How being a David can pummel a Goliath

by Smartie on July 22, 2010

Tired of dealing with the awful customer service at Home Depot, we now opt to go to the small local hardware store, where they actually are interested in helping us. Convenience be damned!

I have been thinking a lot about relationships this week. Or, more specifically, how relationships fail.

You know what happens… You get busy. Life gets in the way. People fall by the way-side. You screen with caller ID and let only the most urgent calls through. It happens to all of us. And that’s just one individual person!

Imagine if you are a Big Company. A Manhattan Theater Club, for example, with a subscriber list in the 10s of thousands. With pressing details to worry about such as budgeting, season planning, fund raising appeals and grant writing. A Big Company such as hires entire departments to take care of various institutional activities.

And for the patrons, it’s often the Box Office staff that deals with them on a day to day basis. It’s a tough job. The General Public are notoriously cranky and foul tempered. They like to take their bad days out on the poor soul trapped in the hot box who is just trying to process a ticket order. And when you are dealing with numbers in the 10s of thousands, who remembers fuck all about Patron #684? And do they even really care? Or do they just want to move on to process the next ticket request?

And this, my friends, is the advantage of being small. You know who your patrons and supporters are, and you know what makes them tick. Sometimes, you know their preferred seat, or their favorite pre-theater restaurant. You know what show they absolutely loved and saw twice (maybe more) and the show they complained about endlessly.

Here’s a real world example. After endless frustration with the craptastic customer service at Home Depot, my husband and I vowed to hit the local, mom-and-pop hardware store for any home improvement needs. Similarly, I was sick of the shitty produce I kept buying from Stop & Shop and decided to go to a small local produce store.

Both charge a little more, and their hours aren’t as convenient. But damn the service is exceptional. We interact with people who know what they are talking about, whether it’s what nut works best with what bolt, or which melon is the freshest and yummiest that week.

In other words, by being small and manageable, you can effectively give your audience a unique experience by treating them like they matter.

So, instead of bemoaning your small size, how will you leverage it?


Dave Charest July 23, 2010 at 4:18 pm

This is so true. Make me feel welcome. Like you care that I’m there and I’m coming back. I’m talking about you. I feeling good about you.

Treat me like crap. I’m gone. I’ll still be talking about you. But not in the way you’d like.

It’s easy. And the main advantage a small shop has. Just by being kind, honest and helpful you shine.

Smartie July 27, 2010 at 10:01 am

Hey Dave, thanks for the comment! Sorry I have been MIA for a little bit–been a busy weekend!

Smaller orgs have such an advantage here. They can take the time to make patrons feel just a little special. It’s amazing how one simple thoughtful gesture can turn patrons into supporters for life.

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