Score More Traffic, Subscribers, and Buyers by Discovering Your Second Customer

Content Connections

This is the second post in the “Content Connections” series.

We all know what a customer is.

The customer is that lovely, wise person who buys our stuff. Whether we sell a product, a service, an idea, a candidate, a change of habits … the customer is the one who buys.

If we don’t have customers, we don’t have a business. Simple enough.

But when you’re doing business online, particularly if you’re using content in your marketing, you need another customer. One who might never take out a credit card to buy from you … but who can still help take your business to amazing places.

I call it the second customer. This is the person who shares your content, tweets your post, talks up your product, gives you a great review on Yelp, and helps let the rest of the web know they should be paying more attention to you.

Some businesses pay far too little attention to the second customer … and some pay too much. Here’s how to get it just right.

What the second customer can do for you

The second customer has always been important — it’s that social connector who tells all his friends what a great job you do, or the fashion icon who makes your product an “overnight” craze.

But in the age of the internet, we have lots more connectors, each of whom has an audience, large or small, that they might share with you.

  • A second customer might share your thoughtful content on Twitter or Google+.
  • A second customer might link to you, or run your guest blog post, and find you a whole new audience.
  • A second customer might write a witty, compelling review that convinces buyers you’re terrific.
  • A second customer might introduce you to the business partner who can turn everything around for you.

Don’t great ideas just spread themselves?

It’s lovely to think that if we just duck our heads down and produce the absolute best content we can possibly create, that our content will fly around the web on magic wings and find an audience.

It’s lovely to think that, but it doesn’t work.

The web is social. Always has been, always will be. It’s people who share content, people who talk up the best businesses, people who create the businesses worth talking about.

Apple did their part by designing the iPod — it was customers who spread the word. (And then did it again with the iPhone, the MacBook Pro, the MacBook Air, the iPad, ad nauseum).

Evernote did their part by creating a useful, well-designed little application — it was customers (including lots of non-paying second customers) who let the world know how great it was.

Dos Equis did their part by creating a clever, over-the-top series of “big-idea” storytelling ads that took all the right risks. It was their customers (again, many of them second customers who don’t drink the beer) who couldn’t stop talking about the ads — leading to a 22% boost in sales, according to the company.

Second customers are tireless. They’ll roam the web — the entire web, not just your comfortable little corner of it — to find the perfect customers for your business.

But you need to give them what they want.

What the second customer needs from you

The content connector needs some things from you —

  • Your content needs to be good. Really good. Thin, weak, generic stuff won’t do it. If you don’t know how to create something epic, partner with someone who can.
  • Your website needs immediate appeal. If it looks spammy, shady, or just plain hideous, connectors won’t want to send their audiences there.
  • Your site needs to be secure. Nothing makes your second customer look worse than sending their audience to a site infected with malware.
  • Above all, your content needs to make connectors look incredibly smart and cool for sharing it.

Smart connectors know that their first duty is to their audience. When you help connectors by giving their audience a great experience, you will be rewarded.

Your first customer comes first

Now there are a few “businesses” out there that have millions of second customers … and not enough first customers.

Your primary reason for being in business is to serve your customers. To make their lives better in some way that is meaningful to them.

The world may talk you up — but if you don’t serve paying customers, your business will crumble and die. No matter how much funding you can scare up. No matter how much of a social media darling you become.

They come first. Their opinions are the ones that matter most.

But in the 21st century, in the globally hyper-connected world we’re in today, second customers are an invaluable way to find those perfectly lovable first customers.

This is part two of the Content Connections series

This post is just one part of a series talking about how to make connections with other web publishers — the kinds of connections that will serve your business.

It’s the other half of content marketing — what happens after you’ve created something worth reading.

To get the full series, just stay tuned here at Copyblogger. If you haven’t already, why not subscribe by email so you’ll be sure you don’t miss any of the posts.

You can read the first post here:

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Reader Comments (33)

  1. says

    I’ve always been somewhat aware of the Second Customer, and I’ve preached the concept to my clients, but this is a great way of laying it out. I think that the trick (and challenge) is in finding the balance between serving First and Second Customers.

    Thanks for another awesome post Sonia!

    • says

      Balance is definitely key — there are some who are looking so hard for “buzz” and “engagement” that they’re not doing any business. Not useful. :)

      • says

        Thanks for putting a name for the “Second Customer”. They are the reason we have those FB, Twitter, Pinterest, Stumble Upon and Google+ buttons on our sites. We are hoping they would share it even if they don’t buy our products/services. They might have readers who would want to be a “First Customer”.

        And yes balance the act for both of your customers.

  2. says

    Thanks for this series, Sonia. I think people underestimate just how well you should take care of your second customer, even if that person doesn’t buy from you.

    I know one company that I’ve never purchased from, but I’ve referred 2 customers to them who each paid $1k for the service. Why did I do it? Well, that company has been showering me with free help, in the form of content marketing for years. It’s the least I could do.

