Customer Experience: The Growth of Reverse Marketing

3 minute read
Gerry McGovern avatar

Reverse marketing occurs when the customer becomes the marketer. 

Social media is an example of reverse marketing. Customers are marketing to other customers and to organizations. That’s the big difference between social media and traditional media, where the organization markets and communicates to the customer.

Search is an example of reverse marketing. A typical search is an advertisement. A search for “cheap flights Dublin” asks organizations to respond to my specific request for a good value flight to Dublin. The more clever the organization, the more specific the response.

Reviews are a great example of reverse marketing. The best reviews are authentic. They are by real people writing about things they really care about. In the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer, trust in “a person like me” rose from 43 percent to 65 percent, behind only academics and technical experts.


Trust in a CEO dropped from 50 percent to 38 percent, its biggest drop in the survey's history. Trust in a government official dropped from 43 percent to 29 percent.

This has been happening for a long time. Organizations are increasingly distrusted by customers. That   affects brands.

Some organizations are responding in the worst possible way. They are buying or creating fake customer reviews. New York State regulators recently fined 19 companies for such reviews.

Learning Opportunities

In reverse marketing the marketer needs to behave as if he is the customer of the customer. What is the perfect customer? It's someone who enthusiastically watches ads and reads marketing materials, responds quickly and buys plenty and tells his friends to buy plenty. Above all, he is loyal.

How can a marketer or communicator become the perfect customer? Enthusiastically read up on and understand customers. Watch them as they search, navigate and interact on social media. Think carefully about the messages they send and respond specifically to that message. Respond quickly and spend effort to make sure they are happy.

Who are the worst customers? They totally ignore your ads or blatantly misunderstand and deride them. They tell lies and half-truths about you. They hate you and enthusiastically tell their friends never to buy from you. They publish lots of negative stuff about you and are happy when they see you fail.

When are marketers like the worst customers? When they blatantly ignore their customers. When instead of answering a customer specific questions they try to shove their latest campaigns down their customers' throats. When they tell lies and half-truths about their product. When they publish loads of meaningless marketing babble. When they hate their customers, sneering to their colleagues about how they emotionally tricked them with their latest advertising campaign.

Reverse marketing is about letting go of control. It is about being highly adaptive and responsive. It is about allowing the customer to become the organization, so that the organization becomes the customer. It is about being loyal to the customer. It is about listening. It is about being useful. 

Can you share any examples of companies that do this right -- as well as those who don't?

About the author

Gerry McGovern

Gerry McGovern is the founder and CEO of Customer Carewords. He is widely regarded as the worldwide authority on increasing web satisfaction by managing customer tasks.

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