Rule 2 of All Marketing?

I think — I hope — we’re agreed about the First Rule of Marketing, but what comes next?

There are lots of candidates for the First Rule of Marketing from different writers, but for me there are no rivals for the following:

“Your customers and prospects are not interested you or your company. They are not even interested in your product. They are only interested in solving their current particular problem as they perceive it, or generally in meeting their own perceived needs towards their own felt desires.”

I first heard this idea (in more pithy but perhaps less accurate terms) as the first rule of marketing copy writing, but for me it goes way beyond that, extending to a whole marketing philosophy.

In part, this First Rule contains within it the fundamental principles you learn as a marketer to talk and write about benefits not features, and to talk to the client instead of talking about yourself. But the above statement of the rule expresses the wider, general law, that the correct mindset as a marketer is to reverse your instinctive self-centred perspective and enter a whole other mindset of building your marketing on understanding your customers’ viewpoint. From this orientation, benefits not features, client-focused copy, and a host of other good practices naturally flow.

When internalized well into organizations, the First Rule starts to influence not only marketing strategy and sales tactics, but also service provision and the design of the products themselves. If you get good at seeing your company and proposition from the point of view of customer’s self-felt needs, inevitably you will start changing that company and proposition to fit better.

Only yesterday I read a tweet succinctly stating our experience when you have the default “we us our” marketing orientation and this customer-focused adaptation never happens: “I wish companies would stop solving problems we don’t have, and fix the ones that piss us off every single day” [Alex Morris ‏@aexmo]

And today a lot of people seem to agree that the Samsung smart watch is: “a product for its own sake. It hasn’t been imagined from a customer perspective, but rather conjured up purely from commercial intent.” [Simon Dingle https://medium.com/p/41c3b4796432]

I think the gist of the First Rule is well established, and I would challenge anyone to come up with a better candidate that is more truly useful at so many levels of real-life, practical marketing work as well as in strategy and theory.

What comes next, in order of universal usefulness and psychological impact?

I’ve now decided what I think should be Rule 2 of Marketing. It is along the same lines of understanding the customer’s viewpoint, and goes as follows:

Rule 2:
“Your customers and prospects are not interested in other customers or what you are doing for those other customers.”

This is obviously derived from rule no.1, that customers are solely interested in solutions for their own problems and desires. The extended idea here is that, when capturing prospect attention, winning a sale, and keeping a customer happy, you keep wholly focused on their own point of view, and you absolutely don’t emphasise that you have appeared to understand them based on your other sales to other people.

Rule 2 is best understood by looking for the all-too-extremely-common evidence of businesses which break the rule. Some general hints:

  • The commercials talk about how famous and popular the brand is, but it might be unclear what the product even is.
  • The service provider can fit you in some time next month, but you’ve got to understand they’re so busy with other clients, and blah blah about everyone else.
  • A whole product line and new image is being launched to dominate the shop and it’s because the strategy says the company has to attract more of X trendy demographic. Shoppers from every single other demographic stares blankly and moves on.
  • The website updated their template and moved around or hid a lot of previous functions and links. But it’s OK, they tell you in their press release on their blog, because the focus group data indicates that 69% of people either loved the new look or were neutral.
  • You order your coffee, but the attendant doesn’t finish taking the money and giving you the change, let alone making your coffee, because they suddenly start serving a different customer;
  • “Your call is important to us. We currently have 10 other people in the queue ahead of you. Please hold. By the way, because we care so much about customer satisfaction, press one if you agree to taking a short survey about your experience today.”

The above are common and obvious examples from our consumer life of poor marketing, poor sales, or poor customer service. What they have in common is that your experience is not presented and executed as a unique transaction between yourself as a person, and the solution provided by the company and product… but rather is getting more and more cluttered by irrelevant stuff in the middle, especially other customers.

In a hotel you really, really don’t want any evidence of other people ever having stayed in that room. It’s a fiction, but this is how it works. Rule 2 says it should be like that whenever you are buying something. The rule states all marketing — and customer-oriented delivery of what you promised — should be done respecting this concept of not mixing in the existence of other customers.

Companies violating the First Rule of marketing just get nonplussed reactions, or a lack of customers at all, because they are pushing something they want to sell rather than something people want. Where ‘uninterest’ is the emotion in that case, when companies are violating Rule 2, the feeling you get as the customer is a kind of sarcastic inner voice saying “ah… I see… so, I was trying to hand over good money, now I see The Customer Is Always Wrong, is that it?”

