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Marketers Are From Mars: Their Digital Behaviors Differ From Consumers'

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Marketers are not typical consumers: They're more likely than other online consumers to explore new digital environments, own a smartphone, and use various digital media frequently. Consequently, marketers can lose touch with the people they're trying to reach, according to a study by ExactTarget.

Below, additional findings from ExactTarget's new "Subscribers, Fans, and Followers" study titled "Marketers From Mars," which polled online consumers and marketers about their use of digital media.

Basic Online Behaviors

In its report, ExactTarget defines three segments of digital users in the US:

  1. Subscribers: Online consumers who receive at least one permission-based email a day.
  2. Fans: Online consumers with an active Facebook account who have become a fan (i.e., "liked") at least one company or brand on Facebook.
  3. Followers: Online consumers with an active Twitter profile who "follow" at least one company or brand on Twitter.

Marketers are over-represented in all three digital user segments. However, that finding is most pronounced in the Followers segment, where marketers are overrepresented by a 5:1 ratio:

  • Subscribers: 98% of marketers are email subscribers, compared with 93% of online consumers.
  • Fans: 86% of marketers are Facebook fans, compared with 58% of online consumers.
  • Followers: 61% of marketers are Twitter Followers, compared with 12% of online consumers.

Similarly, 90% of marketers own a smartphone, compared with only 51% of online consumers.

Not surprisingly, those 51% of smartphone-owning consumers tend to behave more like marketers than consumers without smartphones. They are more likely than consumers without smartphones to use technologies such as email, mobile apps, and social media. Also, smartphone-owning consumers tend to share more content and purchase more products online than consumers who don't own smartphones.

Digital Behaviors by Channel

Marketers differ from consumers in the way they use key digital channels: Email, Facebook, and Twitter.


  • 45% of marketers prefer to interact with brands via email, compared with 36% of online consumers with a smartphone, and 49% of online consumers who do not own a smartphone.
  • 93% of marketers have made a purchase as a direct result of an email marketing message, compared with 49% of online consumers.
  • Marketers (34%) are less likely than online consumers (46%) to check email at the end of the day.


  • 21% of marketers prefer to interact with brands via Facebook, compared with 31% of online consumers with a smartphone and 26% of online consumers who do not own a smartphone.
  • 41% of marketers report having made a purchase as the result of a message they saw on the site, compared with 21% of online consumers.
  • Facebook is the preferred means of sharing with family and friends for 59% of marketers, vs. 34% of online consumers.


  • Among those using Twitter, 58% of marketers follow brands to receive advanced notice about new products, compared with 46% of Twitter-using consumers who do so.
  • 25% of marketers reporting making a purchase as a result of a message via Twitter, compared with 9% of online consumers.

Interacting With Brands Online

Online consumers with a smartphone rely on Facebook (31%) nearly as much as email (36%) for interacting with brands they trust, whereas consumers without a smartphone are far more likely to rely on email (49%) than Facebook (26%) for brand communications:

Factors That Influence Purchasing Decisions

Among both consumers with a smartphone and marketers, email still has the greatest influence on purchasing decisions (93% and 56%, respectively), whereas among consumers without smartphones, direct-mail messages (44%) are most influential in the purchasing process. Even so, email is the second-most influential channel among that segment (42%).

Deal sites and direct mail also tend to sway marketers (74% and 81%, respectively) and consumers with smartphones (44% and 51%, respectively) when making purchasing decisions.

Daily Use of Social Channels

Regarding daily social media use, some interesting trends and differences emerge between marketers and consumers.

Marketers surpass consumers in their daily use of email, texting, Facebook, and Twitter. in addition, consumers who own a smartphone are more likely than those without a smartphone to use Facebook (66% vs. 50%) and Twitter (31% vs. 10%) on a daily basis.

Interestingly, consumers with smartphones are using emerging platforms such as Pinterest, Instagram, and Foursquare at higher rates than marketers.

