Adding a personal touch in business


By Steve Martin for British Airways Business Life magazine

Photography by 123RF

Skip to Navigation

MAY 2016

Business author, Steve Martin, tells us why making it personal can keep your customers returning time and again.

When you're dealing with your correspondence, there is a simple reason why you invariably open the letter from the sender who has taken the trouble to handwrite your name and address on the envelope first. Unlike the majority of communications pushed through your letterbox that compete for attention (and, in the case of bills, your cash too), a handwritten letter stands out because someone has humanised it. It's personal. It's been touched.

If you want that report, sales brochure, proposal or budget request to get the attention it deserves, find a way of personalising it to the intended recipient.

  • Use individual touches if you want your customers to remember you, says Steve Martin.

When it comes to business communications, a little personalisation can also go a long way. The psychologist Randy Garner found that he could double the number of people willing to complete surveys he sent to them simply by accompanying his request with a short message handwritten on a Post-it note. The theme here is clear. If you want that report, sales brochure, proposal or budget request to get the attention it deserves, find a way of personalising it to the intended recipient. It's unlikely to guarantee success every time but, given the minimal costs incurred, it's probably worth the extra effort.

One thing that is guaranteed, though, is that if a little personalisation can increase success by even a small margin, then the advertising and marketing industries are going to be interested. And the trail our online activity leaves makes it all the easier for them to present ads and offers tailored to our individual interests and preferences.

Many will claim to be immune to these tactics. Persuasion, after all, is what happens to other people. But recent studies led by Kai Kaspar from the University of Cologne and published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology demonstrate that personalised advertising can be effective for two reasons. Not only do personalised ads, such as the aforementioned handwritten letter, attract more attention than impersonal ones. They actually remain in our memory for longer, too.

Plan your next trip with On Business >

  • Ticking the right boxes: Personal touches can improve customer service
  • Extra mile: A little personalisation can also go a long way in business
  • Humanising a communication can help it stand out © Pixeleyes

In one of Kaspar's studies, participants were asked to review a series of current affairs articles presented on a news website. While they were reading the articles a variety of advertisements from a range of companies were displayed. Some of the advertisements were general in nature and at other times they were personalised. Not only did the personalised ads attract more attention than the impersonal ones, but subsequent memory tests found that the participants remembered and recognised slogans and images that were integrated into the personalised ads much more often than those that appeared in the impersonal ones.

The message is clear for any business that wishes to capture the attention of prospective customers and linger longer in their memory - there really has never been a more important time to make things personal!