I have to say, that feeling is the standard sense I get from most small businesses, which have little or no marketing or service concept to begin with, and also commonly in the bigger / chain / brand businesses where you occasionally find yourself outside the normal parameters and come up against human contacts who are best described as institutionally bovine. (And look at you with the same sort of vacant cud-chewing expression.) Companies most often fail to treat the customer right when they feel the work they are doing with other customers justifies not satisfying everyone.

In most Rule 2 violating businesses, things function as if the employees and processes are saying to you:

“Can’t you see? We already HAVE customers. Phew, actually maybe too many! Haha that’s quite enough work for us for now. So, everyone else back there wanting something from us, what tf you lookin’ at motherfracker, screw you, yeah and you, f-off all of you. Oh and by the way please remember our great brand, don’t forget to come back and have a happy customer experience when we have time for you later.”

It sounds insane but if you think about it, this is the way we are commonly treated as customers, in more or less subtle ways than the above characterisation, because the existence and competing importance of other customers is always incorrectly introduced into the equation.

Obviously, to a large degree this issue is about how well a business handles capacity with varying degrees of operational demand from customers, and how well they reduce any negative impact on customers from inevitable mismatches between demand and capacity. But why do customers react so badly towards capacity shortages?

When we are forced to wait in line too long,… or someone else gets their order before ours even though they came in after us,… or delivery takes longer because it’s Christmas and the postal service is maxed out… usually the reason is quite obvious. But knowing the reason, which ought to reduce or eliminate any blame, doesn’t seem to make a difference. It is not really just a case of us being selfish and impatient… What is going on here is that, when we are in customer mode, selfishness, and resulting impatience, are our correct guiding principles for what we are trying to obtain — see First Rule.

Therefore lack of capacity in the company and contention from their other customers are not objective matters of everyone calmly having to wait their turn, but in fact they are experienced by us as a frustrating lack of respect and appreciation of our needs by the company we are complaining about. In spite of ourselves, we strongly feel we are being insulted.

Experienced customer service professionals would be happy to provide us with lots of examples of customers complaining completely unreasonably about completely normal situations which are far beyond the control of the company, let alone the the customer service rep, but that unreasonableness doesn’t seem to make a difference to their over-reaction. Trying to correct complaining customers with reasonableness usually makes it worse. We can smile about this from the company side of the headset, but if we look at our own reactions when we are purely acting as the customer, we find we are exactly the same…

Rule 2 is at work because we really, truly don’t care if there are one or one million other customers, similar or completely different from ourselves: we only care about getting what we need. And we are going to be especially damn frustrated if we are now locked into some kind of commitment of our resources or even a lack of alternative choices to take our business elsewhere.

So in the case of service delivery, customer support, situation mitigation, complaint handling etc the requirement of Rule 2 is, at the very least, DON’T try to introduce justifications or explanations that reference the company’s obligations towards other customers — not even the existence of those other customers. Remember, because of the way the customer’s First Rule needs are being contradicted, however true and reasonable your information is, it will just be perceived as evasive excuse-making, in turn reinforcing the problem.

When I am the customer, your company’s work with other customers is truly and literally none of my business, even when obviously the obligations towards all the other customers forms the main reason you can’t deliver well to me. When it comes to being good at “Customer Care”, you can summarize the first and second rules by understanding that THE CUSTOMER DOESN’T CARE!

But Rule 2 is not just about the contention of other customers for capacity / resources and retaining satisfied customers. It is a marketing rule because it is essential in defining how you make your first impressions on customers, how the customers perceive you and the product through “moments of truth” one two and zero, and how well you can convert prospects into customers.

Consider the following statements:

  • Not all customers are alike.
  • Even alike customers are likely to express and emphasise their needs in different ways.
  • Even identical customers will take many different paths to discover and consider your products.
  • Customers like to be listened to and have the feeling they are understood.
  • Customization and adaptation to needs of customers build value.

Most marketers would agree with all of the above as virtual truisms. But they are all things denied when companies don’t get Rule 2. When you reference other customers in your marketing and sales communications, and when the experience of shopping for your product mixes one customer up with other customers, then you are saying the opposite:

  • “We commonly talk down to you in advertising because most of you conform to this lowest common denominator: in fact, here is a patronizing representation of a customer, this clichéd housewife is just like you, eh?”
  • “We service you customers in herds, because you are all basically the same anyway. Feel the power of our awesome company size and efficiency… we are so BIG!”
  • “All you need to make up your mind that we are the best is our barrage of one-way broadcasts declaring we are awesome… just look at how popular we are with all these other happy fake customers!”

