“a good customer base is the best marketing department there is”


In a rather random moment of clarity, I wrote this line on Twitter a couple of weeks ago:

“A good customer base is the best marketing department there is.”

One thing I remember fondly about my college buddies, back in the day: Not only did they all spend a lot of time and energy listening to Grateful Dead records and attending Grateful Dead concerts, they also spent a lot of time and energy trying to get me to do the same.

Though I never became much of a Dead fan in the end, it sure wasn’t for my friends’ lack of trying. Their mojo may not have worked on me, but hey, it worked on plenty other impressionable young people, so it’s all good.

My college buddies were self-appointed team members of one of the greatest marketing departments in history: The Deadheads.

So who are your customers? Are they your marketing department? If they’re not, they should be, yes?

[This reminds me: Seth Godin cited The Deadheads in his wonderful book, "Tribes". I interviewed him here about the book etc.]

[Backs­tory: About Hugh. E-mail Hugh. Work with Hugh. Twit­ter. Cartoon Archive. News­let­ter. Book. Inter­view One. Inter­view Two. EVIL PLANS. Limi­ted Edi­tion Prints. Essen­tial Rea­ding:Everything You Always Wan­ted To Know About ‘Cube Gre­na­des’ But Were Afraid To Ask.”]


  1. Blimey – I didn’t realize you’d not seen that one before. Guess what? SAP knows this…hence some of its recent small (and I mean tiny) company customers go to them because of other customers. Customer quote: “I want my large customers to know that I use SAP products as well.” Like me – I want people to know I have Cube Grenades (on order at least) and a couple of limited prints…

  2. I can say it in 7 words.

    Good customers are the best marketing department.

  3. Hugh,

    Well said.

    reminds me of all the real estate agents putting all their time and efforts into social networking so they can generate clients.

    Why not identify where your clients ARE coming from and put all your efforts into THAT?

    Rob in Atlanta

  4. I think an important aspect of this idea is that this isn’t something you can’t create or manage directly. So many companies are out trying to use social marketing or creating ‘street teams’ or whatever in order to turn their customers into their marketing department. The Dead never did that – they just kept producing a product that made their customers want to tell everyone about it. It’s sort of turning marketing inside out – the focus of your marketing effort becomes the product, not the market. Social objects, etc.

  5. Agreed Evan,

    I love when companies talk about how they’re going to ‘go viral’ as if it’s something they can manufacture like ad copy. You can’t manufacture relationships with your customers. You actually have to, you know, have a relationship. You have to like your customers and want to talk to them…


  1. [...] that depends on who and what we’re talking about. Hugh MacLeod is alluding to that here but viewed through the marketing lens. Hugh has gone from zero to hundreds or even thousands of dollars in a few years because he has [...]

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Hugh MacLeod is a genius.  Genius.

Seth Godin
Best Selling Author

His work acknowledges the absurdity of workaday life, while also encouraging employees to respond with passion, creativity, and non-conformity...   MacLeod’s work is undeniably an improvement over the office schlock of yore. At its best, it’s more honest, and more cognizant of the entrepreneurial psyche, while still retaining some idealism.

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In moments of indecision I glance at the wall [to Hugh's work] for guidance.

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