I moved back to Boston in late 2013 to a neighborhood just outside the city called Jamaica Plain. Affectionately nicknamed JP, it is a working-class neighborhood known for its generationally owned small businesses, tight-knit communal vibe, and iconic triple-decker architecture (which means you usually have a family living above and below you, who usually know someone who knows someone who is a Wahlberg cousin). These details are important as relationships motivate everything around JP.
When I first moved to JP, I had to establish new local roots. That meant locating a new favorite coffee shop, sniffing out the closest bookstore, and the most glamorous task of all – finding a new dentist.
Moving back to New England in December, proximity played largely into the new go-to spots I chose and so, I found a locally owned dental practice just a short ¼ mile walk from my house.
When I say there was nothing remarkable about this dentist’s office, I mean it. A retrofitted upstairs apartment with a slight slant, it was only big enough to accommodate three patients at a time – which was convenient because the coffee pot could only hold about three cups of coffee at a time too. With a 13” TV in the lobby and not even a magazine in the patient rooms, this place was bleak.
And while I remember the no-frills aesthetic of that place vividly, what I remember even more after all of those years later is the people.
From the receptionist to the dental hygienist, to Dr. Nelson himself, each person treated you as though you were their first, last and best client; remembering small details about your life to create relatable conversation, making note of which flavor rinse you preferred and respecting your preferences, and even relevantly texting you days later after a tooth extraction making sure you were healing well. For me, it was all about the personal experience.
Now let me paint you a different scenario in my personal life. I moved from JP to a new neighborhood of Boston in late 2019. Again, I had to establish new local roots (even though I’m bullish on keeping my JP dentist and still make the trek every three months!) and as a result, found a new dry cleaner.
Over the holidays, I received a handwritten note from the owner thanking me for my new business. A pretty nice gesture I thought. That was until I saw a friend of mine who lives close to me post the exact same note on social media, word for word; she too thought it was a nice gesture.
Suddenly I realized that interaction wasn’t meant for me exclusively. The emotion was completely stripped from what could have been a personal moment and was instead diluted into a generic touchpoint. I was just another record in their customer file.
Why does it pay to be Personal?
The subtleties in the interactions you have with your customers make a big difference. We call this approach Personal Experience (PX); one that prioritizes creating and strengthening personal bonds throughout the customer journey by transforming one-to-many touches into one-to-one moments.
Businesses that are executing Personal Experience are creating sustained growth for their company as those series of moments are translating into repeat and net new business. If done right, adopting the PX approach will allow your business to Build Rapport, Earn Trust, and Drive Loyalty repeatedly throughout your customer’s journey which ultimately impacts acquisition, retention, and expansion potential.
While touches might optimize for immediate gains, moments yield long term, sustained business results.
The difference between a touch and a moment.
Touches are surface level and hollow; they’re designed to fulfill the needs of the person or business administering it, not for those on the receiving end. In the above example, the dry cleaner’s note’s motivation was to remind me that I had a business account with them. Just like they reminded thousands of other customers that holiday season.
Moments, however, are emotionally charged and make someone feel a certain way after your interaction because they are designed just for you. In the dentist example, after years of delivering consistent PX moments, I cried when one of the staff members told me she was leaving the practice to pursue a second degree. She had forged such an emotive, personal bond with me over the years that I was overcome with pride for her taking the next step in her career. We still text to this day.
To polarize it even further:
Touches are one-directional and transactional. It is the same experience delivered to all of your audience members and devoid of any emotional connection.
Moments are bi-directional interactions that are unique to the recipient. A moment is an interaction between two people when an emotional resonance is created by being Relevant, Relatable, and Respectful. The end result of a moment is either to create or solidify a bond between two people.
The DNA of a Moment.
A Personal Experience moment is created by injecting equal parts relatability, relevancy, and respect to your outreach. Or the Three R’s.
Like Nona’s special sauce, you need all three ingredients in order to turn your transactional touches into PX moments.
Being Relatable is about what you say. By taking the time to ask, listen, and learn about someone’s interests and #5to9 passions, it’s easier to establish a personal bond and understand what makes them tick in their 9-to-5 responsibilities. Relatability builds rapport and serves as the foundation for earning trust with your audience.
Being Relevant is about when you connect. The timing of your communication, relative to the needs of the other person in their Customer Journey, is important. Focus on intent signals to find the right moment to provide information that earns trust and establishes credibility for you.
Being Respectful is about how you connect. The way you interact with someone has a deep and lasting impact on your ability to foster long term loyalty with them. Always lead with empathy by following the “Golden Rule:” Treat others the way you want to be treated.
When to transform a touch into a moment.
As often as you can [she says a little louder for the people in the back]!
I’m unfortunately on the receiving end of a lot of marketing and sales “touches” in my life (blanket notes to dry cleaning customers included) because automation has grown to prioritize scale and reach over quality of interaction. I rarely experience moments like that small dental office in JP provides as a buyer and a customer, but when I do, it’s like I’ve come up for fresh air in a sea of unrelatable, irrelevant, and disrespectful transactions.
As sales, marketing, and customer success professionals, we must evaluate every interaction we have with a customer on their journey with our brand and stop to consider if that is being delivered in the most personal way possible.
A customer’s journey is filled with thousands of these potential moments, from when they first meet a team member at a tradeshow and hear of your brand, to when they enter a buying cycle with you, through contract renewal or even expansion; this entire journey should be scrutinized and as many one-to-many touches transformed into one-to-one moments as possible.
Here is one example of how you can transform an otherwise generic touch into a PX moment:
Say you just get off a great disco call and the prospect wants more info about product specs and pricing. Instead of putting them into the post demo follow up cadence in your sales engagement platform with links to those resources, film a personal video for them and send it along with a gift that you know resonates with their #5to9 interests you discussed on your call.
That prospect will know that outreach was meant for no one else but them, and that is when you establish emotional resonance. That moment was relevant (you provided the requested materials promptly), relatable (you demonstrated you were listening to the person behind the persona on the call), and respectful (you delivered a unique outreach that put them first).
Always Be Personal
The only authentic way to create lasting and meaningful connections with your customers is to Always Be Personal. Being personal favors quality in connection over mere quantity in reach.
In your increasingly competitive landscapes, every deal and every customer matters, so the approach you take to delivering personal experience moments to build relationships is the difference between sustainably growing your business and stagnation.
I’ll leave you with this challenge:
The next time you are crafting marketing or sales outreach stop and ask yourself; am I about to deliver a dental office moment or a dry cleaner transaction to my customer?
Alright… that doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, so try this one:
Would I like the way I’m interacting with me?
Have you experienced a moment with a business recently? Tell me about it below!