Direct mail and the small business advantage

Rockstar Consulting President David J.P. Fisher shares an experience that moved chances of a return visit to a new restaurant “from a ‘maybe’ to a ‘the coupon is on the refrigerator and I’m already asking people to join us’.”

He had visited the restaurant and signed up for the mailing list when leaving, hoping that the expected coupons might save a few dollars for a potential return. He was surprised when the coupon arrived with a twist – a handwritten note from the chef on the back of the envelope.

Wow! Easy! And exactly the sort of personal touch where the small business (or the savvy local franchise manager) has a huge advantage over the impersonal, bumbling bureaucracy of the Fortune 1000.

Fisher suggested the efficiency of “having the waitstaff write a note to each of their tables at the end of the night.” Here again, the human touch can pay further dividends. The server can make a small note of something memorable, where it’s appropriate. A bit of self-deprecating humor over a minor mistake (properly fixed to everyone’s satisfaction first) from a disaster to a chance to make friends of customers and in the process customers for life.

And let’s not neglect the possibilities for connecting with some of the most important people to the business that are there every single day – the employees. Allowing employees to interact with customers in a new way and encouraging them to have appropriate fun with it empowers employees.  I’d go a step further and let the employees award a VIP special to any of the customers they feel deserve it – the guy who made them laugh, the customer who tipped a little more, the lady who took time to ask about your employee’s kids  – and consider it a great thing if that’s every customer! 

We don’t often miss opportunities for the big connect – “Thanks for sharing your 50th wedding anniversary with us!” – but simply enlisting those front line employees to gather the little bit of information necessary and actively engage with customers, in a way that empowers and benefits the employees, too, creates a chance to connect with every customer we see.