Since I began selling and marketing over thirty years ago, novel ways of getting the attention of a potential buyer has been high on my list. Remember when email was a novelty? Can you recall the last time you opened something out of the mouth of an automated direct mail response engine?
Automated, demographic-segmented, behavior-driven, algorithm-brewed electronic and direct mail marketing has reached such a point of saturation that recipients either filter them out electronically, or ignore them.
Here are some ways to stand out from the crowd … if sincerely and prudently used.
Send personal well wishes through social media. Social media like LinkedIn and Facebook notify you of important events such as a birthday, promotion, work anniversary, publication of a blog, and so forth. While they often contain prescribed click-and-send notes (“Happy birthday, Roberta”, and “Congratulations, Alan!”) you’ll stand out from the rest of the click-and-send crowed by deleting them and writing your own short message. Prerequisite: you have to know the person well enough to be sending the note; otherwise it will appear as blatantly self-serving and do you more harm than good. Effort: low. Cost: zero.
Send a personal letter in the mail – not a form letter, but a letter personally tailored to the receiver, and signed by you. You can, for example, include a copy of – or web address leading to – an article that your recipient may find of interest. Write it in ink, not pencil (you can’t go wrong with black or blue). Prerequisite: have something sensible and of merit to communicate, staying clear of sales pitches. Effort: modest (you can always use a text editor). Cost: under a dollar.
Go one better, and send a handwritten letter which is signed by you. When was the last time you received a handwritten letter? Handwritten letters need to be carefully crafted, for both thought and penmanship (you can’t cross out mistakes and start over again). Prerequisite: your letter must be born of sincerity and good taste, staying well clear of sales overtures or self-serving asides, e.g. “Perhaps we can have lunch and discuss the merits of our product line.” Resist the urge to add in a data sheet or brochure. Effort: high. Cost: under a dollar.
Go for the gusto, and send a handwritten letter on personal stationery – not company letterhead, but personal stationery with your name on it. Tastefully selected stationery sends as much a message about you as does what you say. In all likelihood your recipient has never received a handwritten letter on personalized stationery. Prerequisite: No matter how appropriate the stationery, or how much effort goes in to your handwriting, commercial entreaties will most certainly backfire. Effort: high. Cost: $3 to $8 depending on choice of stationery (higher if you find yourself discarding sheets and starting from scratch again).
Send a personal greeting card – birthday, holiday, or promotion. Don’t send an e-card – not if you want to stand out from the crowd. You’ll either need to go to the store and purchase one, write a personal note, sign it and mail it. Or, if you have already splurged on personal stationery, you can also purchase pre-packaged occasion cards in bulk so that they are always handy. Prerequisite: common sense and good taste prevail. Do not send the increasingly popular, quantity-produced holiday greeting cards with a picture of your family with their heads poking through the cutouts of a winter snow scene or, worse, you wearing a pumpkin costume at Halloween. Effort: high. Cost: $2 – $5.
Send a suitable gift as a thank you, or to commemorate an important occasion. This could either foster or kill the relationship with a customer or prospect, depending on what you choose to send. A “small token of appreciation” should be just that: something tasteful and thoughtful that is likely to be appreciated, and not perceived as an inducement (certainly not to a U.S. government employee where gift values cannot exceed $25). Prerequisite: The recipient should have some knowledge of who you are, and the nature and value of the gift should be appropriate and suitable to the occasion. Effort: high: Cost: $10 – $25. You need not test the waters by going over the top.
Bottom line: it takes a combination of more time, effort and money to stand out from others. Yet, well-selected and tastefully crafted outreach can set you apart from the e-brigade.