Make it personal

Make It Personal image with folder

Looking for a low-cost, high-impact marketing strategy?

Grab some paper and a pen.

Years from now, someone will spend a gazillion dollars to study American life online and wonder who these people were who so desperately need to lose weight, perfect their relationships, look younger, make certain body parts larger than life, buy fake designer goods and grab those Ph.Ds they so richly deserve but have not earned.

Sigh.

That’s a typical day of email for us. More than 700 messages, of which 80 percent are junk (that get deleted without us even reading them), and 20 percent actual mail.

Snail mail isn’t much better. Our mailbox is typically brimming with bills, offers from companies we’ve never heard of, and lots of “You have already been approved” credit card applications. On a good day, there’s mail that arrives in a handwritten envelope.

Guess which we open first?

The telephone isn’t much better. At least 10 times a day, we answer the phone with a smile only to be greeted by silence and a recorded message that’s supposed to encourage us to act immediately. Instead, we just hang up the phone.

We all have far too much impersonal communication in our lives. Most of us rarely receive handwritten notes or letters, so it’s a big deal when we do. Anything handwritten gets opened first. There are studies that back that up, but chances are you don’t need a study to tell you that. You open those handwritten letters first, too. That’s because it’s the personal touch that gets our attention.

Nearly 30 years ago, we introduced a marketing program we call Impact 8. We still use it and share it with retailers because it still works. Impact 8 can make you the most visible person in your furniture store or the most talked about store in your community. Impact 8 has elevated some retailers to celebrity status and all in the amount of time it takes to have a cup of coffee each morning.

There are two parts to Impact 8. Part 1 involves a personal telephone call to four customers you spoke to or worked with the day before. This isn’t telemarketing – you are not allowed to talk about furniture unless the customer brings it up. If you happen to get the customer’s answering machine, it’s OK to leave a message. Trust us. If you keep your message free from even a whiff of business, you’ll make their day.

Here’s a sample conversation:

“Hello, Mrs. Wiggins? This is Paul at Fisher’s Home Furnishings.

After the customer has had a chance to respond, you say:

“I enjoyed speaking with you yesterday, and I just wanted to take a moment and thank you for your business. I know that you have lots of choices, and I thank you for choosing my store. If there is ever anything I can do for you, please do not hesitate to call me anytime.”

Call four customers per day and watch what happens. But that’s only the first part of Impact 8.

To implement Part 2, you’re going to need note cards that are blank on the inside. Go for standard greeting card size, not the smaller, common “Thank You” card version. You can use fun off-the-rack cards or create a custom version – it’s up to you. You will also need the names and addresses of four customers you spoke or worked with the day before, because these customers are going to get a personal note from you.

There are a few rules:

  1. Each note must be handwritten. Remember, handwritten mail is always the first mail to be opened. It’s easy to try to fake it with a service that imitates real handwriting but trust us, you know the difference and other people know the difference, too.
  2. You must address the envelope by hand. They’ll never see your handwritten note if your envelope is addressed by a computer. You’re only doing four a day, so this isn’t a big deal.
  3. You must use real stamps. Weird or interesting stamps would be the preference. The post office offers lots of eye-catching versions to choose from, so stay away from the same old, same old. You’re in the fashion business, right? Pick something that will catch your customers’ eyes. You might even consider using different denominations to make your envelope really stand out.

So, what does your note say? Something like this:

“Dear Mrs. Wiggins,

“I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for your business. I know that you have a lot of stores to choose from and I appreciate your choosing Fisher’s. If you have any problems with your sofa and loveseat, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I have enclosed my business card and would love to hear from you.”

Now let’s do the math: If you implement Impact 8 just four days a week, you will impact 32 customers per week, 128 customers per month and 1,536 customers per year. And if those customers tell just five of their friends who might have admired the new sofa or mention they are looking to redecorate, that’s 7,680 people. The word-of-mouth advertising and goodwill you will generate is immeasurable.

The cool thing about Impact 8 is that it operates under the radar, so it’s rarely noticed by your competition – they’re busy looking at your ads and social media posts. All they will notice is fewer cars in their parking lot and more cars in yours.

What’s your initial investment? Well, a book of stamps for starters. Some greeting cards or stationery, too, and 20 minutes of your time every morning. Even as valuable as your time is, that’s a pretty modest investment for such a powerful impact.