Remembering the Wrong Things …

by Robert Blaney 

Recently, I attended an event, and the food was wonderful.

The adult beverages, not so much … and everyone remembered that for all the wrong reasons.  The host enjoyed top-shelf vodka, evidently his drink of choice, but forgot those of us who enjoy whatever else.  We had all hoped for better, but it was generic, from a wholesale club and disappointing.

My point is simply that people remember — and mostly remember when it is not good.  

Any business, service businesses especially, need to remember that you are only as good as your last customer’s opinion, and the massive review pages on the internet can damage or even kill a business.   

When it comes to serving people, Theodore Levitt, a Harvard Business School professor, once wrote “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”  It could be argued that it is one of the better quotes about giving people choices they want. 

Happy customers can become long-term customers if the “quarter-inch hole” you sell them is of good quality, lasts a long time and fits their lifestyle.  It comes down to what makes your customers happy, feeling they were treated fairly, feeling content and fulfilled.

A marketing plan should not always be centered around you.  It should be centered around your customer’s needs and wants.  Customers want what they want, when they want it, and at a reasonable price.  Most customers want it as finished as possible, as complete as possible, with no expensive add-ons in the offering.  

Consumers want the “quarter-inch hole,” not the quarter-inch drill.

In daily life, there are great examples of this concept.  Tradespeople offer 24/7/365 service.  Lifestyle merchants offer home sharing services; ride-sharing services operate when you need them; curated boxed food delivery services, curated cat/dog food subscriptions, and clothes that fit you and arrive every few weeks are among many more examples of things customers want, when they want them, complete and at a reasonable price.  

I have a cat food subscription and I don’t own a cat.  It is for those that stop at my house.  I don’t want a bad review.

If you are uncertain on how to adjust your marketing plan or need help to develop one, please seek assistance from an SBA-funded resource partner.  There is never any charge for small business counseling and information is always available at, where you can find information on the SCORE Association, America’s Small Business Development Center Network, and the Women Business Centers, Veteran Business Opportunity Centers and SBA’s new Community Navigator Pilot Program, which has community-based organizations helping to reach the nation’s smallest businesses.  

By the way, the average drill bit lasts more than 50 years, but only gets used for 15 minutes in its entire life.  People really do want to buy a “quarter-inch hole.”

It is honor for me to participate again this year with In Business Magazine as they launch the 2023 Small Business Guide, because it is such a useful directory for local and area businesses.

Robert Blaney
District Director
U.S. Small Business Administration, Arizona District

Robert Blaney has served as the district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration for the State of Arizona since 1998. His varied experience includes work as a federal agent, police officer, vice-president of an insurance brokerage and district director for the late Congressman Jack Kemp. He is a native of western New York and a graduate of Buffalo State University.

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