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October 27, 2009

Seth Godin Is Right: Some People Are Better Than Others

by Josh Bernoff

As usual, when Seth is onto an idea, he gets right to heart of it. He cites two examples: Kindle readers and the people who buy books at Wal-Mart. (While both are book examples, the Kindle readers are more valuable to publishers and authors, the Wal-Mart book buyers are more valuable to Wal-Mart.)

The punch line:

The challenge, then is to look for cues that people give you that they are better, and then cater to them. Every industry has people who are worth more, buzz more, care more and buy more than other people. Don't treat people the same, find the ones that matter more to you, and hug them.

This is exactly right, and what mass marketers mostly get wrong. Do you know who your best customers are? Find out, and roll out the red carpet for them.

For marketers, dealing with individuals is hard. It's about to become central. That's what "Harnessing the Groundswell" is about -- how to efficiently find and harness your best customers.

I also believe in Seth's specific examples, which is why we'll do something special for Kindle readers for our next book. Count on it.


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Lois Ardito

Thanks Josh, there's a challenge here for my industry and today is a good day to think about how to engage our past customers and clients.


Some people are better than others?

Perhaps more valued as customers but not inherently better people. That kind of statement smacks of elitism that is incompatible in a democracy.

Plus if the "others" get wind of this attitude, you'll turn potential customers into people who (rightfully) mock your product.

John Caddell

I think word choice is important here. And I think if companies want to appeal to the best customers, they'll do more hugging and less "harnessing"--quite the opposite of the way things work today.

regards, John


Amazing! Seth discovered the Pareto principle!

Aaron Murphy

I could not agree more with Seth's assessment of the need to serve a specific group of customers different than the others. A mentor of mine started a small company just over 12 years ago in an industrial park in Nova Scotia - certainly not one of the most favourable business climates in Canada. What put him ahead was knowing he had to find a small niche and provide them with unquestionably the best service. His niche was businesses that needed to rent or buy, refurbished used forklifts (bought used then re-painted, overall tune-up, minor parts replacements if required). He met the required prices of these businesses - which were mutually beneficial - and complemented it with superior customer service. In the 12-13 years he ran the business it grew exponentially and since diversified into other industries. When he recently sold it the price tag had grown to between 15 and 20 million dollars. I've only ever heard the range and never the official amount. But even considering it was $15M that still means he added to his selling price by over $1M per year. I think this speaks to the need to find and serve a small group of customers the best while the secondary focus can fall on the less appealing segments.

Alan Underkofler

I really enjoyed Seth's somewhat controversial example between Kindle and Wal-Mart readers. It reminded me about the importance of rating your customers with A, B, C type ratings. It's also important to not just focus on sales when rating. Think about influence, referrals you have received, and ease to work with. When you discover where your customers are within the rating you can spend your time an energy accordingly.

One last note on ratings... Your "B" customers are always moving, becoming an A or a C... and typically you influence this if you are paying attention!


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