Marketing Leaders, What Do You Prioritize? The Customer or Your Products?
The IKEA Effect. No, it’s not the disorientation one gets from being lost in a one-way maze of Klämmemacka desk organizers and Haugsvär hybrid mattresses.
The IKEA Effect is the name that behavioral economics researcher Dan Ariely and his colleagues gave to the cognitive bias customers experience when they help create a product. For example, just by assembling IKEA furniture, people tend to place a disproportionate value on what they built. The subtitle of their working paper says it all — when labor leads to love.
If customers have that bias just from assembling a Kvartal track system or Bestå TV Wall Unit, how much bigger is the marketing leader’s cognitive bias for our products? And what is hidden in our marketing blind spot?
Every time we overvalue our own creations at the customer’s expense, our marketing will underperform.
This is a topic we explored in the “MarketingSherpa Customer Satisfaction Research Study,” when we surveyed a representative sample of 2,400 U.S. consumers.
Customer-first marketing — the highest of the five levels of marketing maturity — was a key differentiator between satisfied and unsatisfied customers. In fact, the top response from unsatisfied customers about the company’s marketing was “The company does not put my needs and wants above its own business goals.”
Now obviously it’s better to have satisfied customers than unsatisfied customers. But we actually benchmarked how big of an impact it makes. When we asked if they would continue purchasing products and services from the company, 66% of satisfied customers said they were very likely to, while only 8% of unsatisfied customers said the same — a whopping 713% difference.
Customers Care About Themselves, Not About Your Company
There are many overarching, strategic approaches you can take to ensure your marketing department and agencies are taking a customer-first marketing approach, like aligning the entire team around the unifying vision of a project or ensuring your agencies, vendors, and consultants understand your product’s value proposition.
But here’s a simple one — start with the customer and put your products and brands in the backseat.
- How many first-person pronouns (we, us, our, etc.) are in your advertising and marketing copy vs. second-person pronouns (you, your, etc.)?
- In your content marketing, how much of your content is focused on selling your product vs. helping your customer? For example, I’ve heard many webinars, presentations, and podcasts that ramble on and on about the company and speaker before explaining what’s in it for the customer.
- Is what you give the customer and what you expect from the customer relatively in balance? Or even better, skewed in the customer’s favor? For example, I got this email from a company recently — “Thank you for contacting us. Unfortunately, you replied to an email address that cannot accept incoming messages.” Sending “no reply” emails is a way to telegraph to the customer you don’t care about them — you expect them to read your brand’s emails, but you won’t read the customers’ emails to your company.
- Do your prioritize customer benefits or brand language?
As to that last point, here’s an example I recently experienced. I think it also shows how big of a challenge overcoming your blind spots and biases is.
We recently went to Royal Bank of Canada to conduct value proposition training. To prepare, I pulled some home pages of the bank’s competitors. On one slide, I had put red boxes around all of the different levels of value proposition on a home page. And still I didn’t see it. Even when I physically put a red box around a specific product-level value proposition on the home page, I didn’t notice how company-centric the copy was.
Here’s what it took to jostle my brain awake. I was sitting in the audience while Flint McGlaughlin was teaching, and that slide came up on a giant screen with him pointing it out to the audience of marketers, developers, designers, product managers, and data scientists. And then I realized the massive cognitive bias of the marketers who built this home page.
I’m going to anonymize the actual product name, because I don’t want to pick on any individual marketer or company. In fairness, this is a fairly common bias. The homepage element said:
[Company name] [Product Name] Visa Infinite Card
Get 10% cash back on all purchases. Plus, your first-year annual fee is waived.
Don’t Bury the Lede
As journalists say, don’t bury the lede. In other words, start with the most interesting or newsworthy information.
The marketer might have unintentionally cared most about the product’s name. It makes sense. They probably have a big focus on that product, spending time on naming and brand standards and the like. So they chose to make that the bigger font, bolded headline that came first in that homepage element.
But the customers? They could care less.
Flip the Focus
So what if, instead, the marketer had flipped the focus? My guess is the below headline and body copy would perform better.
Get 10% Back on All Purchases
Plus, you first-year annual fee is waived when you apply for a [Company name] [Product Name] Visa Infinite Card today.
Marketing Is Other People
To be a successful marketer, you can’t be that person at the dinner party that endlessly talks about yourself. Your fabooolous trip to Florida! Your brilliant pre-toddler who is already processing at a post-toddler level and likely headed to Harvard.
Be aware of your biases and your blind spots. Then work to overcome them. Lean into the customer. Discover what they want. And put your focus there.
To help you focus on the customer, here’s a free tool (just fil out a quick form): “Introductory Guide to Developing Your Customer Theory [an interactive worksheet].”
Related story: Discovering Your Customers’ Unmet Needs: A Hanukkah Story
Daniel Burstein is the Senior Director, Content and Marketing at MECLABS Institute. Daniel oversees all content and marketing coming from the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa brands while helping to shape the marketing direction for MECLABS — digging for actionable discoveries while serving as an advocate for the audience.