Humans are Hardwired to Connect

An email came through my inbox today from a colleague whose company is hiring. It said <Company> is looking for a passionate online marketer who has experience in web content creation, website development and social media. This person will help create and deliver a total marketing solution – combining web, social media, and SEO strategies – in a personalized client experience. (The bold is my addition.)

See, now this is the issue. An online-only marketing plan is NOT a total marketing solution and the companies and business people who believe it is may make some money in the short run, but they’re not going to build the relationships necessary to be around for the long term. You must connect with your target market and customers on a more human level. There’s no way around this requirement. It’s why companies such as Zappos, with missions of “providing the best customer service possible” have human customer service reps you can call instead of only allowing you to order online. It’s why they have such rabid fans.

Humans are wired to connect kinesthetically and interpersonally. That hasn’t changed in the past 20, 300 or 5,000 years. Yes, you can and should have online and electronic components to your marketing and sales plans. And for maximum success, you must incorporate traditional offline strategies as well. Pick up the phone. Send a note through snail mail. Have a package delivered.
Why do offline strategies seem so challenging? Is it because actually speaking to someone on the phone creates the opportunity to say something stupid or awkward or wrong? Is it because you are vulnerable to rejection? Sure, having someone say no to you directly might be harder to hear than not getting an email response back, but the upside is so much greater. You could engage in a dialogue – you know, where you ask questions, listen to the answers and offer relevant information based on those responses in real time!

Some offer the excuse that offline strategies are more expensive, given that sending something in physical form means you have to pay postage or shipping fees. Perhaps. What’s the value of the relationship to you? Is it a cost or an investment? Would you rather enjoy a delicious meal prepared by an incredible chef or just see a picture online? When you are tired of using electronic marketing as a shield, when you are ready (and hungry), you realize the importance of making a tangible connection to your clients.

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The Power of Following Up with Customers

As a successful business person, you probably have an effective system for staying in touch with your prospects throughout the sales process. But do you have an equally effective system for staying in touch with those same people once they’ve become clients? Or after their project has been completed?

If not, you could be missing out on significant opportunities.

I was talking with a neighbor the other day who was having issues with her hot water heater. She’d had someone repair it in the past, and was perfectly happy with their work, but she couldn’t remember the name of the company she had called then. If the company had the foresight to stay in touch with her, they could have gotten even more business from her, as well as from referrals she might send their way.

Think about how busy you are and how much information you’re required to retain every day. Your customers are experiencing the same overload, so it’s highly unlikely they’re remembering you and your company unless you are reminding them you exist.

Sure you can over do it and become a pest. I’m not suggesting you use the Popcorn Factory method of emailing customers every other day with a new promo. Depending on your business model, you could send out a weeklUse special days like Pecan Day, to stay in touch with clientsy, bi-weekly or monthly newsletter with useful, inspiring information. Or cards to celebrate random “holidays” (did you know that the first week in March is National Write a Letter of Appreciation Week? Or that the 25th is Pecan Day? International Customer Loyalty Month is coming up in April.)

How about implementing a strategy that gives your clients more personal attention, something most all humans crave. Last year I experimented with calling my clients just to see how I could help them, in a way not necessarily related to my business’ product. I had gotten the idea from a vendor who had called me to ask what she could do to help my business – was there anyone she could introduce me to. It felt so good to know that person wanted to help me, I was eager to see how it worked from the other side. I was surprised at how caught off guard they all were, as if no one had ever called with such a question unless they had an ulterior motive. Most of them didn’t even have an answer. But it gave me an opportunity to reconnect with them.

You might not get more business from them immediately, but this is about strengthening the relationship. Over time, those who consistently check in with their clients are the ones who create a better customer experience, have higher customer loyalty and more referral business.

Getting Referral Business from Clients

create a referral based businessPretty much everyone claims his or her business comes primarily from referrals. It’s true that clients who come to you at the recommendation of someone else are the best kind. After all, they’re proactively contacting you because they need what you offer and they’re biased because their friend or colleague already likes and trusts you.

If you want your business to continue growing, it only makes sense then to have a program in place to encourage and collect referrals. Don’t have a referral program already? Here’s what you need to do. Shortly after delivering your product or service, ask for a testimonial along with three referrals. The testimonial can be written or it can be an audio or video recording. Now is presumably the time when your client is most happy with you and therefore most willing to recommend you to others.

Put these testimonials on your website and share them on social media. They provide social proof for your services and they give your clients nice exposure as well.

Reach out to existing clients by sending a special letter asking for that testimonial if you don’t already have one, as well as the referrals. It’s a good idea to include an actual script that your clients can share with someone they think could benefit from your services. Make it super easy, take away the need for your clients to put a lot of effort into giving referrals, and it’s far more likely they will deliver.

