A Sign Your Marketing Might Be in Trouble

I caught an interesting conversation on Twitter over the weekend, and a tweet about marketing really jumped out at me.

It began with this:

“If 80 million ppl don’t care abt your brand, I don’t care about the 80 million ppl. I’ll take the 5K who care”

This, I’m guessing wouldn’t come from someone whose brand is typically going to do well, if that sentiment represents not only the speaker’s true feelings but modus operandi as well.

Look at Apple: Apple wasn’t content to “not care” about those who didn’t want an Apple computer. It looked for ways to expand its brand beyond the traditional personal desktop and even the laptop. So it began offering mp3 players it packaged as iPods. And smartphones it packaged as iPhones. And tablets it packaged as iPads.

There were smartphones before the iPhone. I’m pretty sure there were mp3 players before the iPod. And there were certainly tablets before the iPad.

But they’re all computers, and they’re all ways that Apple expanded its brand in a manner that worked for them and that grew their business and their customer base.

What’s more, because each individual product lives up to the Apple brand, there’s a unique experience — call it the Apple OS if you prefer — that is generally shared among all of those devices. That is, if you get comfortable on any one of Apple’s products, that level of familiarity you build with it transfers easily when you pick up another of Apple’s products for the first time.

When I responded to the tweet that I disagreed, suggesting that it’s silly to “not care” about 80 million people just to focus on a core of 5,000, I received this response:

“But that’s the point. Reaching those 80 million and more via WOM through 5K who give a damn.”

So they want to reach 16,000 times their core audience by word of mouth?!?


That’s a lot of word of mouth.

And even worse, it’s a lot of expectation on your customer base, most of whom haven’t the time or desire to do your marketing for you.

There’s nothing wrong with trying to provide a customer experience so positive that your customers will tell their friends. But that’s what every brand should be doing to begin with. If you have to work yourselves up to that level of customer care, you’re already doing it wrong!

Word of mouth is an extremely valuable too for any marketer: people will listen to a friend’s recommendation with a lot more interest than the claims made in an advertisement.

But consider that old saying: “A happy customer will tell one friend; an unhappy customer will tell 100.” What’s more likely to be true is that an unhappy customer will tell 100, but only one in every 10 happy customers will bother to tell anyone.

That’s because we expect service that’s good enough to make us happy. When we get it, unless we see that someone has gone out of their way, whatever we think “their way” is, we just go on, believing that this business did what they were supposed to do.

So suddenly that 5,000 core customers of yours might become closer to 500 who are actually impressed enough that they’d go out of their way to mention you to someone else.

How long do you think it’d take 500 people to build by word of mouth an audience of 80 million you say you “don’t care” about to begin with?

Not a wise strategy in my book.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.