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Don't blame me. (On Marketing).

BUSINESS HASN'T BEEN GOING the way you had hoped? Well, don't blame me. I tried to tell you--or at least I would have if you'd asked. I left you all sorts of clues, too, but maybe you chose to ignore them.

See, I'm The Consumer, the person you want to be your customer. Whatever your title, whatever your business, you have one job--making me happy. I'm male and female, young and old, simple and complex. I can be loyal and supportive to the point of becoming an evangelist for your business. I'm also quick to anger and easily disappointed, instantly forgetting months or years of satisfying transactions. When I get ticked, I let lots of people know about it. Sometimes I'm fickle, changing my ways for the flimsiest of reasons.

More often, however, I just don't care that much. Don't get me wrong--I care about myself, my family and friends, my appearance, my social position, my budget and my future. It's just that I don't think much about your business, budget or goals. In fact, when I feel like you're "selling" me (when the focus is on you and not on me), I tend to shut you off.

Ever go on a date with someone who talked only about themselves, showed little interest in you and failed to pick up your most obvious signals? If so, I'd bet there wasn't a second date. And I think we would know whose tin ear was to blame.

So whey am I, The Consumer, reminding you of this now? Well, something's on my mind (and when something becomes top-of-mind, I usually act upon it). Recently, I read where a local business announced its plans to close/ The owners blamed me for "not supporting their entire facility," or something along those lines. (I usually don't remember the details of news stories or ads, but that doesn't stop me from having my opinions.) In other words, my buying some of their products apparently wasn't enough to satisfy them.

Let's all remember something. It was not and is not my responsibility to support anybody's entire facility--or even part of it. I, The Consumer, care about the products, services and people I care about. Period. If I'm consistently spending my money to buy 30 percent of your stuff, yet you're mad because I'm not buying the other 70 percent of stuff you're trying to shove down my throat, then one of us needs to reconsider the relationship.

Look, I don't like it when businesspeople have problems; I'm a human being too. But there are other things that, as The Consumer, I don't like much either: False promises, indifferent service and poorly made products come to mind.

Before you write me off as a crusty whiner, however, consider what a resilient optimist I am. In less than a year and a half, I've digested a horrible terrorist attack on our shores, the threat of foreign war and the lingering effects of a significant drop in the value of my investments. Have I stopped spending? Have I lost all confidence? Not at all. I'm hanging in there, still consuming away. My consumption comes from the human yearning for the little things that can make life better. I continue to trade the fruits of my labor and savings for your products and services as a tiny expression of trust that tomorrow will come and that I can have some influence over it.

Say what you will about the economy, but look around. The people and businesses who keep their focus on making me happy are still making money, often lots of it. Universities have entire courses devoted to understanding me. Hosts of consultants, research firms, agencies and others structure their professional lives on figuring me Out, and their insights fill libraries, bookstores and Web sites. You can also watch me, ask me questions and listen. I may be a little difficult to predict sometimes, but no one needs a Rosetta Stone to figure me out. I'm a lot like you.

When you're away from your business, you're The Consumer too. What's important to you then?

Jim Karrh, Ph.D., is assistant professor of marketing and advertising in the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's College of Business Administration and senior consultant with CJRW Executive Strategies in Little Rock. E-mail him at
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Title Annotation:linking consumers with marketing
Comment:Don't blame me. (On Marketing).(linking consumers with marketing)
Author:Karrh, Jim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 27, 2003
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