We can see how the above statements contradict what we know as marketers, and yet also describe quite fairly the common practices of real companies’ marketing. Rule 2 is about sorting this out.

One of the most common transgressions of Rule 2 is marketers optimistically talking to one or a few narrow imaginary segments of customers, and alienating absolutely everybody else. I say “imaginary” because I seriously doubt that most marketers of even big respectable brands and agencies actually do rigorous research about who already buys their products and who else might buy their products. At best I imagine them doing unscientific and tiny scale research to validate their vague pre-existing concepts. I am very convinced that the range of possible customers for most companies and their products is always much wider than they assume or can predict from their finite personal experiences. You always see this if you are in a business which can take advantage of “the long tail” either in your product line or selling reach, it’s like “who ARE these people who buy THAT”… and yet those people do exist and they are interested in buying that… without having been marketed to. Whenever companies try to profile and segment customers it is doomed to failure when used to inform marketing communications. Don’t get me wrong, it is essential as an INTERNAL tool for guessing and prioritizing, but you are breaking Rule 2 when talking overtly to particular customer groups AS GROUPS.

The result is that almost everyone seeing the marketing material, if they even engage with the information at all, simply interpret it as the company engrossed in a boring conversation with other customers, so obviously they are too busy or not interested in helping us and taking our shopping dollars. We’ve sure had that experience in bricks-and-mortar stores, where we walk out of the door because the staff are only capable of talking to themselves or a few favourite customers (and they will never notice we walked away): in marketing it’s the same thing done on a mass scale.

I just allowed myself 15 minutes of research time to look for random examples of the above in relation to Rule 2, and we find the following:

  • Adobe Illustrator
    Frequent mention of: “Join”; “Membership”; “Existing customers”. The whole set of information pages are written for people who are already familiar users of Illustrator. Oh, by the way, everything is NEW, latest, and best. But for the millions of the rest of us, what exactly IS Illustrator? Is it for me? They don’t care to answer because they are too busy talking to and about other customers.
    Main banner copy states “A no-brainer for right brainers.” Hahaha uh… so too bad for the other 95% of the human race, who are left brain dominant. This is a classic example of preaching to customer groups, not individual needs, and actually naming the customer groups — thereby violating both first and second rules of marketing and resulting in this train wreck.
    [http://www.adobe.com/uk/products/illustrator.html]
  • Weightwatchers
    Enormous page-height African-American woman, smiling, curvaceous, and odd looking legs if you look too long. What was I here for again?
    Oh yes, below the fold there is “LOSELIKEAMAN”. Questionable copy even if they could get their space bar working.
    The site does not geo-detect, and therefore as a visitor from the UK I am asked to join for free by searching a US ZIP code.
    So, what we see here is a very simplistic vision being projected like “hello American, you are either a black woman or a sporty kind of man, both of whom are already kind of fit looking”. So even if I matched one of these profiles, there is a lot of feeling of a brand talking to extremely broad customer categories but nothing that really helps me figure out quickly if Weightwatchers can connect with and solve my problems and desires.
    [http://www.weightwatchers.com/index.aspx]
  • Victoria’s Secret
    Homepage has mixed pictures of 10 young, thin, white models in underwear. Not that surprising, but assuming that the purpose of the site is to sell things and not just entertain men with a narrow taste in women, the marketing psychology here seems to be based on “hi generic woman, you generic women all want to look like these generic models, don’t you”. But I would contend that a good proportion of prospects would be put off by being unable to identify with that image. In fact, it doesn’t really seem to speak to any particular customer emotion apart from either fantasy or depression. Aside from “generic woman” in their business analytics software, I assume there an actual commercial customer type which is a man shopping for underwear products as a gift for women: apparently this website is so busy talking to “generic women” (who incidentally must be the people who understand the arcane text-in-image messages of their banners), that there’s no time for the male shoppers to get any assistance.
    [http://www.victoriassecret.com/]
  • Stihl Chainsaws
    “ ‘The best chain saw made.’ We didn’t say it. Our customers say it. And they say it a lot. “ This page then goes on to talk about a lot of “we us our”, then how famous and awesome they are, i.e. “the #1 selling brand of chain saws worldwide”.
    Clearly this is all helping me make informed choices about the best tool to cut down that one tree in my back yard.
    Oh wait, “STIHL recommends use of fuel with no more than 10% ethanol content. “ You look over your shoulder, no one is there, and you stutter “sorry, were you talking to ME?”
    [http://www.stihlusa.com/products/chain-saws/]
  • Hertz (UK)
    This is a car rental site which has no images of cars above the fold on its homepage. After scrolling down you discover that apparently the most representative cars to show below the fold on the homepage of a car rental site are a Range Rover and a Ferrari. So, luckily we didn’t bounce, definitely on a car rental site.
    Next we have a cartoony picture of a girl suggestively sucking a lollypop: copy — “Turn me on and drive me crazy”. I assume that Hertz could possibly — if they wanted — rent cars to the majority of grown-ups who would find the lame sexual imagery pointless if not demeaning. So, kind of a pity to exclude them with a message apparently directed to teenage boys who might be too young to rent cars.
    Also on the page is a banner declaring “LAST MINUTE OFFER” with a small strange animated clock — last minute to what, and offer of what, we don’t know and just possibly this banner might still be there tomorrow. So the remaining demographic who will be engaged by this website have to be chauvinist AND not prone to thinking much about web design.
    Granted to Hertz that they are not talking too much about other ACTUAL customers, but on the other hand they seem to be so interested the conversation with an imaginary Eurotrashy customer vision, that this precludes the possibility of us real customers sensing that Hertz might be interested in solving our needs. It’s a good example of marketing material that needs to be thrown in the trash and started again from the customer’s viewpoint and nothing else.
    [http://www.hertz.com/]

