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What are the top things that consumers value most in a brand? A recent survey by Spong asked customers to name the three things they care about the most. Here's what they said:

  • Overall quality of a product or service (70 percent)
  • Value of a product or service for the money (67 percent)
  • Customer service (41 percent)
  • Organization’s integrity (28 percent)
  • Treatment of employees (14 percent)

How do consumers assess these factors—in other words, where do they get their information about brands? The study had some surprising results. Only 23 percent of respondents rely on advertising, just 15 percent rely on the brand’s own website to find information, and a mere 14 percent rely on editorial/news coverage of brands.

So what sources do consumers trust? A whopping 74 percent say personal experience is the most reliable source for getting information about businesses. Nearly six in 10 (59 percent) use family members, friends or colleagues as a trusted source, while 48 percent believe reviews of products or services are valuable sources of accurate information.

What do these results mean for you? Some of the things consumers value aren’t surprising at all, such as the quality of the product or service, and the value for the  money. You're probably already emphasizing these factors in your marketing materials. Nor should it be surprising that customer service is a key issue for consumers choosing which businesses to patronize.

However, the fact that nearly three in 10 consumers care about a company's integrity and 14 percent consider how it treats employees when making purchasing decisions are somewhat surprising. Think about how your marketing and advertising can emphasize these aspects of your business (if they apply):

  1. Make sure any guarantees are prominently accessible on your website, displayed on your product packaging or included in your service contracts.
  2. Consider creating a mission statement that encompasses your commitment to integrity, and sharing it with customers.
  3. Promote your company culture as a good place to work in your marketing and public relations efforts. For example, you can create an "About Us" page on your website that shares your workplace philosophy, features photos and bios of your employees, and conveys a sense of what it's like to work at your business.
  4. If you receive any awards or commendations for your workplace, such as being listed in a local business publication’s Best Places to Work, be sure to promote the achievement to local media.

What about customers’ reliance on personal experience and word-of-mouth when choosing a business? Does that mean your marketing, advertising and social media outreach have no value? Not at all — but keep in mind that the ultimate goal of all of these marketing efforts is to boost your profile among real people, to get them talking about your business to their friends and families, and to spread the word among potential customers.

In other words, all of your marketing efforts must work together to promote your ultimate goals. By developing a well-rounded marketing plan that takes all these factors into account, you'll achieve what every business owner wants: becoming the talk of the town in a good way.

Your SCORE mentor can help you develop and execute a marketing plan that will work for your business. If you don't have a mentor yet, visit www.score.org to find one.