Do you know which rules to break or laws to follow?


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Own photoSome authors and industry experts have real staying power.

Despite how much change happens in that industry, they manage to adapt and stay relevant to their readers/customers.

Such an accolade can surely be made about Don Peppers & Martha Rogers. In that way they live their own message.

I first came across Peppers & Roger’s writing back just before the new millennium.

Their classic “The 1to1 Future“, popularised the term One to One Marketing and helped the revolution in Database Marketing & Analytics. Previously I’ve also made reference to their most comprehensive work, “Managing Customer Relationships“, which should be required reading as a textbook on CRM (which is as relevant as ever even if an unfashionable name).

However, the review I’m sharing with you is for “Rules to Break & Laws to Follow“. First published in 2008, its subtitle is a clue why this book matters: “How your business can beat the crisis of short-termism”. Obviously such a call for longer term, customer focussed, thinking was very timely as we entered the worse of the last recession – but I’m finding many businesses are only now ready to take those lessons on board.

Another reason for recommending this book to Customer Insight Leaders is its accessibility as well as relevance to their roles. Under 300 pages, broken into 14 chapters, these each have short sub-sections, call-outs and summaries for later reference. So many of the business challenges for CI leaders today are referenced in this book. Hopefully this review can inspire you to run with its manifesto.

The title is applied throughout the book as most chapters include a law to follow (a general principle proven true in use), after early on establishing 3 rules to break (an urban myth or sacred cow to be challenged). There is plenty of useful & encouraging content on: long-term value generation; what it means to focus on earning customers’ trust; how to respond to the pace of change with innovation & use of technology.

Perhaps the easiest way to give you an idea of the content that might help you though, is to list some of those Laws verses Rules. As most are pithy and self-explanatory, here’s my top 5 pick of those laws and the full list of 3 rules:

A top 5 “Laws to Follow”:

  1. To earn your customers’ trust, first earn your employees’ trust.
  2. Regardless of how good your current earnings are, with no customer equity you will have no future earnings.
  3. If being fair to customers conflicts with your company’s financial goals, then fix your business model or get a new one.
  4. Customers may forgive honest mistakes but will never forgive dishonesty.
  5. Dissent & diversity drive creativity and innovation.

The “Rules to Break” that this book challenges:

  1. The best measure of success for your business is current sales and profit.
  2. With the right sales and marketing effort you can always get more customers.
  3. Company value is created by offering differentiated products and services.

Plus I will always remember the example of ‘the man with the folding chair’, an approach I have tried in meetings as well. It is surprisingly effective. How do you keep the customer in view during your key business decision-making meetings?

I hope that review was useful. Have you read this or other works by Peppers & Rogers? How did they help? Do you still find their thinking relevant today? Please share your perspective too…

Paul Laughlin
Paul helps companies make money from customer insight. That means helping them maximise the value they can drive from using data, analysis & research to intelligently interact with customers. Former Head of Customer Insights for Lloyds Banking Group Insurance, he has over 12 years experience of creating & improving such teams. His teams have consistently added over £10m incremental profit per annum through improvements to customer retention and acquisition.


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