Getting Personal With Your Customers


When I was in grade school, my Dad became very irritated with the administration at my school because of the letters they would send when I’d get a good report card. In those days (dating myself) letters were typed with typewriters, and to save time, they’d photocopy (Xerox in those days) what was called a ‘form letter,’ with a blank for the student’s name. Then, they’d only have to type in each students’ name rather than re-typing the whole letter. These letters must have been easy to spot, and my Dad felt strongly that if the school was going to truly praise the children, they should hand type each letter. Now, I was oblivious to all of this and likely did not notice that the letters were not as ‘special’ as they could be, but I think it proves a point that I’m experiencing again in the age of new media.

If you’ve been reading Seth Godin, you know that he has long sung the praises of so-called ‘permission marketing,’ where you use tools such as e-newsletters to develop a relationship with customers whereby they sign up to hear from you. Godin points out that the tenets of ‘old school’ marketing, such as broadcasting a message using a printed Ad, no longer work well for today’s customers, who have so many choices for research updates and news. I agree wholeheartedly with Seth, but have seen the dangers of relying too heavily on the myriad tools which facilitate these types of interactions.

For Twitter, there are many tools which allow you to send a direct message to someone automatically when you have news or when they first begin following you. Depending on your settings, you’ll get an email and/or a notification on your phone. The problem? It is difficult to determine whether the ‘DM’s’, as they are called, are automatic or a true personal interaction. The result? When I receive what I think is an automatically generated DM, I feel as though it is highly disingenuous and dislike it–I even consider ‘un-following’ the person. I found that others on Twitter have had similar reactions.

What can you learn from this when using permission marketing? Be 100% clear about the nature of the communication when sending messages to customers. Newsletters are an acceptable way to mail a large group of your customers, but if you send a message to a group using CRM software, etc., make it clear by saying something like ‘we’re emailing you because you fit this category’, etc. Beware of including the customers’ first name when sending e-mail blasts, even if they have opted in for the message (I know one company that switched first and last names of customers in an email blast, causing much distress).

In summary, make personal and automatically generated communications with your customers distinct, and you will prevent misunderstandings and form more meaningful relationships with them. I don’t think any of your customers’ parents will contact you, but they may decide to withhold the ‘permission’ they granted you to contact them, and more importantly, have a negative association with your company. If you want help building relationships with customers which will lead to long term growth of your company, contact us.

3 thoughts on “Getting Personal With Your Customers”

  • I really enjoyed this read and agree that the nature of communication is what you have to say and the method in which you deliver it. The flip side then becomes the recipient, who are they and by which way will they interrupt your message? Forming a personal relationship with those who you wish to communicate with is by far the best method for preventing misunderstandings.

  • Great post! I would also add that a business owner should not send any messages regarding their personal beliefs, such as religious or political affiliations to contacts they do not know personally (and even then, I wouldn’t advise it). I have received a couple of these recently, and the worst part is, they usually do not even offer an unsubscribe option (perhaps purposely). If I had ever considered doing business with these folks, I wouldn’t now. Seems like this would be obvious, but I guess sometimes emotions can overcome common sense.

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