Make Sure Your Customers Encounter What Your Marketing Message Promises

By, Karen Carrea, TrizCom PR

This post originally appeared on

Everyone loves a good vacation – a great hotel, delicious restaurants and fun sites to see.

You research, read reviews, peruse the websites and sit down to book the perfect getaway. Only when the time comes, you encounter surly staff, a room in great need of an update and restaurants much pricier than expected.

Bad experiences are especially bad when the expectation was for fabulous!

As consumers, we run into these issues every day – restaurants, car dealers, rental cars, stores. The old bait and switch. The great reviews posted by the business itself. The service not nearly as helpful as was promised in the ad and Facebook post.

One of the fastest ways to lose faith with your customers is to overpromise and under deliver. As a consumer, we know this. As a business, it’s too hard to fix the problems on the inside, and too easy to bill yourself as something you’re not.

This is called message misalignment, and it means not only do you have to work harder to find a new customer to replace the one you just turned away, you have to work extra hard to recover from all the lost customers the angry one repeats his story to.

The problem by the numbers

Just how hard do you have to work to recover from message misalignment? HelpScoutoffers some telling stats:

  • It is 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one.
  • The probability of selling to a new prospect: 5-20 percent; the probability of selling to an existing customer: 60-70 percent.
  • It takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one resolved negative experience.
  • A typical business hears from 4 percent of its dissatisfied customers – which means there are 96 percent out there you don’t know about but who are likely talking badly about you. And news of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many ears as praise for a good service experience.

The takeaway: You’ll expend a lot more money, energy and effort to hook a new customer than you’ll spend keeping a loyal one. In fact, customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase. So why would you want to send them away?

The solution

If you recognize yourself as the company that overpromises and under delivers, here are some immediate first steps you can take toward message realignment:

    1. Define who you are. Work with your team, including marketing, to decide what words describe the kind of company you want to be. Then live up to them. Only use those words you can credibly claim in your public relations, social media and customer service endeavors.

      2. Identify problems on the inside. Now you need to fix the tougher issues that you want to claim but can’t quite live up to. Are you getting feedback that employees are rude? Invest in surveys and training to figure out the problem and work on it. Are your prices clear? Make sure you are transparent with customers about what they can expect to pay.

        3. Integrate your marketing messages. That is, make sure the overall message is consistent across all of your communication channels – including social media. You want your audience to hear the same message with the same tone no matter how they’re getting the information. The message will look different depending on what channel you’re using – print ads are going to look different than a direct mail piece which will be different from an Instagram post which will look different from a Tweet or Facebook post. Same message, just different configurations.

          4. Engage your audience with social media. Direct marketing and advertising are important marketing components, but only go in one direction. Social media has the potential benefit of two-way communication. In fact, Twitter holds extraordinary promise to find new customers by searching for Tweets related to your business and @replying directly with a comment or discount.

            5. Watch for reviews – good and bad. You want to thank and reward customers who have good things to say, and you want to take an opportunity for service recovery if someone is unhappy. HelpScout says more than 50 percent of customers will try a new brand or company for a better experience. That’s good news! A great example comes from lululemon’s product site. They get a gold star for responding to negative comments with an apology for the customer’s frustration and an appeal to take the conversation offline to work toward a solution.

            That shows a great effort to make customers happy.