«return to Tip of the Month Listing‘Strangers with Experience’ Trump Your Own Marketing


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When making buying decisions, who do you trust?

Think back to the last time you tried a new restaurant or watched a movie. How did you choose where to eat or what to see? You probably saw newspaper advertisements, and maybe even interviews with stars of the show. But chances are, you really picked the place or the movie on the recommendation of a friend, family member, or coworker. If not one of those, then it was likely due to a good review in the newspaper or online from people you trust as authorities on cuisine or cinema.

And what about your latest electronics or vehicle purchase? Maybe you talked with others who have brands and models you’re considering, consulted Consumer Reports for ratings, or checked online sites with customer reviews. Likewise, you probably wouldn’t select a realtor, babysitter, financial advisor, or any other important service provider without some sort of positive third-party endorsement.

In fact, information put out by actual companies ranks low on the list of trusted sources as buyers make decisions. The business itself is good for details such as specifications, how something works, or pricing. But most of us don’t truly believe the benefits espoused by companies–unless they are verified by other trusted sources. Just about everyone else is more credible than the business itself.

On a scale of 1-10, “Strangers with experience” receives a 7.9 in a survey of trusted sources of information, while a company’s own advertising receives a 2.2.

The survey above right, by Bridge Ratings and the University of Massachusetts, published on eMarketer.com, breaks down trusted sources of information.

As expected, someone you know personally tops the list, with “strangers with experience” a close second, and the media falling in behind. Comparatively, advertising (vendor-produced promotional materials) scored a 2.2 on a scale of 1 to 10.

Vendor communications have their place in creating awareness, but clearly must be backed up by other sources to get buyers to make a purchase. Customer success stories perfectly fill the “strangers with experience” category, providing the third-party validation that buyers, donors, or others need to make a decision about products, services, or an organization.