Principle #5: Own your customer’s success

Note: for the full essay click here.

Recall Principle #1: people do not like to feel “owned” or told what to do. But they do like to be “owned” if what that means is a vendor (or change agent) taking ongoing responsibility for the success of their joint ventures. Especially with newer products, there is always a gap between marketing promises made and the ability of the shipped product to fulfil these promises. Mainstream users have neither the desire, nor the capacity to cross this gap alone. Thus, we should not expect or demand that they do so. Ease-of-use might not be a contract requirement, but it is a requirement for maintaining a positive customer relationship.


Mainstream users evaluate and buy “whole products” – that is, not just the new tech but the peripheral software, standards, and support that make this new product an easy transition. It’s not even about the technology at this point: any endeavour that competently executes on the whole product strategy has a high probability of mainstream success. A good core product is a great asset, but it is neither necessary nor sufficient for breaking into the mainstream.


A whole product consists of the following:



As you can see, many variables influence a product’s success beyond the generic product itself. We see examples of whole products all the time: from Amazon creating one-click buying to moving companies providing free storage. Any single change brings with it many smaller changes. And the more the product can handle all of those smaller changes, the easier it will be for people to adopt it.


If you leave your customers’ success (or law firm’s adoption) to chance, you are giving up control over your own success. If your job involves introducing new products to your organization, owning the whole product is even more important. Everybody at the firm associates you with that product: when users have a problem, they think of who recommended the software to them, not some external trainer they met for an hour or a co-founder they’ve never met. Because it is a closed environment, if you fail to execute on whole products enough times, your reputation will suffer. Companies and intrapreneurs need to work together because there is a lot each can do to help the other in building an effective whole product.


Gaining momentum for adoption of something is only sustainable if it becomes self-reinforcing – as in, real people must genuinely enjoy the product. Developing a market is like developing a garden: you put in a lot of work in during the early stages, but over time, if you created the proper circumstances, things continue to grow mostly on their own. Like a plot of land, a market is a real thing, independent of anyone’s actions. Marketing’s purpose, therefore, is to develop and shape something that is real, and not, as people sometimes want to believe, to create illusions.[7] While there is no guaranteed formula for creating a self-reinforcing market, it is guaranteed that people who do not have positive experiences will not come back. In fact, all of the above principles focus on either increasing the likelihood of a positive experience or maintaining engagement through negative experiences.


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