An Unexpected Gift Goes A Long Way

Around the house, my wife Linda and I have fairly well defined job assignments. Some of these are based on personal preference (I handle the finances), some are based on competency (she manages our trips and vacations) and some are completely arbitrary (I kill insects; she does laundry).

A few jobs however, are shared between us, more or less equally. Among these unfortunately, is meal preparation.

I say unfortunately, because there are times — last night for example — when neither one of us feels like (or is willing to start) cooking anything. On nights like this we resort to take out, and so at 5:45 p.m. yesterday afternoon, I found myself pulling into the parking lot of a local Thai restaurant.

In the interest of full disclosure (I don’t want to hear from Oprah), calling this place a “restaurant” is like calling the stuff on top of my head “hair.” Technically accurate perhaps, but laughable when compared with other, more impressive structures. The entire place is maybe 25 feet wide, with room for about ten people. Even the kitchen — completely in view behind a counter and cash register — is bigger than the seating area.

I had arrived about 10 minutes early, so I took a seat in one of the chairs by the front counter.

I had only been there for about two minutes, when I noticed an old man with a white apron coming out of the kitchen, carrying something in his hands. He walked up to me, bowed, and handed me what turned out to be a cup of tea. And then he just turned and walked away.

I couldn’t help thinking that this was a perfectly executed customer service experience.

Not because the tea was so wonderful, but because it came about in an unexpected way. Not in response to a request on my part, not as an apology for keeping me waiting (I was early), not because there was a big sign in the window declaring that Wednesday was “complimentary tea day.” Just a nice gesture from a man who saw me waiting, and wanted to make me feel at home.

Needless to say, and despite the modest surroundings, this place instantly became my favorite local restaurant.

So, I’m sure you’re wondering, how can you apply this same “give your customers an unexpected gift” concept to your newsletter, so that you can also have people thinking warm and fuzzy thoughts about you?

Easy: Hire an old man to bring them tea. No, ha, ha, I am of course just kidding.

Give your readers something unexpected and valuable when they sign up for your newsletter. Here’s how you do it.

  1. Write a brief information piece related to your area of expertise. A top 10 list of suggestions, an analysis of data in your industry, a how-to document of some kind. It doesn’t matter what, as long as it’s arguably valuable to your target audience. To save yourself some effort, pick a topic that won’t get old very fast, so you don’t have to keep updating it.
  1. Post the document on your web site somewhere.
  1. In the welcome letter that you send to people when they sign up for your newsletter, include a little note mentioning the document (I do it in the P.S.), and include a link to the page where the document is found.

That’s it. A no cost to you, unexpected bit of value for your new found friends.

Does it make up for a lousy newsletter? Of course not. No more than a cup of tea makes up for poor quality food. But — and this is the key here — in a world where your readers (and clients) have many options to choose from, and where even the deals and bonuses offered by most companies have more strings attached to them than a Thanksgiving Day parade balloon (or whatever), simple, human, unexpected gestures go a long way.

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