For most businesses the primary measures of marketing success are more sales, more profits and greater brand recognition.

No Sale

sahlgoode via Flickr CC

That seems like a pretty obvious, logical and healthy way to view marketing doesn’t it?

What if, however, the real goal was to build trust? What if marketing decisions were made with the best interest of the customer community first? What if the ultimate measure of marketing was a committed customer?

Now, I know that may all sound like some nice rah, rah kind of consultant speak, but if in fact you were to really make the creation of a committed customer your primary objective, you would have some very hard and often counterintuitive decisions to make.

First the cold, hard reality of business – your customers don’t really care about what you sell – they don’t really care about your business – they don’t really care about you.

Now, let me soften that a bit – they may love your products, they may love doing business with you, they may adore the people you send to take care of them, but what they ultimately determine first and foremost is what all of this love does for them.

So, if this is indeed true, and if your ultimate objective is to create customers that are totally committed to your business, you’ll have to learn to view all of your decisions with the best interest of your customer rather than what is often viewed as the best interest of your business.

The difference in this last statement may be subtle for some (unless you run an airline and then is should be pretty gapping.) The difference, however, will show up when you start to question everything you do in this vein – will this decision benefit the customer or will this decision simply benefit the business?

This questioning will prove harder than you think, because sometimes the answer might be, this will cost us a bundle, but it’s the right thing to do.

You may have to learn how to tell your prospects and customers that they shouldn’t buy a particular product or service, because you know it’s not right for them.

You may have to teach your customers how to get more from your products rather than buy more. You may have to teach them how to conserve rather than use up what you sell.

You may have to create and facilitate a customer community that can freely resell and trade what you sell.

Patagonia, a well respected outdoor apparel and gear brand, recently created a platform in conjunction with eBay that makes it very easy for customers to resell and purchase used Patagonia gear.

Patagonia benefits very little directly from this move, but they have created something that I believe is very much in the best interest of their community.

Now, some might conclude that this is just a natural extension of the Patagonia brand of recycling and that all they’ve really done is aggregate a market that existed in places like Craigslist – until you dig into the companion initiative called the Common Threads Initiative.

This is the message Patagonia is using to build a committed customer and it could come of as heresy to most hard-core marketers.

“Reduce. Don’t buy what we don’t need. Repair: Fix stuff that still has life in it. Reuse: Share. Then, only when you’ve exhausted those options, recycle.”

In fact, they are asking customers to sign this pledge: I agree to buy only what I need (and will last), repair what breaks, reuse (share) what I no longer need and recycle everything else.

While this initiative might actually cost Patagonia sales, it’s the right message for the brand, it’s the right message for the planet and it may ultimately be the right message for the customer’s best interest.

Making business decisions for the benefit of your customers first will almost always pay long-term dividends no matter how tough they may be from a profit standpoint at the moment.

Telling a customer that your solution probably isn’t the best and then ushering them to another, better solution, even one from a competitor, is the right thing to do and over time will create a totally loyal and committed customer willing to tell the world they can trust you.

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John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
  • John, that’s a tough spill to swallow, but I totally agree. I’ve been there myself with my clients. My company, Kirby Media Productions, develops online web presences and coaches on social media marketing as well. A lot of our services are things that people can learn to do themselves, but don’t have the time [and sometimes skill] to do. Once we develop a blog, we typically train our clients to maintain it themselves instead of charging monthly maintenance fees which cuts into profits, but is ultimately best for them. 

    The cool thing is, we get some clients that come back to us for support and ultimately purchase extended coaching/consulting/training services from us months after their main projects are complete.  

    As you said, we “teach our customers how to get more from our services rather than buying more.” And it has definitely built trust from our current clients and from prospects that visit our website [because we teach – via blog post – a lot about what we share with our clients there].

    Thanks for reaffirming that what we do is best for our customers and works!

    • Hard pill or not looks you’ve learned the value of the lesson through experience

      • Absolutely, John. Especially through great teachers such as yourself. 

  • John, you make an excellent point. It is always about the customer. Even if a business does not benefit directly from choices made to cater to their customers, it will work out for the best in the end.

