Wednesday, July 16, 2014

When customer-centric goes too far

Over the last few weeks, I've been professionally concentrating on customer-centric proposals.

As an example, I recently gave a brief presentation to the California chapter of the Association of Proposal Management Professionals. To be fair, I didn't present my findings; I summarized a presentation previously given by J. Daniel Janowski on added value. Janowski believes (and I concur) that the most effective marketing doesn't happen when you try to get the customer to change so that the customer buys your stuff; the most effective marketing happens when the customer changes you so that you sell stuff that the customer wants.

In that spirit, one of my co-workers has shared the following quote from Cicero:

If you wish to persuade me, you must think my thoughts, feel my feelings and speak my words.

This is talked about in various places online. For example, Angela Schuster talked about it here.

I was searching the tubes to discover the context of Cicero's quote, and in the course of my searching I ran across a statement that began as follows:

I feel like everybody who nears me could hear my thoughts clearly...

Sadly, this was written at

A slightly different take on the whole customer-centric thing can be found at Ethan Allen's website. No, not the patriot - he never created a website - but the furniture company. While my local Ethan Allen closed several years ago, the company is still flourishing in other areas, under the wise leadership of M. Farooq Kathwari. See the About Me - whoops, I mean the About Us section for more information on Kathwari.

Before you assume that Ethan Allen is self-centered, let me assure you that the company culture is client-focused. (Let's ignore the fact for the moment that "client-focused" is an empty term that Janowski and others urge writers to avoid like the pla- uh, never mind.) Anyway, Ethan Allen is client-focused, and wants you to know about it.


We treat clients like guests in our home. We’re always asking, how do they live? How do they want to live? How can we help? That’s the thinking behind our product development as well as our overall commitment to outstanding service. Staying focused on our clients’ needs keeps us focused on what’s important: inspiring people to live better and making it happen while saving them that elusive and precious commodity — time.

While it's good to be client-focused, I hope that Ethan Allen doesn't take it too far. I wouldn't want to come home one night and find an Ethan Allen sales rep on my couch, peppering me with questions. "How do you live? How do you want to live? How long are you going to sit on that couch tonight?"
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