I was excited to open it. The website had been compelling, and the box was beautifully designed. The product was exactly as advertised. And then I saw the sheet.

It was a simple slip of paper, containing the assembly instructions, apparently cranked out on the company’s photocopier. The text was skewed on the page, so whoever copied it apparently couldn’t be bothered to make sure it was straight before pressing the button. The instructions appear to have been generated with word processing software and an office printer. Two things were obvious: the individual who produced the sheet knew nothing about graphic design, and the copy I received was clearly a copy of a copy.

Immediately, my estimation of the quality of my purchase dropped significantly. It was evident the manufacturer had invested handsomely in the design of the product and the box. So why had they taken such a cheap, trashy approach with the instruction sheet? I knew why. Because it didn’t matter. Who cared what the instructions looked like?

It happens all the time. Companies making high-quality products or offering impressive services forget that every “customer touch” affects what people think about them. A well-written, nicely laid out instruction sheet could have enhanced my impression of my purchase and the company that made it. Instead, my final impression of my purchase is that this manufacturer is cheap and careless. I’ll think twice before buying from them again.

All too often, companies view small elements of their contacts with customers as throwaways. Package inserts, product stickers, automated emails, even invoices all send messages that can unwittingly chip away at the companies’ hard-earned reputations.

The simple fact is that everything that may end up in your customers’ hands is marketing. Every point of contact between you and your customer presents the opportunity to either strengthen or carve away at your image. You can make the best driver golfers can own, but if you skimp on the packaging, it’s going to look cheap. The machining of your parts screams precision, but when the shipping clerk haphazardly jams the warranty document in the box, you look sloppy. You take pride in your team’s friendliness, but that billing notice you just sent was cold and abrupt.

An example of a company that really understands this principle is Amazon. Amazon is known for its commitment to customer satisfaction and operational excellence, which often involves paying meticulous attention to detail in various aspects of its business.

For instance, Amazon Prime. It serves as the cornerstone of Amazon’s marketing strategy and a highly successful customer loyalty program. Subscriber benefits enhance the overall shopping experience. For example: easy returns, fast and free shipping, and access to streaming video, music, and e-books. Plus, Amazon continues to expand its conveniences through “Try Before You Buy”, Amazon Fresh (grocery delivery) and Amazon Pharmacy.

Amazon’s attention to detail equally crosses over to operations such as Packaging, Order Accuracy, Customer Reviews, Website Design, Product Listings, Fulfillment Centers, Alexa Voice Assistant, Kindle E-Readers, AWS (Amazon Web Services), Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), and Environmental Responsibility.

Amazon’s diversification strategy is characterized by its “flywheel effect,” where the success of one segment, such as Prime, can boost other segments, like Amazon Web Services. The company continually explores new markets and opportunities to broaden its footprint and offer an ever-expanding array of products and services to its customers. This diversification has allowed Amazon to become not just an e-commerce giant but a major player in various industries.

How many “little things” does your company produce or send that could just as easily enhance what customers think about you and make them more likely to return? Is your instruction sheet a dull list of commands, or a friendly conversation between you and your customer? Are your technical bulletins as exciting as a fifth-grade dance or do they build a rapport with your customers? What about your promotional products? The golf shirts you hand out at tournaments can be just another garment, or they can work for you. Why pass out tired trinkets at trade shows when you can hand out something unique that’s tied to the product you’re pushing?

This approach takes a conscious effort. You have to be willing to take the time to consider every step of every way you connect with customers. You also have to take an honest look in the company’s collective mirror. That can cause some challenging internal conversations — and it’s a good reason to consider turning to outside marketing expertise.

The fact that an outside marketer doesn’t yet know your company as well as you do is an asset in this process because they’ll experience every “little thing” as new, just as your customers will. They’ll examine everything you do through your customers’ eyes. Your engineering team may think your instruction sheet is perfectly accurate, but an outside expert will be able to explain why non-engineers find it incomprehensible (and why you’re getting so many support calls for that product).

A little attention can pay big dividends for your reputation and customer satisfaction. So despite a familiar book’s advice, it really pays to sweat the small stuff.

Deborah Daily is co-owner of Buckaroo Marketing | New Media.

Published: February 25, 2022 (Updated October 15, 2023)