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My Communications Mantra for 2013: “Do Unto Others … “

January 22, 2013

Like many of you, dear readers, I succumb annually to the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions – go to the gym more, eat healthier, treat my addiction to travel magnets, and so on.  Some stick and others do not (no pun intended).

I also find myself thinking about resolutions I would like others to adopt.  For example, my 2-year-old should stop sneaking in my room and climbing on my head at 3am, and “Gangnam Style” should stop coursing through my head for days and weeks on end.  I do not expect either to happen soon.

I would like to offer a 2013 resolution for my cherished supply-side MR colleagues while it is fresh in my mind.  Please, please, please resolve to hold yourself to a high standard when it comes to emails.

What do I mean by this? The Golden Rule of “Do Unto Others” applies here – a marketing tenet that Mary Kay Ash followed en route to being named as the Most Outstanding Woman in Business in the 20th Century by Lifetime Television. To quote: “Some might consider the Golden Rule corny and old-fashioned, but no one can deny its simple truth. Imagine how much better our world would be if everyone lived by this creed.”

Resist the urge to trade effectiveness for efficiency. Our industry is too small – the pool of good clients, partners and prospects too limited and too dear – to approach it like a numbers game. Every single contact should provide value to the recipient; we need to be authentic, genuine, respectful and meaningful at every turn.

We are all consumers outside of our work lives. Even within our work lives, thanks to disaggregation within the research supply chain, many of us find ourselves as both suppliers and clients. We can all tell instantly when we receive an email — holiday or otherwise — that has been blasted with maximum efficiency through a CRM system. Do we like that? No, we do not.

Our personal email accounts are flooded with these messages from every product and service provider from which we have purchased something or to whom we have given our email addresses in the past year. The telltale signs are clear: “Dear [first name] [last name];” a blank space in the “To:” section; language inconsistent with prior interactions; and self-serving messaging about how great a year it was for them (not you).

Anything that increases the pile without adding value – even if that value is as simple as warm feelings about a consulting engagement shared in the trenches – can detract more than it adds.  Researchers as a rule do not like to be sold to; no one does, for that matter. That effect is compounded in busy periods when the stress level is high.

So what is a good contact – at the beginning of the year, or any time?  A personal one that sincerely acknowledges the shared experience and the recipient’s contribution to the relationship. Or something of value: a surprising and relevant insight, a reward for being a treasured client, or just some good humor that brings levity to an otherwise intense month.

Some service providers get this right, the others are ignored at best and are an annoyance at worst.  Do yourself and your clients a favor in 2013 and surprise them with a personal touch, a delightful reward or just a good hearty belly laugh.  Or simply compliment their taste in Spam Museum magnets.  You will make your clients happy, they will remember you, and your 2013 will be better off for it.

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