Once those referrals start coming in, you absolutely must acknowledge them, whether you think it will be a “good” referral or not. It’s common courtesy to let the person referring know you’ve connected with their acquaintance. Then keep him posted on the outcome.

Sharing the outcome is important for two reasons. First, it’s good manners of course. Second, regardless of whether or not the referral works out, your feedback allows the referral source to get better at sending you future connections. For example, “Thanks so much for the referral of Sally Smith. We had a great conversation. Unfortunately we weren’t able to work together because she’s in the xyz industry and my services are better suited for the abc industry.” Now your referrer can be on the lookout for contacts in the abc industry.

When the referral does turn into a client, it makes good sense to not just let the referrer know, but to share your appreciation with a thank you note or gift. (See why cash isn’t as good a gift in this free special report.) Rewarding people for their kindness encourages them to continue that kind of behavior. Make this reward part of your appreciation program system and you’ll never have to stop and spend time figuring out what to do or give. You’ve already decided when you created the program and now it’s really easy.

You want a referral-based business? Set up the proper systems to support you.

Never say thank you for your business?

I came across an article the other day, written by a “certified sales coach,” that recommended you never say “thank you for your business” to a client. His rationale is the customer is buying from you because what you offer makes the most sense for his organization. The solution you offer is a better value than what your competitors are presenting. If you say thank you to your customer for his business, you are weakening your value.

What? That makes no sense at all. I do agree with the guy that once the contract is signed, you need to get to work on proving to your customers they made the right decision. Of course you need to deliver what you promised you would. But does saying thank you for your business make you look wimpy? I think not.

Depending on your business, the timing of when you say thank you to customers for business may vary. Financial advisors for example may want to send a thank you to clients along with all the paperwork they need filled out at the beginning – something to make the task more palatable. Roofing, painting or plumbing contractors may decide it’s better to send thank yous after the jobs are finished, perhaps with a request for a testimonial or a referral. If you’re a high level business coach or a contractor with a project scheduled over many months, it might makes sense to write a thank you note at the start and deliver a thank you gift to your customer further into the coaching relationship or assignment.

But never saying thank you for business? That’s just rude. It’s that kind of attitude that gives clients reason to question why they’re working with you. Sure, you may be solving their problem, but someone else could probably help them just as well – someone who would be more open about expressing her gratitude. As I heard Sandi Krakowski say, “if you’re not saying thank you to your customers, you don’t deserve to be in business.”

It’s a big, big mistake to assume your customers know you appreciate their business. Not saying thank you seems so 1980’s greedy. And while it’s still quite a common blunder in 2013, once you know better, you’re obligated to do better. Don’t you think?

It’s a competitive marketplace. Good manners and gratitude are a great way to differentiate your business from everyone else’s.

What’s your take on saying thank you for business? Does it make you look weak and desperate? Or do you agree it’s a smart investment in building a strong relationship?

What to write in thank you notes to clients

Right up there in the list of reasons why people aren’t saying thank you to customers is they don’t know how to express their appreciation. They don’t know what to write in a thank you notes to clients. It’s really quite esaying thank you to clients is easyasy. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Keep in mind, you always want to be authentic. Speak from your heart. That doesn’t mean you have to be mushy and saccharine sweet. Keep it professional but be sure to use your own voice and say what you feel. For some people, using humor is an appropriate expression of their personality. You know what works for you and what will be the right tone to take with your recipients.

You’re not writing the great American novel here. You just need a couple of sentences to convey your gratitude. I’ve got several thank you notes I’ve received in the past few months sitting on my desk. Interestingly, none are from vendors or suppliers, which goes to show you how rare it is for customers to get thank you notes from businesses they buy from. One says, “I so appreciate your time and effort on behalf of my audience,” sent by someone who interviewed me for her radio show. (Of course I sent her a thank you for having me on her show too!) Another says, “Thanks so much for your time! I’ve been a fan for a while now and I can see with your energy, passion and enthusiasm, it was a great idea to get in touch.” And a third person wrote, “I am grateful to be connected to you and love having you in my space.”

So you start out with what you are grateful for. Why do you appreciate this person? Perhaps something like “I enjoy working with you and am grateful to have you as a customer. Your business is important to us. If there’s ever anything we can do to serve you even better, please let me know.” And that’s it. If you’re including a gift, you can make reference to why you chose this particular gift. In one of the notes I mentioned above, my colleague went on to say is “Another thing I love is reading, so I’m giving you a bookmark.”

Some of Zen Rabbit’s clients have been known to send The Gratitude Cookies with a message such as “Happiness is a good cookie and great clients like you. Enjoy this treat!” For those who’ve sent gift packages of barbecue sauce, “Summer’s almost here and you’re probably getting ready to fire up the grill. Enjoy this delicious barbecue sauce as a token of my appreciation for your business.”

