How many emails do you get every day? I receive on average around 400 emails each and every day. Those are the emails that get past the spam filters too. If I have to go spelunking for an errant email, in spam folders, that number easily doubles. The majority of those emails are pretty much junk, such as emails from businesses I’ve purchased from in the past offering their latest whatever. Then there are the political emails, Give $10 to one candidate and your email address is shared with 25 others who soon beg for money. I subscribe to a large number of news emails. Some to truly keep up on world events, others to keep up with our industry, and for me, marketing, website design, social media, and so on too. Finally, that last 20% or so are the press releases we receive daily and the emails from customers and advertisers. Each day I need to weed through hundreds of emails to get to the few dozen that are truly important.
The same can be said for the postal mail I get from my mailboxes at home and work. Most of the mail is grocery circulars or direct mail offers from banks, auto repair shops, dentists, and pizzerias. There are of course the inevitable bills from the utilities, telecom, and insurance companies. Then there are the handful of real magazines I still subscribe to and try to read. Every once in a while though there is a piece of real mail. I mean an honest to goodness letter or card, hand-addressed and stamped. Who doesn’t open one of those first?
Not that long ago when most of my time was spent consulting I remember having long discussions with optometrists about hand-written notes. Every single one of them wanted to use emails and pre-printed postcards while we always suggested handwritten notes. Am I Luddite living in the past? Those of you who know me, know I often race to embrace the newest technology. Not only am I often at the forefront of cutting edge technology, but I am also sometimes embracing bleeding-edge technology, moving faster into exploring what’s new.
It is because we are all so obsessed with the ease and speed of technology that as marketers, we sometimes need to embrace the opposite. Those who were watching TV in the ’90s will possibly remember the Seinfeld episode, The Bizarro Jerry, where Elain had a group of three other friends who are the opposite of Jerry, George, and Kramer, in a takeoff of the Bizzaro Superman comics from the 1960s.
I have preached the handwritten thank you card mantra for years. In this modern-day and age of emails and pre-printed direct mail, handwritten cards and letters always stand out. Direct marketers know this and have resorted to sending out mass mailers that are supposed to appear handwritten. They, of course, fail in their mailing because they almost always choose to send the mail with an indicia instead of a stamp, which saves them a ton of money at the post office but costs them at the mailbox with many more unopened letters.
Handwritten letters and notes are read because they are so unique in this day and age. Yet the temptation for every ECP to automize their mailings, their recall notices, their every business process, is saving them time, but costing them money. When my dentist sends a postcard to remind me to make an appointment, it is a mass-produced 4”x6” postcard that gets thrown away before it’s ever read. It’s one of those cheesy reminder cards they bought from a catalog dentists across the country all buy from, the same way many an unimaginative optometrist buys pre-printed optical recall cards. They are almost always 4”x6” or smaller because that qualifies for a postcard stamp instead of first-class postage, saving them money.
Believe me, I understand saving money. I am all for saving money. Every business costs money to run and all of us would like to put some money in our pockets at the end of the year. I am telling you that the extra 15¢ to send a letter instead of a postcard can reap big rewards when used correctly. Printing your own thank you cards is truly not that expensive and more importantly, makes you not only unique but memorable.
Write a note to remind patients to schedule their next appointment. Write a thank-you note every time someone buys a new pair of eyeglasses or sunglasses. Be different. Be engaging. You will see a marked difference in the number of return patients and customers as well as a decrease in negative online reviews too.
Don’t have time to write your own cards and letters? Divide up duties among your staff. Or even easier, write a few scripts and hire a high-school student with excellent penmanship to do the work for you. Use real stamps. Go to the post office and buy fun stamps, not just the generic forever stamps. Make your envelope stand out even more. It costs nothing more.
We all like personalized service. We all like to be called by name. We would all much rather be a person than a number. It’s little things like a handwritten note to someone who has already spent their hard-earned money with you that will set you apart and endear you to your patients, your customers, and your community.