>Lowe’s vs. Keith’s Hardware

>The Heavyweight
Lowe’s currently has some TV commercials depicting a Lowe’s employee and a customer leisurely strolling through Lowe’s discussing a financing special while looking at several products. This is called fantasy advertising.

Here’s how it really works. You walk down the main aisle of the cavernous Waco Lowe’s store, doing “the sweep,” looking side to side down each row until you spot a Lowe’s employee. When you spot one, he is usually surrounded by about three customers, each wanting help. You take your place in line until it’s your turn. The harried employee does his best to help you find what you need and then he’s off to the next customer.

And In This Corner
Contrast that experience with the one you get at Keith’s Hardware, a locally-owned hardware store it Waco, about 5 miles away from the Waco Lowe’s.

Every single time I have walked in to Keith’s Hardware I have been approached by a Keith’s employee and asked if I needed help.

Most of the employees have been working at Keith’s for a long time. And they all know what they are doing. The picture above is assistant manager Mark helping out a customer.

One of the employees told me that he worked at Home Depot before coming to work for Keith’s. He said the hours were better, the pay was better and the benefits were better at Keith’s Hardware than at Home Depot.

Notice the aisles at Keith’s. They are much narrower than Lowe’s or Home Depot. Inventory is obviously smaller. While Lowe’s and Home Depot focus on SKU’s (stock keeping units), Keith’s focuses on intimacy.

The Lesson for Small Businesses
Small businesses can compete and win against big business, but not in the big business’ arena. Lowe’s and Home Depot fight in the arena of product selection and price. Keith’s Hardware has chosen to fight in the arena of customer experience, and this is where they win.

Sometimes I shop at Lowe’s and sometimes I shop at Keith’s. For example, when I needed some paving stones for a little patio project in the back yard, I chose Lowe’s because they had a bigger selection and their paving stones were cheap.

But when I needed a couple of electrical parts and some advice on how splice a cable, I went to Keith’s Hardware. I knew I could get some help and good advice.

Are you fighting a large corporate competitor? Don’t fight in their arena. Make them try to beat you on your home turf. Fight them in an arena where you have an advantage. For most small businesses that going to be either service, customer experience or a unique product/service.

Related Posts on the Customer Experience:
A Remarkable Customer Experience: Power to The Small Business Blogcast
What Starbucks Wishes It Could Be Again
How Important is Customer Service?
Magic Spots in The Customer Experience

For practical small business marketing ideas and case studies, see our other blog: The Idea Spot
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