The First Rule of Marketing

The first rule of marketing: you do not talk about marketing… Oh wait, wrong club.

The first rule of marketing: you are not your customer.

It sounds obvious when you hear it. But violating it is as easy as jaywalking down a Manhattan street. You may do it sometimes without even thinking about it.

This past week, I’ve heard two colleagues argue endlessly about one of their product offerings – a series of content articles. They disagreed with the topics in a third colleague’s articles. “Low brow”, “poorly targeted”, and “aimed at the wrong people” were criticisms they lobbied.

That’s fine and all. But the third colleague’s articles were the most popular offering they had. Their customers clearly loved these topics.

“These are the wrong customers,” continued the first two. “The ones we want don’t want content like this.”

Cursory market research into the current customers indicated that… well… these are the customers they’re targeting. They fall squarely within their target demographic.

“Well, we don’t want those particular customers. They are the wrong people for us!”

Huh. Since when did a business not want it’s current customers? It’s hard enough to get customers, but once you have some, who in their right mind wouldn’t want them anymore?

“Well, okay, then our customers just don’t know what they want. They don’t want these topics. They don’t need these articles.”

Ah. Since when do marketers know what their customers want better than the customers do? Remember the first rule of marketing: you are not your customer. You don’t know exactly what they want.

How is such an impasse solved? By market research, talking to your customers, and getting to know them well. Marketing shouldn’t be driven by your own opinions. It should be driven by objective research.

Use surveys, interviews, comment forms, something – anything – to get actual customer feedback. You may be surprised by what you hear. And you may learn something about your true customers too.

Author: Mike Lee

An idealistic realist, humanistic technologist & constant student.

4 thoughts on “The First Rule of Marketing”

  1. Hahaha! I love that movie.

    “I flipped through catalogs and wondered: What kind of dining set defines me as a person?”

    There are so many great quotable lines.

  2. “You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet.”


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