    Stacie Walker

  • AJ

    Great post John!
    It’s amazing when we run our businesses on our real purpose, what can happen.
    Thanks for your insight,

  • Zagna Isla

    Businesses are sprouting all over the world.  Competitors are there.  Customers as well don’t really care about your business if you do not know how to market it. Thus, this post is really helpful because it teaches us how to take care of our business, plus create trust and rapport to our customers for effective marketing.  That’s the key. 🙂

  • A lot depends on your own personal outlook and beliefs and what you are in business for.

    If it’s to make money, then money is the primary aim and the customer comes 2nd to profit.

    If it’s to create something that people will want time and time again, and to make that profit via the purchasing experience, then profit is secondary to customer.

    Personally I am Camp 2, but there are an awful lot of Camp Oners out there, and Camp 2 is of course built on a slope (sloping up) so watch out. But the view from thew top is great!

    • I think that’s a great point – it does all start with your mind set about your business in general

  • Aly

    Hey John – I was reading and article about Patagonia’s new message just the other day.  What you’re saying makes perfect sense – in terms of the traditional business world, saying “don’t buy more of our products unless you need them”, is crazy.  But this mindful message IS the outlook of their target customer, thus (hopefully) loyal customers.

    Anyways, thanks for sharing! – Aly

    • Yep, in a way it makes such perfect sense for their brand it’s not even that bold, but still radical thinking from a marketing perspective.

  • Samantha_genevay

    An interesting concept, but it most definitely has its truths.  Trust and loyalty go far in regards to keeping customers coming to your business and not going off and buying from a competitor.  In running a business, I believe that it is important to always keep the customers in mind instead of being solely focused on yourself or the business.

  • Cordell Massey

    Wow John! You really hit the nail on the head when you delved into the actuality of what a true business should be about. Building trust first with your prospects will most definitely increase word of mouth advertising in your favor, positive input from others on your blogs and, impressive income in the future, which should be last on the focus list. I have learned quite a bit from reading your blogs alone and I will continue to visit for more exciting and very helpful information. I am a new marketer and I can use all the help I can get. I just wonder why other businesses won’t take a few pointers from what you have imparted….hmmmm….

  • Jc Ware

    Im glad to hear of companies making a positive contribution to social responsibility,  I believe we would see more of this if we the people, the consumers would speak up loudly with our wallets and pocketbooks praising greatly and condemning serverly those who desirve so.

  • Very informative. It’s like trying to market by seeing value that a customer gets rather than merely seeing it as a physical commodity. That may be the source of committed customers willing to come back because they “see” value in something that they buy.

  • Steve Whitaker


    I think you’ve really touched on something here. Patagonia’s “green” strategy has the potential to not just create loyal customers, but the kind of customers that will be advocates for the Patagonia brand. As VP of Marketing for PEMCO, Rod Brooks, would promote, A firm needs to go that step up from brand loyalty to brand advocacy. In the world of social engagement through social media this aspect is vital. Even if the company monitors their reputation on social media, the firm can’t be everywhere to defend their reputation.

    That is where the importance of creating consumers that are brand advocates is imperative. Brand advocates are also vital because 88% of consumers find other consumers opinions have credibility. Compare this to the fact that only 28% of consumers believe the message in commercials.

    Steve Whitaker
    [email protected]:disqus .com

  • John Parker

    This is the difference between lead generation (which is more like pre-sales and short term benefit) and the Real Marketing which is long-term.

  • I really like your point about teaching the customer  something instead of selling something to them. When all we ever do is sell it’s hard to build trust, and get to know (authentically) the our clients/customers. But if we take the time to care about their needs, and long term satisfaction, we come out from behind the counter and get on their side. We become much more interesting and trustworthy.


  • Angela

    Interesting….As a customer, I’ve experienced this approach more than once and I return again and again to that company.  Showing that kind of caring for the customer’s needs and not just the sale itself can reap huge rewards.

  • Some interesting points regarding marketing success are mentioned above. Thanks for sharing this post.