Connecting—Not a New Concept
We’ve all seen ways to buy and sell—from brick-and-mortar to online shopping; from receiving letters to being deluged with email. The handwritten card seems to be the new way to cut through the clutter that we created by trying to reach buyers on their terms. The irony is that the everyday interpersonal medium from our pre-1990s world is becoming a little more exciting simply due to its rarity.
My youngest daughter will be a high school senior. She’s in the throes of college visits. She plays softball and the presence of a good softball team and interested coach is a huge part of her selection process. To put it simply, she’s networked to a few coaches and a few have networked to her. Most of this initial networking has been through emails and online presence. It’s the follow-ups that have been varied, and seem to be making or breaking interest with her.
The handwritten notes on college stationery (some basic, some very customized with team photos) are in her room on her desk. She is proud of them. Each contains the cell number of the coach and a personal message. Emails from other coaches who didn’t send a card are still saved, but so far her favorite choices have a tangible note tied to them. (One big disappointment is that my alma mater, and the college my oldest daughter attends—sends generic "We are very interested in you!" emails that do absolutely nothing to set them apart. C’mon, I know you can do better than this!)
As we get away from inefficient touches and feel that people don’t want to connect in person anymore, especially Generation Y and future generations, we’re missing the boat. Big time. Yes, we are now dependent on wireless devices, and love the ability to order any movie at any time of the day. I can text my husband or kids to let them know I’m running late before I leave the office, or can show off pictures of the dog while traveling (I have more photos of a Corgi on my phone than every human family member combined—he doesn’t run away). But I show the photos to people—and I see their photos—in person. My Facebook and LinkedIn connections that mean the most to me are people I see regularly, in person.
To make yourself stand out, make sure you’re touching people on various levels. While striving for relevance to every generation of buyer, also recognize that generations aren’t boxes, and that people are human and no two are alike. Use the tools technology delivers—but don’t forget to truly connect with the other individual you’re trying to engage. Each person is an opportunity, and even if you’re reaching out to several, making them feel like they’re the one on your mind—even for a moment—is huge. The extra minute you took to write a note (using a pen) or to call and set up a time to meet in person shows you’re willing to invest more in them than a few seconds to fire off an email. If it captured the attention of a hard-to-impress 17-year-old, imagine what it could do for someone who already sees value in what you do.