The Little Big Things

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How often do you really stop to think about the little stuff.

It’s all the little stuff… and how it adds up that counts most. When best-selling business book author, Tom Peters, announced that his book was going to be called, The Little Big Things, I smiled. Not because it’s a clever turn of phrase, but because Peters was able to verbalize – in a couple of words – everything that really makes Marketing (and the potential to do great Marketing) so exciting in this decade.

The big idea is not one thing/the only thing.

A ways back, I published a Blog post about "the big idea" (you can read it here: Maybe It Is Time For Marketing To Move Away From "The Big Idea"). The premise of the post was that Marketing, technology and Social Media is changing advertising, and that the spirit of the big idea is now shifting to a world where the more successful brands are leveraging a brand eco-system that engenders many little big ideas, that cumulatively create something truly unique and special. When you add in the fact that consumers can also take part in both small acts (like sharing and rating content) to bigger acts (like creating their own Blog posts or mash-ups), you begin to see and understand the value in not only acting small, but also in embracing a world where a lot of little things become a lot of very big things.

It’s not just an idea… It’s a way of being.

I love Instapaper (you can read more about why I love it, right here: Instapaper Is A Must). Today, Fast Company had a fascinating article titled, Instapaper Founder Marco Arment’s Journey From Bagel Jockey to Publishing Pioneer, about Instapaper’s creator, Marco Arment, who left his job as the co-founder of the micro-blogging service Tumblr to work alone on a very small idea. When prodded for his life-lesson, this is what he said…

"I’ve done everything from stocking shelves at a natural food co-op, to baking bagels at Brueggers and bussing tables. Then I realized that jobs suck, but if you could get up at 6 a.m. and bake your own breakfast, that is very satisfying. I learned the value of giving people little delights [while working at the bagel shop]. Those small details and experiences are the reason why people like luxury cars. They are full of those little delights. You can do the same thing with any business. With a Web and iPhone app, I try to find new and tiny ways to delight my customers. They may not notice, but it helps drive goodwill and makes your product remarkable."

It’s true… Even for the big brands.

As a Marketer, our job is straight-forward: get people to buy our products and services. Get people to talk about our products and services. Get people excited about doing those things by surprising and delighting them. Too many Marketers spend too much time not making that last part happen: the surprise and delight. Blogging is like this too. You’re not just suddenly publishing to a significant audience. It takes time. Little pieces of valuable content each day, slowly build up over time and when you look back you have a mountain of content and a mountain of followers/community members. Little by little.

And, while I don’t expect anybody to think this is some sort of original thought or groundbreaking new idea, sometimes a quote like Arment’s reminds us of what is right and what is good about Marketing, Communications, Advertising, Social Media and the Internet. The little things.


  1. As Seth G says “drip, drip, drip.”
    What a great reminder and it also serves really well when you question why you bother with things but don’t see immediate results.

  2. You’re right Mitch, that quote is dead on!
    As you can imagine, the language and scenario speaks directly to my personal experience as well, so I’m really on board with it.
    It’s my feeling that a life of service in many forms is really quite satisfying and provides for what may be the perfect platform for surprise and delight.
    Thanks for the reminder.

  3. I’m a strong believer in the power of little big things and I thank you for another great post. IMHO, people do notice many of the little things but they don’t always acknowledge them formally. The halo effect we earn for noticing the lack of and providing the little big things is lasting, however… unless we take them away. :/.
    The other thing I would say is that we’ve become more immune to the huge splashes of creativity due to sensory overload, cynicism or both. In kindergarten, my teacher used to say “a little dab will do ya” when it came to the amount of glue I used. It may apply here too!

  4. Hi There! I’m a newbie to your blog and LOVED this quote, “Marketers spend too much time not making that last part happen: the surprise and delight.” I quoted you in my company’s upcoming newsletter (I hope that is okay).
    We’re in the retail industry and you’re right. People come to you when they need you, but its the little things that make the people who don’t need you right now come to you. 🙂 thanks for the advice.

  5. I can’t seem to get into Instapaper because my thought is that if I can’t read it now, I probably never will. However, I do love the stories behind founders and other startups. I like what Marco said about small delights. That’s a great way to break down a big project/product.

  6. I agree with you, because it’s my experience as well. I see that most of our clients stay hooked to us not just for the big project we deliver right, but for the little touches. An invite to some event, being able to listen to them when needed, even a coffee break out of the blue. Every little detail can contribute to shape a bigger success.

  7. Check it out again. I actually prefer to use it and then read right away, but what I find the most useful is the fact that the content is resident and asynchronous. So, the content is always on my device (excellent for travel and when my devices – iPad or iPhone – are not connected). I also like the fact that once, I’ve read it (or if I’m in the middle of the content), it’s always in the same/right space.

  8. Have you noticed how much better your blogs have gotten since you started interacting in the comments? I says “I care what you think”. A little thing that makes all the difference.

  9. It isn’t so much about you as it is about us. If a blog is a sum of the article + comments, then better comments = better blog. Somehow, I’m also finding what you are writing better too. Bigger picture, more vision, grander topics … more about where things are going. Love it.

  10. Couldn’t agree more. The focus at present still seems to be on the next big idea and assumes that one big innovation will change everything. I think this will be the decade of “The Little Big Things” – or at least I hope so!

  11. I am grateful 4 the quote. I agree wit u becos as meaningless as A is, the combination of A with other little aphabet will hv meaning. Thanks.

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