Marketing Expectations

Marketing sets expectations, creating a gap between customer desire and results

Your customers expect what you tell them to expect, and what you don’t tell them to.

Outbound marketing is largely about setting customer expectations, which we do through branding, messaging, feeds-and-speeds lists, pricing and so much more. After encountering a product, customers have gut-level sets of expectations. Drive past a posh French restaurant and a dirty taco truck, and you have two completely different expectations concerning your culinary experience.

Marketing sets expectations, creating a gap between customer desire and resultsWhere bad and good buzz begins is when you set one expectation and deliver another. Set expectations low and deliver high, then people sing your praises everywhere. Invert the expectations and results and you likewise invert a customer’s public reaction.

Marketing is responsible for defining those expectations, and presenting most of them (every employee who interacts with customers is also responsible, and great CEOs make sure they all set the right expectations). Marketing defines the brand – a primary expectation-setting tool – as well as creating content such as functional specification data sheets, brochures, web content and more. Somewhere in this mix, expectations about reliability and commitment to service are also created and propagated.

How marketing describes things sets customer expectations. Words, images, colors, videos – all are used to guide customer thinking and emotions. Many marketers are tempted to present themselves as larger, better and more complete than they really are, which closes deals but ultimately disappoints customers. Yet setting expectations too low may drive away some new customers. Many a company has known this before creating inflated brands and lofty messages, striving for short-term revenues (often in the hope of obtaining enough cash to create the product they inappropriately describe). They risk bad buzz for the sake of a cash sprint.

It rarely ends well.

Other companies, showing a bit of false modesty, are playing the long game – they want a mob of happy customers who gladly recommend their products to everyone. This requires a bit of belt tightening in the early years, but pays off like compound interest over time.

Interestingly, what you do not communicate to customers also sets their expectations. Omit something from your datasheet, and a customer will often assume you cannot deliver. Downplay an important aspect of a product, and customers may well believe you don’t have a product in the category in which they are searching. Fail to mention customer service and they may assume your don’t provide it. Be as careful about what you don’t say as what you do.

Marketers need to know the level of expectation they are setting, and more importantly what the company is delivering. Even the smallest of companies should invest in ongoing customer satisfaction surveying to see gaps between expectations and results.


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