A Personal Recipe for Branding Success

Some time ago, I checked into a hotel in Hong Kong. The receptionist handed me a bunch of business cards. They weren’t the hotel’s business cards but my own, complete with my phone and fax numbers and contact details while staying at the hotel. It was a gesture that kind of made me feel special.

I know we can all be cynical and see through this ploy, but it works.

Time after time, when evaluating what makes service unique, I conclude it comes down to two simple factors: attention to the individual and a personal twist. Whether we admit it or not, we all love particular attention, to be treated as unique human beings. Especially these days, when corporate inattention so often makes us feel more like statistical details than people with names.

A while back, I wrote a column on how important it is to personalize a brand’s dialogue with the customer. One assumption was the more personal we make our brand’s voice, the more effective communication becomes. Well, a reader from Holland, Erwin van Lun, contacted me to tell me the assumption has been proven.

Dutch marketing journal Tijdschrift voor Marketing published some hot-off-the-press data showing the personal touch can be even more effective than anticipated.

According to the article, if you simply begin a missive with “Dear X” (inserting the recipient’s name), the response rate will be 42 percent. That’s compared to a response rate of 10 percent for letters commencing with the universal “Dear Reader.” These rates might vary from country to country, but they should make you think no matter where you work.

Please don’t start thinking your personalized communication strategy should stop there. The journal also illustrates the value of analyzing your audience, segmenting it, and making your communications more relevant, personal, and direct. Besides addressing emails to individual recipients and signing them with a real person’s name (rather than a departmental designation), try to reflect real events that affect the person you’re addressing.

Here’s a simple example. While preparing to move recently, one of my friends received an email offering advice on what to do to avoid problems with movers. Naturally, selecting the “best” moving company was high on the list of recommendations. The company said it received the information about my friend’s move from a government registry that, in that country, makes such information available to the public. What I liked about this email was not only did it come in a meaningful context (the right message sent to the right person at the right time) but it also offered realistic and useful advice most people would value.

Let’s be honest. We’re all sick and tired of spam. Spam is destroying the consumer’s attention span. As consumers, we do love personal, relevant attention. The best way to achieve this for your clients is to offer something free of charge, something relevant to their situation and customized to meet their needs. This might cost extra to produce; it might require you to do a bit more research; it will mean you have to prepare emails with extra care. In the end, I reckon this approach is the only way to build brands: to be relevant and to understand your customers’ needs.

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