention machine guns Josh… I almost used this picture for the post:

      Cross-departmental communication is huge, and I think the other layer is incentives. Even if the silos communicate, the incentives are often narrowly constructed. For instance, in the case at hand, how do you measure whether marketing has set expectations effectively for downstream in the customer experience? It’s a lot easier to measure — “hey, our website traffic spiked 50% after the ad ran.”

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  4. You’re so right! But, what you’re expecting is that the head of customer service and the head of marketing are even going to bridge! That’s not customary, but it should be.

    I presented on Social Customer Service and it’s up to the marketing department to take CS under their wing and train them in all things marketing (at least a decent overview).

    1. Corporate silos — can’t live with ’em, can’t fill ’em with shredding. 🙂

      I definitely think that cross-functional training is a good start to understanding how the pieces fit across departments. The performance incentives are often at cross-purposes, but at least we can start with understanding the role each piece plays in the whole.

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