Richard Fouts

Article Summary:

A simple technique will help you put customers first in all your communications.

Are You Customer-Centric?

In the film, When Harry Met Sally – Harry (played by Billy Crystal) answers a question posed by Meg Ryan’s character, Sally.
“Am I high-maintenance?” she asks innocently.
She probably wasn’t prepared for Harry’s blunt response when he claims she’s the worst kind: a high maintenance gal who thinks she’s low maintenance.

Most marketers are like Sally. They think they are customer-centric, when in fact they are not. Take this test. Pick up any piece of sales collateral.

  • If the headline features your Company name: subtract 5 points. If it features a customer issue, add 5.
  • If half of your lead paragraphs begin with company name, subtract 5 points. If more than half your lead paragraphs begin with customer issues, add 10 points.
  • If there are no named customers, subtract 5. If there is at least one named customer add 5. If you name three named customers, add 10 points.
  • If your photos or imagery features your company, subtract 5. If they feature customer situtations, add 5.

Tally your score
25-30: congratulations, you’re leading in customer centricity

10-20: It’s pretty much about you

Less than zero: You’re the worse kind. You think you’re customer centric.

It’s easy to change
The first step is admitting you have a problem. If you’re one of these people, fret not, and forget therapy. Just get your marketing people out on sales calls.

If marketers aren’t in front of customers, they can’t talk about customers. Marketing communications people are like fiction writers: they write about what they know. Second, make it best practice to put customers first, you second.

This is also easy.

Here are some real examples:

  • Before: New research by Datamonitor reveals significant opportunities for retail banks to build customer loyalty and drive revenue.
    After: Retail banks can realize significant gains in loyalty and revenue by consulting new research from Datamonitor.
  • Before: At Siebel Systems, we aspire to be our customer’s most valued partner in helping them achieve customer-driven business results.
    After: Customers across all industries and levels of government are driving postive, customer-driven results with solutions from Siebel Systems.

Have some fun and look around. IBM was always about IBM until the 1980s. Why not? With 70 percent of the market it didn’t have to care about us because it truly was about them.

In most of the Fortune 1000 if you wanted to keep your job, you chose IBM. But when customers started exercising their right to choose (even big customers) IBM moved its corporate ego to the back seat and they’ve done it well. Go to and they are all about customers.

Visit McKinsey’s web site and it certainly begins with clients, but ouch – what happens? Page after page of sentences that begin with we, we, we and McKinsey, McKinsey, McKinsey.

Okay, even your ‘About Us’ page – which is about you, doesn’t have to be such an 800 pound ego-fest.

For 75 years McKinsey has helped business leaders address their greatest challenges, from reorganizing for long-term growth to improving business performance and maximizing revenue.

This isn’t bad. But, a simple wordsmith makes it about clients.

Business leaders have looked to McKinsey for everything from reorganizing for long-term growth to improving short-term revenue opportunities. And they’ve been doing it for 75 years.

If you make it about them, you will reap the rewards. Just have a little faith.

Richard Fouts helps you tell your story. Using his techniques, your entire organization becomes rapidly equipped to engage in conversations about your products and services in more intimate ways. You spend less time developing your communications and more time acquiring and satisfying customers.

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