Small Things Matter

By Restoring the Soul of Business Archives
Cover image for  article: Small Things Matter

Every six months for over three decades I receive an updated insurance card from State Farm

Over the years the quality of the card has deteriorated in every single way.

The card used to be plastic and then became a thick removable card and then it was something that had perforations on a larger piece of paper that you had to tear and now it is as thin as it can get with scissor marks where you need to cut it.

The quality of the card plunges in inverse proportion to the increase in premiums (no accident or any reason to justify the increases in premium).

It is a small thing.

But it is the only time the brand and I interact (assuming that I remain lucky enough not to have to file a claim). Its their twice annual contact point. And every time I open their mail I see a cheaper card some confabulation of consultants, accountants and financial operators have optimized to reduce costs along with a standard completely non customized come on to buy more insurance along with the gift of a higher premium.

Maybe the masters of optimization may want to consider a little less media spend on Jake from State Farm commercials to help fund a better existing customer interaction in the twice annual touch points?

It is a small thing.

But small things matter.

Recently I flew to Singapore. Outbound on Singapore airlines. Return on United.

I have no status on Singapore. Highest status on United.

Same aircraft and with no significant difference in interior.

Same catering service so the food was not really different.

Dramatically different experiences.

United was acceptable. Singapore was outstanding.

It was the small things.

On Singapore the stewards and stewardesses knew your name and looked at the passengers and smiled. The hot towels were hot. The utensils, napkin and the crockery may have been the same material but one just felt much more special. The contents of the vanity bag, the quality of the eye mask were all an edge above.

On one airline they asked how much cost can we remove and on another they think about how a few more dollars on a multiple thousand dollar ticket can make a difference so lets not be penny wise and pound foolish.

And smiles they are free.

Such small things made the difference.

Because small things matter.

Over the years many people have called me or reached out to me when in transition between jobs or when they are out of work or when they need a boost.

Almost every time I have responded and often met with or spoken to or written back to each of these people.

They no longer had power. They no longer had the big brand name. In some cases they were a confused hot mess because they had got laid off, their company had tanked or something dramatic had changed the trajectory of their career.

Many were surprised (especially when I had a big job in a big company) that I made it a priority to find time to get back.

Almost every one of them in time got back on their feet or found their way and often soared to amazing career and vocational success.

Now once again they were in demand and everyone called back.

But they were different because of what they had experienced.

They no longer equated themselves with their positions and their big company brand names and they now called people back who needed help even if they might not have before.

Because it is when few people are willing to speak to somebody is exactly when we need to speak to them and pay attention.

It is a small thing.

But people remember.


Because small things matter.

Small things and marketing.

For decades marketers have found certain stages in a person’s life where they are more susceptible to messaging and marketing.

Whether it is the impending birth of a child to a physical re-location there are times where people are more open to change or to paying attention.

Marketers also recognize that there are moments of interaction where up-selling or cross-selling is likely to be more successful, such as when someone is opening an account or when one is about to pay for items in one’s real or digital shopping cart.

Basically, marketers look for moments of greatest attention and interest.

The challenge is that everybody knows these rituals and some combination of high costs and fees to show up at these moments or a certain weariness and understanding by people of what is happening, makes these less differentiable.

If instead of thinking only about where someone is on a customer/purchase journey we think about where we can surprise them positively the most, or turn a negative to a positive, we find compelling moments.

For instance, if we want to get people to speak well about our product or service instead of advertising to them or desperately try to get likes or influencer mentions, why not give them a sample of the product for free? Why not re-allocate a portion of the communication budget to enhance the quality of the product or service which will then speak for itself and get its satisfied users to speak about it. In today’s world brands are more likely to scale through people if they have a superior product or service rather than just telling people they have a superior product or service.

Imagine if you were a cable company or publisher and re-allocate the “stop them from unsubscribing” budget where you slash prices, increase channels in a bundle or enhance broadband speeds to people who are quitting, to instead reward the most loyal customers by going to them and cutting their fees and/or upgrading their services to simply say thank you.

When someone least expects an act of generosity it has a tattoo like impact.

It means they are special, and they are not being taken for granted.

It is just a special small thing.

So many marketers promise to “surprise and delight” customers but do we really?

One or two small “surprise and delights” might be worth a year of messaging

Less is more. The rare is meaningful. The special resonates.

Traffic in scarcity to stand out in a world of abundance, sameness, and noise.

Think about the small things, the moments that you can tattoo so by asking “what can we do and where can we do something that will make someone come away different”?

It may be small things.

But small things matter…

Posted at MediaVillage through the Thought Leadership self-publishing platform.

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