Marketing Spend

Marketers have strong opinions about where their time and resources should be invested, and consumers do, too.

Not surprisingly, marketers tend to place a higher emphasis on emerging channels than consumers:

  • Value of an app: 23% of marketers say they perceive value in smartphone apps for building customer loyalty, compared with 7% of online consumers who say the same.
  • Email: 33% of consumers say companies should invest more marketing dollars in email, compared with 26% of marketers who say the same.
  • Twitter: 5% of consumers say companies should invest more marketing dollars in Twitter, compared with 12% of marketers who say the same.

Consumers express little interest in general content, whether about products (14%) or related topics (6%); they're more enthusiastic about Facebook content (22%) and brand websites (24%).

Marketers and consumers do see eye-to-eye in several areas:

  • Digital morning habits: Both marketers (76%) and consumers (69%) favor email as their first online "check" of the day.
  • Appreciating a good deal: Both marketers (74%) and consumers (73%) subscribe to receive email coupons and discounts.
  • Digital socializing: Both marketers (81%) and consumers (66%) use Facebook to stay on top of their social lives.

About the data: Findings are based on a survey of 1,201 consumers and 411 marketers conducted in September 2012. Consumer responses were weighted by age and gender according to the 2010 US Census Bureau population estimates and Pew Internet Project's online activity data to reflect the online US consumer population. Marketer responses were not weighted. Among the marketers, 62 respondents were recruited via Twitter, and 349 respondents were recruited from marketing-specific email lists.

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Lenna Garibian is a MarketingProfs research writer and a marketing consultant in the tech industry, where she develops engaging content that builds thought leadership and revenue opportunities for clients. She's held marketing and research positions at eRPortal Software, GAP Inc., Stanford University, and the IMF. Reach Lenna via Twitter @LennaAnahid and LinkedIn.

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  • by Kathryn Mon Jan 21, 2013 via web

    I downloaded this whitepaper from ExactTarget last week; it has a cheeky, well-executed design and great info--as verified by this post.

    I'm glad to see some of that info shared here through MarketingProfs for those of us who can't afford the name/email/company info cost... and for the sake of clarification, that isn't sarcasm, I really sympathize with those of us who don't want to give out our info.

    For those of you that are comfy with it, I highly recommend it; ExactTarget has released one of the most attractive whitepapers I've ever seen and its a pleasure to read.

  • by Steve Judge Mon Jan 21, 2013 via web

    This is very interesting, however even more interesting is that the consumers outweigh the marketeers 3 to 1 and that most the marketeers were recruited using digital marketing methods 'from lists'. So perhaps their responses are biased as they are those who would respond to such a survey hoping for insights they can use and this has influenced the findings.

  • by Doug Adamson Wed Jan 23, 2013 via web

    Interesting survey. I have just left a meeting where I was discussing a social media strategy aimed at 65+ age group UK consumers living in remote rural areas. This group will not know an Ap from a pension book, Face Book and Twitter sound like cosmetic brands for teenagers and a smart phone is a telephone that is not bakelite black. Whatever target group you are aiming at the old adage of 'communicating in the language and medium of the listener' holds true. The one section of the population that is growing faster than any other is the 'grey' market. Wake up marketers: this sector is latched on to email, Skype and some to Face Book but they are notoriously private and still prefer (requested) bits of paper through the door. Direct mail is still alive and well if expensive; ignore tried and trusted 'traditional' media channels at your peril. The excitement of new media is not greeted with the same enthusiasm by all your audiences. Well not yet!

  • by Jerry Eisen Thu Jan 24, 2013 via web

    This article is indeed a nice reality check for marketers, but a tad misleading if you don't immediately understand what the data is showing. A reality check for this article would be a graphic showing the total number of people in each group identified: Marketers, Consumers w/Smartphones and Consumers w/o Smartphones. I believe we'll find that the latter two categories dwarf the prior. (Anxiously awaiting one of my clients forwarding this to me asking why we're marketing to marketers!)

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