You Are Not Your Customer

I recently watched a movie (can’t remember the name) where the snooty head chef after reading one of the order tickets starts shouting at the waiting staff “NO MODIFICATIONS, NO SUBSTITUTIONS!”.

Chef felt indignant that the unwashed masses were ruining his dishes which he considered perfect works of art.

A famous chef may indeed have the luxury of deciding how his work should be consumed by the masses and force them to like it or lump it.

I see the exact same attitude from some business owners in regard to their marketing.

While this kind of head strong attitude is charming when it’s our hot-tempered French chef, as a business owner it’s one of the fastest ways to throw a huge pile of money down the drain on marketing that doesn’t work.


When presented with an out of the box marketing idea or strategy, it’s common to hear business owners say something like, “that won’t work, I wouldn’t respond to an ad like that!

The obvious answer is that it’s not designed to illicit a response from YOU. It’s designed to illicit a response from your customer and you are not your customer.

The typical objection given is, “that would never work for me, my business is different or my clients are different”. This is especially so when presenting some of the concepts in direct response marketing.

Assuming anything about your marketing and basing your marketing on your own opinions or the opinion of friends, family or colleagues is a major mistake. One I see commonly repeated. 


You have a much deeper and more technical understanding of the products and services that you sell than your customer does, so of course you wouldn’t respond to the same types of advertisements as they do. You also have a built-in bias which skews how you view your products and services in the marketplace.

I’ve personally experienced this many times. Things I thought would never work, have worked brilliantly and things I thought would be sure winners were flops. Why? Because my point of view and biases were different to those of my customers. What I thought they wanted and what they really did want were misaligned.

Would you feel comfortable flying in a plane whose design was based on opinion? Wouldn’t you want to be sure that the design had been rigorously tested, passed aviation safety standards and had successfully flown in real-world conditions?

Similarly to avoid wasting time, money and resources on marketing that doesn’t work, I urge business owners to apply the scientific method to their marketing rather than basing it on their opinions or the opinions of others.

Here’s how you might apply the scientific method to your marketing:

  • Ask a Question e.g. Will people who need plumbing services respond to this advertisement?
  • Construct a Hypothesis e.g. I think this ad will deliver a positive return on investment
  • Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment e.g. You run the ad in a publication that is read by your audience
  • Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion e.g. The ad had a 7% response rate and delivered a 300% return on investment. Conclusion – this type of ad works.

Using this method, we don’t need to guess or base anything in our marketing on our own biased opinions or the opinions of anyone else.

We test small and analyze the results. We continue testing and discarding the losing ads. When we have a winner, we increase the marketing spend and widen the exposure to magnify the winning result.

This test and measure approach is accountable and relies on results, not opinions.

A wise man once said, “don’t let your bias and opinions keep you away from a pile of money”.

You are not your customers, never assume what will work and what won’t – test and measure and decide based on results.

1 thought on “You Are Not Your Customer”

  1. Thanks for the helpful guidance, Allan. It’s so easy for business owners to fall into the trap of thinking that they are their customer, especially if the business started because of their own passion or because they solved their own problem first and then sold the same solution to others.

    But you’re absolutely right: The business owner themselves isn’t representative of the target market. I’ve often seen (and experienced in my own business) that the business owner might start out as the target market but the business evolves. The factors of time-in-the-business and the knowledge that results from it create a separate between the owner and the market. Thought provoking!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *