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EXPECTATION SETTING, not customer service, is the New Marketing

· transparency,client success,marketing

Google search “Customer Service is the New Marketing” - and your screen will fill up with articles by that title.

I am not buyin’ it!

I, instead, believe more that “Expectation Setting is the New Marketing”.

Have you ever been to The Weiner Circle in Chicago? By day it’s a regular hot dog stand in the Lincoln Park neighborhood north of downtown Chicago. As the evening progresses, the employees become rude, hurling insults at customers, often with vulgarities that will leave you shaking. On purpose. It’s part of their schtick.

Since the Weiner Circle started this approach to customer service, sales and revenues have gone up more than 200%.

Ok, maybe you don’t know that one, but I’m guessing you’ve been to an IKEA, right? Confusing floorplans. No sales help inside the store. Once you find what you want, you have to write down the location the boxes are located in the warehouse or take a picture of it with your phone, because you’re going down into the warehouse yourself to find it, lug it onto a cart, somehow roll it into the parking lot, then Tetris-style jam it into your car. Oh, you thought you left the fun at the store? No, no...once home you open the box, and the real fun begins. 150+ parts and no words on the instructions.

For the 9th straight year, IKEA is the world’s largest furniture retailer.

Fly Southwest Airlines, where there are no frills or preferred seating, you can’t buy tickets anywhere but on their website, they don’t even fly through Chicago’s O’Hare Airport (my home airport), but it’s one of the most valuable airline brands in the world.

Expectation setting is the new marketing.

The most valuable companies in their space are embracing what they’re not good at and are making it part of their brand. Walking into the Weiner Circle in Chicago, you know what’s about to happen - which is why droves seek it out after a night at the bars. IKEA sacrifices the experience so they can provide modern, Scandinavian designed furniture at a low cost.

What are you giving up so you can be the best at your core? What do your customers really care about, and what are they willing to give up from you?

In a recent TrustRadius report, the number one thing buyers identified that vendors could do to make the purchase process easier is to “Be more transparent about product capabilities and limitations.” In that same report, 71% of buyers thought it was “very important” to understand the cons before buying.

And the dagger? Only 1 in 5 buyers said the vendor they bought from was very influential in helping them choose the product over alternatives - scoring things like case studies and even analyst reports near the bottom of useful content.

It’s how we’re wired as human beings - we consciously and subconsciously seek to paint for ourselves a prediction of what our experience is going to be like using a product or service. It’s why we all read reviews today, 82% of us seek out the negative reviews first, and the optimal average review score of a product for sales conversion is a 4.2-4.5.

And why don’t I believe Customer Service is the new marketing?

Have you ever had to call the fire department? I’ll bet that when you recall that day, you’re not remembering their incredible customer service. You’re probably remembering that you had a fire.

Think of the last time you had to speak with an agent at the airport. No matter how nice and helpful the agent was, when you told the story to others that day, you probably talked more about the problem you had.

One of the main criteria for the brain’s subconscious purchase decision making is a desire for autonomy. Our brain’s preference is control - of the purchase process, the implementation, and even the resolution to problems. Every time we require assistance from others, our perception of the brand either goes down or stays the same. Rarely does it go up.

When sales and marketing align to create messaging which embrace shortcomings, set proper expectations for prospects and customers, and drive it into your brand promise, everyone wins. Sales cycles shrink and win rates go up because you’ll only be working with prospects and customers who understand that brand promise up-front.

You and your products are "flawsome" (as Tyra Banks calls it) - know that your products are flawed but still awesome and embrace it in your messaging and branding.

(If you're looking for a laugh, here's a Conan O'Brien segment capturing a visit to Chicago's Weiner Circle back in 2012. Although the profanities are bleeped out, it's pretty vulgar, so be forewarned!)

As always, please feel free to reach out if you are looking for a speaker or workshop for your organization in 2020, or just want to nerd out on some of this stuff. Email to, or you can just reach out or follow me on LinkedIn or Twitter, too.

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