“Customers are not on/off switches, but volume dials.” Peppers & Rogers
Heidi and I returned from Alaska on Sunday night. There was a small pile of mail waiting for us at home. A few bills and odds and ends. But there was something extraordinary in the mail pile. A large while mailing envelope that was unforgettably well addressed:
LLC, Corp & BYOB
803 S Liberty Drive
The sender’s name, Frank Frisella, is a friend I haven’t spoken to in over two months. And he was a stranger to begin with.
I met Frank in Mexico. Our beach chairs shared a certain patch of shade. As is often the case when staying at a hotel you see the same folks daily. Almost every morning Frank and I found ourselves sitting next to each other and talking. He’s a retired real estate investor. He and his wife live outside of Carmel California. He’s done well for himself over the years. He has a beautiful place in Hawaii. Frank collects antiques and has a special interest in military collectibles. He’s witty and talkative. Heidi and I joined he and his wife for dinner on our last night in Mexico and it was a very nice evening.
Frank and I exchanged addresses and phone numbers and told each other we’d stay in touch. I sent him a thank you card as soon as we got home to Washington. And now Frank was reciprocating. He did a much better job…
“Dear Matt–Just for fun I ran your last name because it is unique and this is what came up…thought it might interest you.”
Frank’s envelope was filled with all sorts of cool “Plughoff” research. My name is unique. It’s Prussian for “horse farmer.” The envelope included genealogical research about my family name. There was a list of all the places that my family members were buried. There were things I’d written on line. There was a “Plughoff’s per Million” population density by state description. It was very cool. I suppose I could have felt a little digi-stalked. I didn’t. Frank had taken a personal interest in my name and simply wanted to learn more. A gentle reminder that taking a sincere interest in a friend on a personal level is a far cry from Facebook manipulating my emotions with a news feed because they “know me.”
The envelope also included photos. “Some of the junk in my collection,” Frank wrote. The photos include a suit of armor, a World War 1 helmet, and a sword. These were all things that we’d talked about months earlier. He was sharing his life with me.
Finally, Frank included an invitation to use his property in Hawaii for Heidi’s birthday (done and done). “Matt and Heidi–Our unit is #201 and it’s on the pool.” Along with the invitation he included two margarita recipes. More importantly, he invited us in to his private property. Frank Frisella reminded me that the quality of ONE connection, even an acquaintance, is far better than the quantity of an e-blast, direct mail cards, pay-per-click advertisements, radio squawking, television blather, or a generic newsletter. Bombarded with generalized begs and pleas for attention, we will all ultimately return to our tribes. I’ll never tune out a friend.
An irresistible culture and a personalized customer community are mandatory aspects of our current business climate. The price of entry in to peoples’ lives is becoming higher and higher and the walls that separate strangers are growing stronger every day. Simply treating a customer, who has granted momentary access to their life, as a transaction is not only insufficient it’s arrogant. Business owners and salespeople must KNOW their customers on personal terms. The personalization (dare I say “friendship”) becomes the kingpin for better communication–more intimate, more thoughtful, more sustainable over time. In business we are all in a race for relationships, and relationships are a new type of currency. As Tim Sanders writes, “Your network is your net worth.”
I wrote back to Frank this morning. I printed a photo of he and I sitting next to each other in a Mexican cantina. I also included a salsa recipe (which he enjoys) and a picture of our dog (He and his wife are dog people). I think he’ll get a kick out of it. In our hyper-connected, micro-video, pod cast, blogosphere, Snapchat, Tumblr. era Frank Frisella, the old-school real estate investor, reminded me that taking a sincere interest in a person’s life may be the best form of marketing ever.