Can You Make Your Business More Personal?

Sometimes, I get sick of hearing myself talk about “Social Media”, “Humanizing Your Brand” and “Conversations”.  Today I am going to tell you a story instead.

The reality is that people want to feel like they are doing business with real people who actually care about them.  This is the gist of what most social media advocates talk about.

The question is, how can you do this?  The answer is much bigger than social media.

Last weekend I went to my first NHL Hockey game (I know, embarrassing for a Canadian).  At any rate, I was going to see the Columbus Blue Jackets.  I live in Cincinnati, which is only 2 hours away and I have been meaning to go to a game for the last 5 years.

Now to the point. 

The Mysterious Personal Letter on Our Seat

We got the tickets as a part of a promotion with Tim Hortons.  For only $30 we got tickets, $10 to spend on concessions, a free travel mug, a hat and a coffee and timbits.

When we got to our seats, there was an envelope with the name of my friend who had bought the tickets on it.  Just sitting on the seat.

I looked through the stadium and ours was the only seat that I could see with this personal envelope.

Inside was a letter from a ticket sales coordinator that was personally written, and it included her business card.  It just said that she would be our personal ticket coordinator if we ever needed help getting tickets in the future.  We were both shocked.  This personal touch was certainly unexpected and it left a really positive impression on both of us.

The Result of the Personal Letter

We held on to the business card.

The experience at the hockey game was great (except for the over-priced $8 beers).  And despite the crazy high prices, the concession staff was EXTRAORDINARILY nice and helpful.

Since we had the contact info of a sales person we actually discussed getting a group together next year and organizing a big trip.  This was a combination of having a good experience and the personal touch and clear next steps created by the letter. 

They seemed to really want us to come back. 

Simple, Personal Marketing Can Produce Amazing Results

The simple act of providing someone with a personal response can really make their day, and the difference in how they think about your company.  The thing is that so many businesses spend time, money and energy on their traditional and scalable marketing that they don’t realize that getting personal with people can produce better results.

Think about it – having a good experience means that I’ll tell people about it, (heck – even in this blog post) and I’ll bring people back with me. 

Something as simple as a personal note or card, and showing people that you care can be so surprising that they tell their friends about it.

Another example.  My sister left a suggestion on Starbucks My Idea a few months ago.  They mailed her a personal card (written and signed by a real person with a real name) to thank her for her contribution.  She felt valued and appreciated.  The card also included a coupon for a two-for-one espresso drink.  She didn’t run out to Starbucks right away, but she was delighted.  The personalization of the note meant a lot to her.  So much that she told me about it (and who knows who else).  As a result we both have a better impression of Starbucks.

What is Preventing You from Getting Personal?

 The reason more businesses don’t do this is because it takes work.  It takes work to coordinate to have someone find the people who are at a first-time game, draw up personal notes, sign them and leave them on the correct seats.

It is way easier for most companies to place an ad or run a commercial.

Impersonal marketing scales and is easy to execute – it reaches a lot of people without taking a lot of effort.  Really true personal communication doesn’t scale.  But it works.

Have you seen personalized marketing work?  Have you used it?


  1. Kind of off topic but it’s in the same vein–companies going out of their way to make consumers feel valued.

    This story goes back a long way (1980’s) to when I was a kid. My mother used to buy me Star Wars action figures all the time. One day she bought a Darth Vader. When I got it home and took it out of the package, Vader’s tiny little head fell off before I’d even touched it.

    My mother wrote a letter to Hasbro customer service complaining about the toy.

    Several weeks went by and we forgot about the whole thing–except I was still bumbed about my headless Darth.

    Then one day we got a package in the mail. There was a letter attached (a form, not personal but close enough)apologizing for our bad experience. Inside the box was an entire playset with 5 action figures and a wall poster.

    While the response may not have been personal, it definitely was better than a kick int he pants and exceptionally memorable (I was only 5 and still remember it).

  2. Robert

    Thanks for sharing that story. Your example really shows how a small touch (sending a whole new set) can really make a difference.

    Even 30 years later it still shaped your experience – and you actually know the name of the company that sent it to you!

    The other thing that comes to mind when reading your story is how a solid response to a problem can turn you from a hater to a lover. Companies are always afraid of complaints on social media sites, but if handled correctly, the people with the problems can become your biggest advocates.

    Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful experience.

    – Krista


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Krista Neher, Ann Lightfoot. Ann Lightfoot said: RT @kristaneher » Can You Make Your Business More Personal? […]

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