A few years ago I participated in a special event for online marketing. The organizer, a genuinely caring person, wanted to send participants a gift. She sent a box of caramel candy. I appreciated the gesture, but I had to give away the candy. I just don’t eat it.
An acquaintance got a gift from a company to thank him for being a good customer: a box of chocolate with nuts. He was allergic to nuts and his doctor had just put him on a sugar-free diet.
A marketer decided to send Christmas cards to the many people who’d signed up for his high-priced coaching program. The envelopes were addressed by hand, apparently by his children. Inside, the cards held a standard printed message – not even a handwritten note.
A real estate agent sent her client a scratch-and-sniff card as a thank you – after representing that client in sale and purchase of his homes.
Each of these stories demonstrates what’s becoming increasingly common: fake personalization.
We’ve all been encouraged to personalize our interactions with clients. Research actually supports this advice.
In particular, a study attributed to Robert Cialdini mailed a survey with 3 different cover letter set-ups: a printed letter; a printed letter with a handwritten message; and a printed letter with a handwritten message on a Post-It note.
Only 36% responded to the plain printed letter; adding a handwritten note raised the response rate to 48%; adding a post-it hit a home run with a 75% response rate.
Was there some magic in the sticky note? Apparently not: a blank post-it note evoked a 42% response rate, not much higher than the printed letter.
Cialdini suspected the respondents were responding to apparent effort by the sender. Some effort was required to produce a handwritten note, and an even greater effort was required to add the sticky note.
Trying to get personal in an online environment
When you’re marketing yourself as a professional service, you might believe you need to promote your personal side. Your clients want to know there’s a person. And when someone’s done something special, you might feel impelled to respond with a personal note to communicate your appreciation of specialness.
But getting personal can become meaningless on the one hand or intrusive on the other.
Meaningless: If everybody does the same thing, recipients will recognize it’s a ploy to grab attention.
Sometimes I get a personal note from someone I met at a networking event, or a thank you from someone whose services I bought.
I know exactly what they’re doing. For all I know, they’ve hired assistants to imitate their handwriting.
But handwritten sticky notes are 100 times better than those printed cards designed to mimic handwriting. Every year, I get a few holiday cards that obviously came from that company.
What to do instead:
If you send cards, write a short personal note on each one – something that shows you’re directly addressing the recipient.
No time to write all those cards? Send a personal email to your special colleagues and clients.
Intrusive: Sometimes you’re advised to pick up the phone and call people. If you don’t know them, you might not be perceived as personal and friendly. You might be seen as intrusive. It’s usually better to set up a call via email: “I’ll call you at 2 PM Tuesday, if that’s okay,” and send a reminder.
It’s hard to believe, but some of us remember when a long-distance call cost more than a local call. At one time the cost was so great, people held off making those calls!. Holiday phone calls were a very big deal.
Today it’s easy to pick up the phone or hook up to Skype to call New Mexico or New Guinea.
As a result, some people don’t realize they’re talking to another time zone. Calling at 3:30 PM seems reasonable … unless you happen to be in Los Angeles and you’re calling me in Philadelphia. At 6:30 I’m thinking about my dinner or my Zumba class.
Phone calls are always an interruption.
Recently I was trying to record a video and forgot to shut off my phone. Suddenly I heard a familiar musical tone and the rest was history.
To be sure, I’ve had a few wonderful experiences with people who called me out of the blue to set up a joint venture or a client relationship. Those people were courteous, friendly, and purposeful. They had done their homework and knew exactly what they wanted.
They introduced themselves immediately and. told me what they wanted. They didn’t begin with, “Hi, is this Cathy? How are you today?” They know that opening sounds like a sales pitch.
A well-written email can seem more personal than anything else.
You’ll show you took time to compose your
And let’s hope somebody doesn’t get the bright idea to preprint the sticky notes! We need something personal.