Speaking as a customer, I don’t want to be “acquired.”

I also don’t want to be a “target” who gets “owned,” “managed,” “controlled” or “locked in” when I choose to do business with a company. And I don’t like hearing marketers talk about customers as if they were cattle or slaves.

All I want are good products and services from companies that give me good reasons to trust them and buy from them. And, after I buy the goods or sign the contract, I want to be treated well when updates are required or when things go wrong.

And when things go very wrong, I want to deal with human beings who can fix the problem. Not a robot or an FAQ on some website.

I also don’t want anything that puts a burden on me, even if it’s a “loyalty” program with discounts or rewards. There are too many of those already, and each of them brings operations overhead for companies and cognitive overload for customers.

If all you sell are commodities — and price, convenience and service are the only ways to differentiate — then beat your competition in any or all of those three.

Earn loyalty from what you do best. Your customers will take care of the rest. All have mouths, and word will spread.

Yes, marketing matters, but not as much as what Peter Drucker said long ago: the purpose of a business is to make and keep a customer.

If you do that well, you won’t need advertising, SEM, SEO, CRM or other 3-letter acronyms to make it happen. Those are good-to-haves, but they are just gravy on the meat and potatoes of products, services and treatment of customers.

Written by

Author of The Intention Economy, co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto, Fellow of CITS at UCSB, alumnus Fellow of the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard.

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