This is the first in a series of point/counterpoint articles by Bill Babcock and Bill Rozier. Babcock is CEO of a direct and relationship marketing agency. Rozier is a no-nonsense senior director of global marketing, dealing with the realities of marketing in a large technology corporation.

Babcock: How long does it take to know you're going to like someone? How long to know someone is not telling the truth? For that matter, how long for you to know this article might have something important for you?

A second, maybe two. That's obviously not long enough to read it or even skim it. But you have an unconscious, intuitive ability to judge value.

And neither you nor I know how it works. We just know it does.

You don't agree? You think things are much more orderly and logical than that? You don't have to take my word for this. Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, wrote a book called Blink about how we make very complex assessments unconsciously. The book is certainly good reading, but for this brief article it's sufficient to accept that we DO have a highly effective, very automatic bullshit detector.

Why is this so important to marketing? Because your prospects will give your marketing messages about two seconds to resonate. They will be assessing importance, value, truth and, most important, personal relevance. And as they say about sincerity: If you can fake that, you've got it made.

Rozier: So how do we do that? I'll grant you that message relevance is critical for us. Focused marketing outperforms "clever" every time. The ROI on generalized customer messaging is so low it's almost irresponsible.

Our customers want communications from us in their vernacular. They reward a dialog delivered in their voice in almost perfect proportion to our ability to be relevant in their discovery process. But that's not easy to do, and it's not cheap to do. Are you saying there is a shortcut?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bill Babcock is CEO of Babcock & Jenkins, a direct and relationship marketing agency; he can be reached at williambabcock@bnj.com.
Bill Rozier is senior director of global marketing at Ciena.