True thank you notes to customers do not include discount offers and coupons to use on the next transaction. Asking for referrals here is controversial as Don't include discounts in thank you noteswell; you would have to be extremely tactful. While some marketers will argue that not including such things is missing an opportunity, I believe it cheapens the message. You want your clients to feel your true appreciation, not feel like you’re just buttering them up to get them to buy something else. Certainly, there’s a time and a place for making new offers and requesting referrals; I’m just not convinced that you can put it in a thank you note and still come across as sincere.

If you ever need help in crafting your thank you notes to clients or customers, let me know. I’m happy to brainstorm with you.

The Humanization of Business

Years ago, back in the days of our grandparents, most people conducted business with people they knew. Business was local and you would recognize your vendors and suppliers if you ran into them at the grocery store. Some deals were done with contracts, but all agreements involved a handshake. There was a human element to every transaction.

Today, we can pretty much run our business and personal lives without having to interact with other humans. Everything can be bought and sold online, Writing emailconversations conducted via email or text. We can, however that doesn’t mean we should. For all the technology that’s been developed, humans are still wired to need physical contact and interaction with other humans. Perhaps ironically, the ability and expectation to be constantly available via electronic communications has actually created a greater importance for physically reaching out and touching someone.

How many of your clients do you know personally? Depending on your industry, you may have met with every one of them at some point in the relationship. Or you may have never even had a one-on-one conversation with them. The more of your business is conducted electronically, the higher the risk you have of customers leaving without saying goodbye. Why? Because it’s easy to walk away from someone you don’t really know, a business with which you have no real connection, even if they are providing you with a valuable service.

It’s much more difficult to change suppliers when you’ve had tangible interactions with someone. And this is why it’s so critical to take communications with your customers beyond the Internet! It’s especially important when you can’t physically meet face to face to send notes, gifts, tangible representations, because those things act as your surrogate. They are material stand-ins that aren’t likely to be ignored and can’t be deleted with a keystroke.

When you send a tangible gift, you’re telling your customer that he is important to you. He’s not getting the message that he’s just one of 1,000 people on a mass email list. He’s getting the message that he’s special, even if, in reality, you sent the same thing to 1,000 other people too.

Just last week, I received a bookmark and a note in the mail from a colleague. Her note Heart Bookmarksaid, “I am grateful to be connected to you,” and included a short list of her favorite books. Wow, very cool and unexpected (which is part of what makes it so cool!). Now I know I’m not the only person to whom she sent that gift, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that she cares enough about our relationship to reach out and touch me in that way. We’ve never met in person, but she just strengthened our bond.

You can bury your head in the sand and say it’s not true, or choose to believe you and your customers are more evolved than to need such physical connections. The bottom line is humans are still wired to desire tactile interaction with other humans. Recognize and provide it to your customers and you will see the benefits in the success of your business.

Saying Thank You to Clients on Valentine’s Day

ValenValentine's is a great time to show appreciation for customerstine’s Day is right around the corner. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of what I consider a “Hallmark Holiday.” However, I do see this holiday as an opportunity for savvy business people to tell customers how much they love doing business with them. Reaching out on Valentine’s Day and saying thank you to clients works for a few reasons.

    1. Hardly anyone else is doing it. I’m a strong advocate for going against the grain when it comes to marketing. If everyone is sending client appreciation gifts at Christmastime, then I recommend NOT doing that. The whole point of marketing is to stand out so you can catch your audience’s attention and get them to take action. So, first you have to do something noteworthy and showing up at their doorstep with Valentine’s cards or gifts is memorable.

 

    1. You can have fun with this. It’s Valentine’s Day, no reason to be all serious or traditional. Remember we’re talking clients here, not romance, so use some humor. If you’re feeling creative, you can take a stab at writing some poetry. I actually stopped as I was writing this post and made my attempt at this genre. Um, it’s not exactly Emily DickinsonWrite a poem to clients for Valentine's Day or Maya Angelou, but if you are one of my clients, you may have the good fortune to see it when you open your mail in a few days. I’ll share this; it starts out “Valentine’s Day is here…”

      You can certainly go with candy, nothing wrong with chocolate M&Ms, but chocolate kisses might send the wrong message. Go with a message like, “Valentine’s Day means chocolate. It’s also a great time for us to share with you how much we value you as a client.” Or how about a book – “I loved this book and thought you would too. Letting you know how much we appreciate your business.”

 

  1. Some people don’t have a Valentine. Okay, I said it’s not a time to be serious, but in reality this day can be hard for people who don’t have someone significant in their lives right now. Some of your customers may not get any kind of acknowledgement of their specialness today and that could leave them feeling lonely. You can remedy that by letting them know they are important to you and they will remember you kindly for doing so.

This Valentine’s Day, make the most of the chance to strengthen relationships with your clients. Let me know what creative ideas you come up with, or what you are lucky enough to receive from one of your vendors. Share in the comments section here or on our Facebook page.