Ignore almost everyone

In our first Services Marketing class, our excellent professor tricked us.

He presented a simple case: lunch hours at an Italian restaurant have closed. A customer walks in and asks the waiter if he could have a particular dish – a Penne Arrabbiata. The enterprising waiter observes some fresh pasta in the kitchen, along with most ingredients required for the dish. He asks the chef to prepare the pasta and serve it to the customer, with his eye on a big tip. What should the chef do?

As unsuspecting students, the entire class opined that the restaurant staff ought to go the extra mile and serve this customer. That’s what conventional wisdom teaches us. But alas, we had taken the bait. Our professor, as he often did, had the last laugh.

What separates a good marketer from an amateur is that she ignores almost everyone. The most important question is “whom do we serve?” In the case above, a person who walks in outside service hours, is not our customer. Cutting corners to make a sub-standard pasta is not what we stand for.

As Seth Godin says, everybody ought to find the smallest viable audience they can serve, and do it in a manner that delights them. As counter-intuitive as that is, it is the surest way to succeed.

Marketing does not end with identifying that small audience. But that is where it begins.

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