70: Getting Engaged on Your Birthday
Apparently, it’s public knowledge. This week, I got an email from Panera telling me that they put a surprise on the MyPanera card in my wallet. I got another birthday email from NFL.com, showing my last name on a Ravens jersey—a nice touch. I would be more impressed, if these actions and emails weren’t generated by a database sitting on a server in Nebraska somewhere; but I’ve got to tip my hat to these companies for putting something other than solicitations in my inbox.
It’s not just mail-merged birthday greetings I noticed this week. Staples sent me advance notice coupons in Wednesday’s email. (In the past, they’ve snail-mailed me invitations for Rewards-member-only store hours and sales.) As they regularly do, American Express sent me an email with links to four articles for entrepreneurs; and Ink by Chase sent me an invitation to an upcoming small business conference. The makers of MapMyRun, one of the few paid apps on my iPhone, emailed me articles related to health and wellness.
What these companies know is that our culture craves autonomy. We want corporations to treat us like people, not numbers. We’ve been burned by Enron and BP, Congress and Wall Street. We want our voices and purchases to count. We don’t want to be told by Madison Avenue mad men what to want.
That’s why Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media sites have seen unprecedented growth. It probably explains why shows like “Dancing with the Stars” and “American Idol”—shows to which we can contribute—trump the ratings of scripted shows. Beyond self-expression and acceptance, we crave more personal interactions with people, not conglomerates.
So, the entities that engage relationally gain advantage over their peers. It’s not just that they have a Facebook account, a Twitter feed, or a birthday list. It’s what they do with them. They invite conversation, respond to expressed concerns or praise, and give away products, services, and/or information for free. Instead of a broadcast mentality, where emails and status updates are all sales pitches, they’ve found the social in social marketing, the 2 [way street] in Web 2.0. They know the difference between radios and walkie talkies—and choose the latter.
So, how do you engage the individual in your marketing? What special offers do you give your prospects or clients? I’ve heard of auction companies offering MVP parking or seating, permanent bidder numbers, and bidder receptions. What intellectual property or advice do you send their way? Some auctioneers conduct free bidder seminars; others offer FAQ documents or how-to videos on their Web sites. Do you have a blog or newsletter? If so, is it solely horn-tooting; or does it contain practical content?
You don’t have to be the birthday fairy to build an interactive brand. But if you want what you have to go viral, you have to get close enough to people—where they are—for them to catch your contagions. Go to the events and environments where they congregate (both online and offline); authentically join the conversation. Listen to needs, themes, trends. And say something more than, “I’ve got something I want to sell you.”
I’ve been in a Tuesday night study of the New Testament book of Acts, seeing things I never saw in a whole semester of Acts during college. One of the truths that has jumped out of the narrative is how evangelism was conducted outside of the synagogue. The apostles and disciples started with where each respective unbeliever was at that moment. Peter and John told the lame beggar, “We don’t have money, but we have Jesus’ name to heal you.” Philip asked the curious Ethiopian Eunuch, “Do you understand what you’re reading?” Jesus asked a murderous Saul, “Why are you persecuting me?”
Few people want to be converts, stars on a performance chart, or numbers at a “bring a guest” Sunday. At a core level, we want to be known and understood, loved and respected. If someone were to change your mind on faith—a deeply personal asset—what approach would most likely woo and convince you? What would that process look like?
Knowing this, is that the approach you take to share the faith you hold dear?
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