(Several major international brands were excluded from this 15 minute study due to web design horrors that prevented even basic analysis. This is OK for them, because they are already busy enough with other customers.)

To continue, as a corollary of Rule 2, as customers, we do not wish to be addressed as customers, or detect that we are being viewed as customers. That breaks us out of the “correct” transactional mindset of “I have money, you serve me” into the incorrect feeling of losing your confidence about what you can expect. When you feel like you are the customer and they are the company, the power in the relationship reverses into something more like “no, stupid person, you listen to US: WE know all about you and you’re nothing special, just another number, oh and by the way we are trying to screw you for as much profit as we can get bwahaha”. It is notable that we only actively nominate ourselves as “customers” when something has already gone wrong and we are, from that weakened position, trying to reach out for some minimal “rights” in the absence of the basic service expected.

Here are some examples of businesses treating us “as customers” — do you like this approach when you are a customer?

  • Letters or signs starting “Dear customer”. Obvious meh.
  • Store attendants asking us dumb questions because they are required to work through their simplistic script every time with every customer.
  • Reminders to start shopping for Christmas.
  • Shops making general announcements over the PA system. Gee whiz, so useful!
  • Mailshots from places you shopped at before — maybe even buy from regularly — featuring coupons and special offers for things you would never remotely be interested in.
  • In an online shop, having to register your email address and create an account, in order to login, after which you are now allowed to place an order.
  • In B2B, having to fill in a long form describing the company attributes and your position before being able to ask the first bit of your question.
  • When customer support contact numbers/email are hard to find on a website and even when you find a support form, you have to jump through hoops of reading answers to suggested frequently asked questions.
  • In TV commercials you see them acting out a scenario using fake, generalized stereotypes, then realize that they are supposed to be you. (I even more hate this when the advert features animals, aliens, or cartoon characters representing humans because it’s even more like they are treating you as a generic avatar.)
  • In stock photos when you have a convenient mixture of genders and racial types. It represents everyone and no one, in a fake way, and draws attention to the company viewing you as just one of several simple categories to be covered in a wide net.
  • Web pages that use in-house marketing jargon in public pages like “View our customer testimonials”, “Our current promotions”, “Sign up to our list”, or even titling a section “Call to action”. “Customer loyalty card” is another solecism since it talks only about the company’s cynical aim and not about me, the customer, and my needs.

I contend that we are offended by any marketing that is unsubtle enough to make us aware that we are being treated as a generalized customer group OR the business has made an effort to segment and I am captured into some (from my point of view) ridiculously broad and inaccurate category. By definition of Rule 2, not caring about other customers, I don’t care for the concept of “customer” at all, because it’s all just ME.

