Personalizing your marketing efforts

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to publish a few brief articles on ways a small business can personalize their marketing efforts.  And just so you know, I’m not referring to personalizing mass produced brochures, newsletters, catalogs, and emails.  Instead, I’m encouraging you to focus on those little “human” touches that mean a lot to your best customers, prospects, industry allies and employees.  I’ll refer to this group as your “focused contacts”. 

In this process, I’m also advocating greater utilization of your contact and/or customer database.  I suggest either upgrading it to include contact specific information, or referring to it on a more regular basis.  Some examples of personal information include: how you met, where a person went to college, how many children they have, where he/she grew up, what are their favorite vacations, which competitors or suppliers they use, who they report to, etc.   

Beyond the basic contact information, customer specific information might be what are their preferred products and payment or delivery methods.  As an example, a pest control service could maintain information on whether or not residential customers have outside pets and thus always make phone contact prior to scheduling service.   

Before we get into methods, I’ll briefly list some of the potential goals of these personalization efforts: 

  1. building loyalty so you and your business are more likely to be remembered
  2. keeping your name in front of your customers in a non-sales, impromptu manner
  3. building relationships and trust
  4. making your focused contacts feel valued and appreciated.  Your note might motivate, encourage or uplift the receiver, either personally or professionally.

The three broad categories I’m going to discuss include

  1. handwritten notes
  2. customer appreciation
  3. customer service.

As you read each idea, evaluate it to see if it’s something that fits your budget, your schedule and your personal style. 

One of the most personal methods is to send a handwritten note.  Stop and think about it: don’t you almost always open the personally addressed mail first?  So what are meaningful reasons for a personal note?

  1. appreciation for being your customer, prompt payment or a referral
  2. acknowledgement for special achievement
  3. acknowledgement for a mistake made by you or your staff
  4. expression of sympathy or concern
  5. comments accompanying an article highlighting their business or industry
  6. anniversary with your company
  7. important contact met at a networking event
  8. inquiry to simply find out how they’re doing, you’re thinking about them or to highlight an important personal matter
  9. his or her birthday.  I’m going to add a word of caution as I feel this can be overdone as in the case of a P&C insurance agent sending birthday cards to the children of customers. 

Perhaps you want to acknowledge your focused contacts during small business week, save your vision week (optometrists and eyewear stores), national family week (if you business provides relevant products and services), or their alma mater scored a major academic or athletic victory.  For more fun ideas look under the Strategy category of this website for the article titled “Adding some clean fun to your promotional activities.” 

I recommend maintaining an ample supply of pre-printed stationery that fits your style, whether note paper, note cards or postcards.  The pre-printed information could include your name, title or business, phone and address.  You’ll note I’ve omitted fax number, email address and website, as this information may be crossing over the line into more of a sales message.  The rest of the card should have ample space for your short, brief message of three or four sentences.  Some people tend to find it easier to hand write something more personal then when emailing or typing a note.  Pre-printing your return address is a time saver!   

If you feel you’re better on the phone, make the effort to speak with your customers, prospects, allies and employees.  They will more than likely appreciate your personal touch! 

Two examples of professionals who have benefited from this approach are accountants and financial planners.  In the case of the financial planner, he practiced for fifteen years before adopting this tactic.  He stated that within six months, he gained extensive new referral business that significantly exceeded all other previous marketing efforts!

The next posted article will provide ideas for personalizing customer appreciation efforts.