How Freedom Fighters Compete

Freedom Fighters believe their competitive advantage to be superior customer service and/or a unique product/service. If you talk to the owner of a local deli and ask him why his business hasn't been destroyed by the onset of McDonald's and Wendy's on every corner, he's likely to tell you one of two things: either his sandwiches are better or he knows his lunch crowd on a first-name basis.

26. Thomas J. Stanley. Selling to the Affluent. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1991).

I can remember interviewing the owner of a four-person children's clothing retailer named Greg. He was a classic Freedom Fighter: fiercely independent, skeptical of big business, with a staff he referred to as his extended family. He lived in a city which offered lots of choices for buying kids' apparel—everything from the local department store to a variety of stand-alone children's clothing boutiques.

I asked Greg how he competes with all his larger, better-financed competition. Instead of answering the question directly, he opted to tell me a story about one Christmas Eve a few years before. The days leading up to Christmas were always hectic for Greg, with last-minute shoppers trying desperately to find that special something. As he was closing the store on Christmas Eve, Greg noticed a parcel sitting by the cash register. He opened it up and saw a sweater, which he remembered as the purchase of a good customer he knew well. Earlier that day, she had been in the store shopping for her grandchildren. In all of the pre-Christmas commotion, she had left her purchases in the store. Realizing the possible Christmas morning impact of this grandmother's forgetful-ness, Greg hopped in his car after closing the store for the holidays and drove fifteen minutes to her home just outside of town so that she would have the gifts when her grandchildren came over for the big day.

A quaint story, to be sure, but also illustrative of what Freedom Fighters see as their competitive advantage. Greg remembered his customer's purchases well enough to match the abandoned bag with his long-time customer. He knew her address from their ongoing dealings and did not hesitate to drive out of his way on Christmas Eve to keep his customer for life.

Understanding how Freedom Fighters differentiate themselves from large competitors holds important lessons for marketers. Freedom Fighters are a tough audience. They offer unique products and services with fanatical customer service. In turn, they expect the same degree of attention from the suppliers they choose. Freedom Fighters tend to distrust and dislike banks, telephone companies, and computer mak ers largely because they cast their skeptical eye over these behemoths and hold them to the same standards of service they offer their own customers.

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