So we don’t want to know that we are customers: many marketers consider that we want to be to be “viewed as individuals”… Well, I think not exactly, because that is a contradiction in terms. What we actually want is to be viewed as ourself in that transaction, and thus have no sense that the other party is forming a false or generic image of us. The common marketing concepts of treating customers as individuals (and plaudits to the companies who have at least got that far), are in truth only about producing fake personalization or minor customization of a commodity experience. As a customer, I don’t want to be treated as “a customer”, but I also don’t want to have the feeling that I am being treated as one of many individuals. Again, the plurality is what violates Rule 2: I don’t care that you have other customers, I don’t want to hear about those other customers, and in fact I don’t even want to be made aware of the fact that those other people exist, because seriously, why the hell SHOULD I care?

So internalizing Rule 2 calls for marketers to think deeply about how to adapt marketing communications and the sales process into something that is capable of really dealing with individuals. When customers “love” or are “fanatical” about brands, you can usually trace the explanations back to the degree the product and/or marketing and delivery of the product adapt well to the individual. If that sounds a bit idealistic or high-end, for everyday / commodity products, you can get the same effect when the company or product are so good at what they do, that they “get out of the way” and the customer has the sense of connecting directly with their needs without being aware of having been sold (which is a concept I have seen separately discussed about Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Apple).

Let’s examine a couple of reasonable objections to Rule 2:

a) Particularly in services or business-to-business, the company can build up a stronger reputation and selling case by illustrating the work it has done — or is currently doing — for other similar clients, or a high quantity of clients, or name-dropping well-known clients.

It is true that this is often effective in practice, but this is only because it is a default resort of marketing and sales communication material in the absence of the better, personal alternative. However you dress it up, when you use proof of other clients, all you are really saying is: “ [i] we exist as a valid business, and [ii] basically we are hoping that you are more or less going to be like other stuff we are doing so we can recycle resources or get economy of scale”.

Well: [i] surely there are better (and earlier) ways to establish that fundamental transactional trust, that don’t make you look so insecure? And [ii] violates the First Rule because you are overtly trying to force your customer to conform to the product you want to offer, instead of attempting to understand and address his specific needs.

Marketing and selling using lots of information about other customers that you serve (and delight!) serves to inform your customer that you view him as “just” a customer, that you are looking forward to incorporating them into your gallery to impress other customers, and that your offering is far from a tailormade solution, but in fact a standard option guaranteed not to fit in whatever aspects were obviously made for those other clients who are so obviously different from this current customer (very obvious to him if not to your sales team).

Aside from the negative impression, in the sales process I actually think drawing attention to work you’ve done, or are currently doing, for other customers, badly distracts the customer from his initial sole interest in his own solutions (which is pure value once you know how to listen and elicit it).

From my own experience being a customer, once my attention is drawn by the sales message to the company’s other clients, it leads me feel less unique, more commoditized, less well understood… and interestingly, by viewing my solution-needs in a more generic light, leads me to consider more generic ways of stating my needs and substantially lowers the energy and knowledge barriers to going and shopping around with other fixed solution providers.

To bring that out of abstract / B2B terminology into a consumer example: if I am shopping for a present in a jewellery shop for my wife, and the store causes me some delays (caused mainly by other customers) and even through trying to be helpful, addresses my needs by talking to me about what other customers buy in terms of jewellery presents for wives (treating me as a generic shopper for a fixed set of commodity products), then I have that much more opportunity to stand back from my initial solution-focused shopping, and characterise it more objectively as a product and feature-focused procedure, which makes me an order of magnitude more likely to look at this jeweller’s products in the light of what else I might be able to find similar but even better from other jewellers. There should not be any discernable delays, and they should find ways to deal with me on a personal level, especially by removing reference to other customers. Then that jeweller would do a better job of keeping me in my initial mindset, which importantly was much more limited to that particular shop.

I appreciate this line of argument is quite counter-intuitive, but I hope some experienced sales people reading this may recognize the idea at least of not allowing a prospect to become distracted. For me, other customers are at best a distraction, at worst a major obstacle.

b) Another objection to Rule 2 would be that customers on a passive level may often appreciate awareness of other customers and their ongoing business with you, and on an active level may even benefit from a community of similar types of people (or businesses).

A very obvious example would be a wine bar: the existence of other customers there is kind of essential to the experience and wanting to go there at all. In a B2B example you might imagine going to an advertising agency and preferring to see evidence of work under way for other clients and maybe get ideas from those existing practices.

