You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore

This past August 7th marked the one year anniversary of my moving into a new office. I’m thrilled to report that in recognition of the event, my landlord gave me. . . . nothing. No flowers, no phone call, no card; not even a meaningful wink as we passed in the hallway that morning.

Of course I don’t really blame him. He was probably not aware of the significance of the day, and even if he were, who’s ever heard of a landlord sending a gift to a tenant, simply because one more year had passed?

And that, frankly, is exactly my point. Nobody’s ever heard of it, which is why not doing it is a missed opportunity.

Here’s what I mean. If your business is like most, the cornerstone of your relationship nurturing “program” is an annual holiday card sent to your house list. That’s fine with me, it certainly doesn’t do any damage. In terms of impact, buzz and stand-out-from-the-crowd-ness however, it’s a loser. Why make your largest relationship building investment of the year at precisely the same time, using precisely the same technique, as everybody else on the planet?

What I recommend instead, is looking for opportunities to do things that are out of synch with everybody else (maybe it’s the penguin in me: a bird that swims but can’t fly). Things which nobody in your industry ever does, and which will therefore actually make a difference to your business.

Back to my landlord. Massachusetts is in the middle of a recession, and office space in this out of the way town is plentiful. There’s a vacant office right across the hall from me in this very building, and a quick scan of Main Street reveals several, “Office Space For Lease,” signs within a five minute walk of my front door. In terms of “barriers to exit,” the only thing keeping me here is the hassle of moving. Not exactly what you’d call an air tight retention strategy on the part of my landlord.

But let’s imagine another scenario. I’m sitting in my office this past August 7th (maybe I’m not even aware it’s my one year anniversary), and a knock comes on the door. In strides my smiling landlord with a big (HUGE) basket of fruit in his arms. He shakes my hand, announces “Happy Anniversary!,” and gives me the basket.

In an instant, life as we know it has changed:

1. I’m not going anywhere. Are you kidding me? Why risk moving across the street to save a few dollars in rent, when I’ve got such a considerate landlord? Who knows what he’ll do next year.

2. I’m telling everybody.“You’ll never believe what happened to me today at work. . . ” Once word gets out, how long do you think it will be before that vacant office in the building is filled?

3. My landlord just increased the value of his office space. Not only can he now be more choosy about who he rents to, he can be more aggressive about raising my rent next year (shhhh).

All in all, not a bad return on his $50 marketing expense.

Here’s the bottom line: It’s fine to do the things that are expected of you: send holiday cards; shine your shoes before going out to a meeting; invite customers to have a nice day; whatever. But none of these things are going to make you memorable, and memorable is what marketing is all about.

Instead, apply this easy and inexpensive approach: Look for ways to recognize, reward and honor your clients. The more unexpected, personal and out of the ordinary (for your industry) the gesture, the more bang for the buck you’ll get!

Now if you’ll excuse me, somebody’s knocking at my office door, and I’m hoping it’s you know who.

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