Impress your customer, not your colleagues

I’m re-reading a great little book called Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity by Hugh MacLeod. In chapter 4, called “Good ideas have lonely childhoods.” McLeod says,

Good ideas alter the power balance in relationships. That is why good ideas are always initially resisted. … Which is why most team members in any industry are far more concerned with the power relationships inside their immediate professional circle than with what may actually be interesting and useful for the customer.

I see this phenomenon all the time as an independent contractor working with companies and magazines. Professionals write their bios to impress their colleagues and competitors instead of to sell their clients and customers. Ad agencies create expensive commercials for their clients that have nothing to do with the product, but win advertising awards. Magazine editors one-up each other with the number and niggling nature of comments and questions on a perfectly-good article, just to prove that their input matters.

When I take on a project for a client or when I write a magazine or web article, I always have the end user in mind. Who is supposed to be reading this copy and taking action because of it? Whether that person is an executive at a Fortune 500 company looking for a vendor or a suburban mom who wants to know how to revamp her bathrooms, that’s the person who matters. And that’s who I write for.

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