However, I would counter this objection by asking what the real product or service is. In situations where the social buzz and connections, or business “marketplace” are valuable, for me that is an additional and separate product/service. In the case of the wine bar, you actually have two products: one, the ostensible product, which is the entire customer experience arc of choosing, ordering, receiving, and enjoying a drink… and two, the actual main product, which works best when not consciously acknowledged, which is the provision of a social space in which people feel comfortable or validated… perhaps “atmosphere”. I do not think there are actually many bars in which people really meet and mingle with strangers: it is usually just an illusion of being in a big group, actually comprised of many small groups isolated socially from each other. Separating those two different things you are paying for allows you to test Rule 2: in getting your drink, are you in any way interested or benefiting from hearing about other people’s drinks? Not at all: other customers just contend with your experience and if it were possible to take this need in isolation you would surely be best served if there were zero other customers.

In the wine bar example, the social atmosphere is the second product, and how the company is performing for other customers, how many other customers of that experience there are, and however they like it… are irrelevant or contending factors for your own experience. You need the other customers there or else the bar is empty and lifeless, but you don’t care who they are or what they are getting out of it. Solipsistic but true. The same goes for the B2B “marketplace” — if there is a chance to connect with other businesses or network with professionals, that’s a secondary service, and again the company can market and deliver that best without bringing other customers’ concerns into your equation. For example, it’s of interest to a paying recruiter on Linkedin that there are lots of active business users, but exactly what those other users get out of it, and what their commercial relationships are, and what kind of work Linkedin has dealing with all those other customers… irrelevant.

(c) Finally, “social proof”. [As in, proof of being trusted / good etc from social groups, as opposed to social-proof as in waterproof.] This is something well established in marketing discussions in terms of general influence strategy, but most often heard by be employed in internet marketing contexts. The idea is that you make it seem like there is a crowd of people doing or liking something, to make it attractive. Ideally that thing actually already IS popular, in which case you simply prove it to get more popular. But usually it is a matter of creating a mirage of popularity first. Hence little pageview counters all over the place, social media vote/like/share counters, and the self-fulfilling worship of things that are “trending” or already “viral”. One of the strengths of social media software is the ability to correlate these things within a database of your contacts and point out to you what your “friends” are doing, because obviously you would be even more influenced by the social proof of what people you know and trust are doing.

I think there are two things going on with social proof in internet marketing which make it important to understand and employ judiciously. Firstly, social proof indicators are usually effective at capturing attention rather than keeping attention or communicating any particular message. We’ve all been that passer-by who stares over the backs of a crowd, because there is a crowd, or who looks up at the sky because two people are looking up and one of them is pointing. I contend social proof doesn’t go much beyond that, precisely because it is only an attention-grabbing mechanism psychologically. To continue the analogy, if you push to the front of that crowd and get a really good view of whatever spectacle people are watching, how interested are you in how many other people are watching or joining the crowd, or how well they can see? Not just zero interest, but negative interest.

Secondly, in the online ‘space’, you have a starting deficit of trust, because people come into the transaction with technical barriers (mainly, usability challenges) which sap their energy and confidence, and people lack the main channels of human communication and bricks-and-mortar signalling which are usually their sources of starting transactional trust. These two factors combine to give this deficit of trust: basically you can imagine any pre-prospect online as someone who has just tripped over and had dirt kicked in his face, and thinks you did it. And now you have to get her attention, win her trust, and start selling to her. With that mentality you will start to approach website usability and marketing trust correctly. So with websites, and whatever else you are trying to do online, just have to work way harder at trust to get back to a starting neutral point of trust to be able to open your conversation.

So, for social proof, yes, here it is useful to indicate the existence of other customers, their experience, how they are satisfied by your product and company etc. But this is just about getting to a minimal starting point of warming up and selling to that prospect. The person is not really a prospect until you have established that basis. I contend, after that conversation is established (which in internet marketing terms may be defined as “engaged” or even just “not bounced”) and the person therefore is a prospect, you are now in the domain of marketing and selling, and the reference to other customers must stop completely, for everything after that point (violating Rule 2) is counter-productive.

So, to summarize, a customer may find you and be willing to listen to you partly because you have other customers and communicated that fact well, but after that stage it’s just the single, individual customer, and you, the solution… with nothing getting in the way. Get rid of the other customers in the mind-space. Just as talking about yourself and your product gets in the way of connecting with people and communicating the benefits of what you are offering (First Rule), so too (Rule 2) it completely gets in the way when you misguidedly talk about other customers, and or fail to hide or mitigate contention from other customers.


George Baily is a thinker about business. [@georgebaily]