Brighter Messaging
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Marketing Misalignment: When the message doesn’t match the experience

Many of us will remember the 2017 incident of a passenger being forcibly removed (and injured in the process) from an overbooked United Airlines flight. The airline’s initial response was to blame the passenger, which contradicted its marketing message of putting customers first. The clips went viral, and United faced a public relations nightmare, lost customers, and suffered long-term reputation damage.

Yikes. Talk about a marketing misalignment. As a marketer, you put a lot of time, energy, and resources into crafting marketing messages that reflect your brand and appeal to your target audience. You want to create a brand identity that stands out from the competition, but what happens when your marketing messages don’t align with the actual experiences of your customers and employees?

Today’s consumers are web-savvy, mobile-enabled, and powerful, ready to call out any company that contradicts its own marketing messages. They can easily share their experiences with others through social media and online reviews. The same applies to employees; they too feel increasingly empowered to speak up when they notice a disconnect between what they experience day-to-day vs the content proudly displayed in glossy marketing materials.

In marketing, trust is currency, and failure to live up to promises is one of the quickest ways to erode it. At the virtual Gartner Marketing Symposium/Xpo® 2020, Carlos Guerrero, Senior Director, Advisory, Gartner, said: “The brand trust bar is higher than it’s ever been. Our research shows that 74% of customers expect more from brands—not just around product performance or durability, but in how brands treat their customers, employees, and the environment.” When your marketing messages promise one thing, but your customers and employees experience another, it creates a sense of distrust. Your marketing messaging needs to align with the actual brand experience in order to build (and maintain) trust with your target audience, strengthen your brand reputation, and increase sales and customer loyalty.

You may also be interested in: 8 Hard Truths About Running a Small Business

How does marketing misalignment happen?

Sure, there are seedy businesses out there that set out to deceive customers with overhyped marketing (Ponzi schemes, anybody?). Most reputable companies, however, don’t intend for there to be a mismatch. Here are some of the circumstances that create growing gaps between public image and internal experiences:

  • Working in silos leads to a lack of communication between marketing and the rest of the team.
  • In an attempt to stand out from the competition, businesses may overpromise in their marketing messages, leading to unrealistic expectations from customers and employees.
  • When employees aren’t properly trained, engaged, and compensated, they may not deliver the level of service promised in marketing messages.
  • Misalignment with company culture can create a sense of distrust and confusion among customers and employees.

As you can see, marketing misalignment issues go beyond the marketing department—but that’s a huge (and by no means easy) part of successful marketing.

How do you create marketing messages that truly align with your customer and employee experiences?

It’s rare that marketing misalignment can be solved by the marketing team alone. Here are some ways to dig into the business and highlight all the areas that need to be straightened out.

Conduct a customer journey analysis

Take a step back and examine the entire customer experience journey from start to finish. Identify areas where the customer experience may not align with your marketing messages and make changes accordingly.

Conduct employee experience (EX) mapping

EX mapping brings together insights from various stages of your business and employee lifecycle. It includes the analysis of formal feedback received from employee surveys, as well as qualitative insights gathered from employee workshops and management interviews. The

insights you gain can help you accurately shape your value proposition and messaging.

Align your messaging with your values

Make sure that your marketing messages are rooted in your company’s core values. And if you find that the customer journey doesn’t reflect these core values, your business has some homework to do!

Involve employees in the process

Consult those who are on the front lines of customer experience when crafting marketing messages to ensure you accurately reflect the customer’s journey, pain points, and desired outcomes.

Be transparent

If your business is experiencing issues that affect the customer or employee experience, be honest and transparent about it. Being real with your people can go a long way in rebuilding trust.

Continuously monitor and adjust

Marketing misalignment is not an issue that can be fixed overnight. It’s up to you to continuously monitor customer and employee experiences and adjust your marketing messages as required.

Hit the books

There are loads of great business books out there that can help you transform your internal teams and processes. Here are two favorites that have influenced my thinking and business:

  • Traction by Gino Wickman: The meat of this book is about creating an entrepreneurial operating system that transforms your entire business. The early chapters cover a lot of relevant topics that will help to focus your value proposition and overall marketing efforts.
  • Unmarketing by Scott Stratton: Scott’s mantra is, “Stop marketing. Start engaging.” In practice, that means that marketing is part of the job description of every single person in the company; the outcome is an engaged audience that is thrilled with your products and services.

Need help crafting marketing messages that resonate with customers and employees?

Without effective and aligned communication and marketing, small businesses struggle to build and maintain relationships that promote their long-term sustainability. But with a good marketing strategy, you’ll be well-positioned to deliver powerful marketing messages at the right place, at the right time, and to the right people. Get in touch with the Brighter Messaging team to see how we can help.

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