In today's competitive business environment, it is more difficult than ever to find creative ways to differentiate ourselves. Because our clients and prospects are barraged on a daily basis with highly commercialized messages, this is no easy challenge. Let's face it; most of us are in various states of sensory overload already. As a result, we have highly developed built in filtering processes that automatically screen the content we permit ourselves to read and focus on. Content that does not survive this filtering process becomes "noise" and is quickly dismissed.
Unfortunately, many of us have forgotten a few of the golden rules of good business practice. People still prefer to do business with people they like and trust. If you only interact with your clients and prospects on a pure business level, then your approach is pretty much like everyone else's. If you are pushing a pure business agenda, that becomes your client's perception of you. They don't see you as someone truly interested in them or someone personally invested in solving their problems. They just see you as someone who wants something from them. Is this really how you want to be perceived?
Phone calls, business letters, and e-mails are all important communication tools in business. Clients expect them, but they are rarely impressed by them. They are far too common place. What they don't see much of anymore are signs of personal investment. Engaging your clients and prospect can be as simple as sending them a hand written card or letter. When was the last time you received one? It's probably been a while. This rarity is exactly what makes them such a powerful differentiator.
People still love to receive cards in the mail, especially if they are hand written, hand addressed and sent using a stamp (not metered!). This is as true in business as in our personal life. Cards are usually short and easy reads. They should convey a relevant message NOT related to selling. They can be as simple as thanking them for their time or a personal request for an opportunity to be introduced or referred. Whatever the message, it has to be sincere and genuine. You can not fake it.
Every professional should own at least two types of business stationery:
1.) A corporate version that can be used for newer clients and prospects with whom you are trying to cultivate a business relationship. This set should be simple, but more formal. Newer clients might expect to see a corporate logo or watermark. That's ok. Use this set for those clients for which you are trying to bridge the gap between business and personal.
2.) A personal version that does not contain any company identifiers. This set should be used for established clients with whom you wish to communicate on a more personal level. The cards can be more relaxed, but should still convey quality and good taste. This is not the place to skimp on materials. Quality and style count. They should have a premium look and feel that will reflect favorably on you.
In this high tech world of text messages and e-mails, a hand written note can be a great way to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Good business etiquette is the key to customer engagement and engagement is the key to success. If you succeed in engaging your audience on a personal level, you just might find them to be more receptive to you on a business level.
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