Marketing to the Masses? Here's Why You Shouldn't

'Flip the Funnel' Suggests Marketers Focus on the Few

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Some simple questions are stupid. And some are just annoying. But every once in a while a simple question makes one re-evaluate everything. Joseph Jaffe asks one such question in his new book "Flip the Funnel," making it a must read for anyone interested in selling anything to anyone anywhere.

Mr. Jaffe, who is president of Crayon, has taken a look at that most basic of marketing concepts -- the process by which we funnel everyone in the universe down to the handful who will purchase our product/service -- and asks, "What the hell are we doing?" That is, why do we spend all of our time with people who a) don't know about us or b) don't care about us, trying to, you know, make them know about us and care about us.

Mr. Jaffe thinks that's nuts because it's not only outmoded, it's actually doing us harm. His solution? Instead of spending millions trying to funnel the universe down to a handful, we should focus on that handful and use our creativity to figure out how to make the most of them. Why? Because it's more efficient, it's more effective and it's more profitable. And in this economy, those are three reasons that are mighty hard to argue with.

One might call this simple customer service, and although Mr. Jaffe uses the term, it's not really what he's talking about. For customer service today is often little more than a place where customers complain and where companies tell them they have no reason to complain. And if you think that's the way to make the most of your customers, please Google "United Breaks Guitars" immediately.

No, Mr. Jaffe actually means something that is, in a sense, revealed by that viral phenomenon. If the customer has that much public power -- in addition to the enormous private power they have to actually buy or not buy your product or service -- why wouldn't you want to start by focusing on them, instead of ending with them as some sort of byproduct?

Buttressing this simple insight with data from Coke, Zappo's and other businesses that demonstrate how lucrative that customer is, Mr. Jaffe then goes on to discuss how that simple shift changes everything. It changes how marketers spend money, it changes where marketers spend money, and it changes even the structures of corporations and the job responsibilities of employees within those structures.

If "Flip the Funnel" did nothing other than identify this shift and sketch out its ramifications, it would be worth reading. But it also outlines ways to use the exploding media forms that have many CMOs and their traditional agencies scratching their heads in order to better connect with the customer.

Because at root what Mr. Jaffe is saying is that a successful business today isn't built on the idea of one transaction per customer. It's built on the idea that the relationship doesn't end when the cash register closes. It's built on the idea of multiple transactions from multiple customers. Which, I know, sounds insanely obvious. But how many companies operate that way? I mean, you're a customer, right? When was the last time you felt a company treated you like they really wanted you to come back again? When they did, did you come back? When they didn't, did you not?

Nowhere is this dedication to engagement more apparent than in the book itself. "Flip the Funnel" is full of ways to connect with Mr. Jaffe (e-mail, Twitter, podcasts, etc.). It directs you to additional content online. It invites you to sign up as a reviewer and register for contact and content -- and the list goes on. In other words, the relationship with the reader does not end with the purchase of the book. And frankly, that's brilliant. Yes, at times its a little overly self-promotional, occasionally a little too clever by half. But that, too, is instructional. Nobody said this brave new world was going to be easy. And I admire his efforts to live his theories and not just spout them.

"Flip the Funnel" is smart, insightful and informative. It's a manifesto, an explication and a handbook for the new economy. Ignore it at your peril.