In the course of our research for a book we once created as a specialty publishing project — Origin/Destination: 75 Years of the New England Water Environment Association — we learned that it took the residents of Uxbridge, Massachusetts, 50 years to figure out the sewage and other pollutants in the Blackstone River weren’t from Uxbridge. They’d flowed downstream from cities and towns north of Uxbridge. The lesson? People can be a little slow to connect dots. Cases in point:

Exhibit A: The editors at Dun & Bradstreet published an article — “Why Data-Driven Marketing Isn’t Working” — that says this, in part:

We live in the world of big data—customer data, prospect data, behavioral data like clicks, time spent on site, engagement metrics, email open rates, tradeshow data and so on. Why isn’t that data helping us create better content and, in general, better marketing? Why isn’t that data helping us understand what is really working? It may be because we’re focusing on the data rather than what really matters: The customer relationship.

Like the effluent in the Blackstone River, this one could have been seen (if not smelled) the minute it hit the water. Since almost everything left to be said here would constitute gilding the lily, let’s leave it at this: If you’re compiling data and creating content — as opposed to establishing connections — the customer relationship is nothing you’ll ever need to worry about because you’ll never experience it.

Exhibit B: A gentleman named Bob Heiss published a LinkedIn post — “Why Sales & Delivery Initiatives Fail” — that says this, in part:

Sales & delivery initiatives fail because salespeople are too product, feature & benefit oriented. They are not client centric. As a consequence, many of the benchmarks measured (particularly if they are defined by the seller) miss the mark.

To paraphrase: Focusing on products, features, and benefits — instead of people and their needs — is the same as focusing on data and content-generation. They may be fun. And they may be the activities you enjoy most and in which you most want to be engaged. But don’t forget Immutable Marketing Rules 1-3.

You might start to sense a theme here, kids. At risk of seeming to toot my own horn, I’ve been connecting these dots and communicating their connections for quite some time. Am I omniscient? No. Clairvoyant? Nope. I’m not even particularly astute or intelligent. But I’ve been around long enough to know two things:

  1. Excrement flows downhill.
  2. You can see it (if not smell it) if you look uphill.

The moral of the story? If you devote your time and attention to gathering data and touting your products, remember the Blackstone River.

And trust your nose.

Image by Jemzo, courtesy of