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A Phone Without a 5

Driving back from Birmingham yesterday, Stephen and I were surfing the satellite radio and happened upon a comedian. We enjoy the comedy stylings that can be found during a 3-hour car ride, and we've heard at least one joke from probably every comedian that's played on satellite over the past six months.

What stood out about this occurrence wasn't the funny joke or the anecdote, but rather the profound implications that arose out of his social commentary. He was making some remark about how he couldn't afford a nice cell phone, so he settled for one that was missing the number 5.

Like I said: not so funny, but oh so profound.

You see, no one would ever buy a phone if the number 5 key didn't work. It might take pictures, send email, receive calls, have GPS – heck, it might even make you toast in the morning – but it wouldn't matter if you couldn’t use 10% of the buttons you need the most.

Scroll through your phone book right now and see how many people have the number 5 in their number.

See what I mean?

I bet that if your 5 key stopped working now, you'd still go out and get a new phone, even though you can just dial numbers with 5's in them straight from your phone book. You'd get a new phone because you wouldn't be able to enter new numbers that have a 5 in them. Sure, you get them to call you and then you could save their number....

Unless they have a J, K, or L in their name.

I don't think you could even give away a phone with the 5 button not working. Just like you couldn't give away milk missing an expiration date, a map without street names, or an iPod that won't skip forward.

In a world of convenience and information, something can work a lot and still be worthless. Like an eraser-less pencil, something that gets most of the job done can still leave a lot of the essentials missing, which only means that phones without functioning 5 keys, pencils without erasers and remote controls without working volume buttons all end up in the same place: the junk drawer in the kitchen.

What essentials are you missing? What is being left out of your message? What are people not getting because you’ve forgotten the essentials in the quest for a simple majority?

The majority of your Web site may work, but if people can't find out where to donate, your site is fit for the junk drawer. The majority of your church may be operating just fine, but if those outside aren't welcome, it's like that broken phone. The majority of your coffees may taste great, but if the atmosphere of the coffee shop sucks, people won't stay around for long and you'll be as ignored as a broken iPod. And the majority of flights can be on time, but forcing customers to sit on the runway for hours is like flying someone to New York who was trying to get to Boston and then telling them that at least they're closer to Boston than when they started.

It's not just about attention to detail. It's about attention to the essential details so that you create loyalty, trust and relationships – all of which are essential everywhere.

Sam DavidsonComment