    • says

      Agreed, and it pains me when I see people give the advice to purge “non buyers” from your email lists, for example. Some buy, and some help get the word out. They’re both very useful people to have on board!

  3. says

    Great advice Sonia! In the marketing world, it is vital to take care of your second customer as well as making sure the first customer has everything they need too. The second customer can impact how many first customers you get especially with social media and word of mouth marketing.

  4. says

    I think we’ve all been guilty of it at some point in our lives… some more recent than others- where we put out content just for the sake of putting out content, because that’s what we’re supposed to do.

    When the ‘second customer’ has a choice between crap and not-crap, the latter is usually triumphant. I think that if it’s good enough for someone to spread to others then you probably got it right with your primary customers too.

    I think this is a nice warning letter and a little bit of a wake-up call towards those of us that may have ‘phoned it in’ a few times. The days of content for the sake of content are long-gone, because of the noise that it creates- noise that no one is listening to.

    I know that I’ve tried a lot harder to step up my game, once I started to compare myself to what other people are offering. People don’t want to be yelled at or lectured, just a little entertained and inspired as they try to figure out things for themselves.

    I really appreciate this post, because I’m in the process of delivering more zen-like content that people may enjoy spreading instead of just pushing an agenda so hard… now where did I misplace that second customer? She was around here somewhere.

    -Joshua Black

  5. says

    I’m definitely the second customer. I don’t own credit cards. My only source of online currency are contests. I prey off free e-books.

    Yet, I can be share-happy.

    So here’s a tweet!

  6. says

    Great post Sonia. Immediately I think of our clients and their social media marketing strategy. If as marketers, we focus on only the first customer we are neglecting a whole other market. The task at hand is to create engaging content for those second marketers to share while not forgetting about those first customers!

    Brittany Lough
    Account Executive
    The BLÜ Group – Advertising & Marketing

  7. says

    Having a well-defined target market is more important than ever. No one can afford to target everyone.Many businesses say they target “anyone interested in my services.”

    Targeting a specific market does not mean that you have to exclude people that do not fit your criteria from buying from you. Rather, target marketing allows you to focus your marketing dollars and brand message on a specific market that is more likely to buy from you than other markets.
    Reading about the “second customer” was interesting. Often, it could be a “by-product” of the so called “target market”

  8. says


    Thanks for the important reminder about the “second customer.” This “person” you describe is definitely the difference between mediocre results and meteoric results.

  9. says

    fantastic post Sonia! I guess in the conventional (offline) and online sales environment we get taught that the ultimate measurement of business success is converting leads to SALES!

    But, thanks for reminding us of the importance of ‘non paying’ customers who bring us paying customers through sharing our content.

    Ultimately, you emphasise the need to good, quality content which we can easily place on the back burner as we chase for more sales.

    Lovely post once again!

  10. says

    Awesome post!

    Got to agree with most people here – the second customer is so important. Often more so than the first – who knows the potential of a share? Its the ripple in the water effect – one person may not like it enough to buy it, but that share to their thousands of followers may spark multiple sales off the back!

    Great post.

  11. says

    HI Sonia! I never have the idea about the second customer and your article gave me the idea to think about it and work on that. Thanks for sharing great idea :-)

  12. says

    While there is no magic formula for getting your web based business of the ground, there does seem to be a few social media elves who can make all the difference. My most popular post seem to be have been discovered by such an elf. In one day the number of people visiting my site quadrupled and most of the people who left comments had an address. The idea of catering to the “Second Customer” is intriguing and I hope to see more on the topic.

  13. says

    I work with Chambers of Commerce, and more often than not they are on an endless chase for first customers, not realizing that their current member base could now be their best “second customer.” Instead they keep running after what they don’t have at the expense of what they do. It’s a churn that would be much easier to manage if they just realize their most powerful sales tools are already in the house. Thanks for the insight, and helping me give a name to a soapbox I tend to live on!

  14. says

    Second customers are currently my number 1 source of traffic to my blog. Though a lot of people find me via organic search, my traffic really spikes when people share my content, or when I guest post.

    I never take it lightly when someone else shares my content even if only a handful of people come to my blog as a result of that one share. The reason why is because you never know where even that handful of new readers may lead. They may become a first customer or may be another second customer, and so the potential is great, each time my content is shared by a second customer.

  15. says

    I am yet to have any second customers coming to my website and with all this advice I’ll be sure to make some amends as to how my content is written. I was always under the impression that second customers are pretty much useless to the success of a website since they won’t contribute to the development of it in any way. But I guess that I just looked at it from the wrong perspective. I would never thought that these people could actually be the key to get people more noticed and as a result get more of their first customers. This is some really great info here. Thanks so much.

    • says

      It’s the second customer who links to you (without whom your SEO is dead in the water) and shares your content on social sites. So yes, they matter quite a lot. :)

  16. says

    I read another article here at copyblogger that also emphasized the point about how important it is to get people to share your content. This added another perspective on that for me and reinforced the idea. Do you recommend any other articles on this topic?

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