I posted an update to my employment profile on LinkedIn recently. Shortly thereafter, I received a nice message from a past work associate:
“Congrats on the new role! Hope you’re doing well!” I quickly thanked the sender.
Seconds later, another message came through:
“Congrats on the new role! Hope you’re doing well!” I shot back another thank you.
It seemed odd that two connections would write the exact same phrase in sequence. Then came the third, the tenth, the 50th message. While a few savvy users had edited their congratulations to me, nearly every message was exactly the same. Users were simply clicking “Yes” and “Send” and moving on. It was a nice gesture, but the shine wore off as quickly as the will to respond.
It’s the same on Facebook. Birthday conspamulations feel as insincere as they are ubiquitous. Users get so accustomed to writing them that they fall into canned response mode. They’re a daily duty on social media, not a sincere connection with a friend. I’ve turned off my birthday visibility some years to avoid the guilt that forces me to respond to each message.
Messaging the Masses
Scalability in communications is the goal for most business people. We want 10,000 connections on social media because we can talk to them all at once. We seek out systems that will make that contact for us. Drip email campaigns, Facebook ads, contract content writers, virtual assistants, and ISAs–business sense has told us that the less we have to customize or personally interact with our customer base, the more efficient and scalable our business will be.
There are signs that these efforts to turn communication into a large scale production line are starting to fail, though. Anecdotally, I talk to brokers regularly who say their email campaigns get through to recruits at a lower rate each year. Agents use drip campaigns as a “free” backup measure, but get far fewer conversions than in the past. Facebook users are increasingly unlikely to “Like” company pages, and the costs of PPC advertising are going through the roof.
The ROI on static messaging is shrinking.
It’s not surprising. Any real estate pro with a decent sphere will get the same email message from three different lenders on the same day. Every title company in town sends a “turn back your clocks” reminder. Four different agents in your neighborhood are sending the same “top 5 tips to prepare your home for winter.”
Social advertising is the same. I’ve seen ads to “find out what your Bellevue home is worth” from at least a dozen different brokers/agents…and these just happen to be the ones who aren’t savvy enough to exclude Realtors from their advertising audience.
Email spam filters are getting smarter. Consumers are getting jaded. Ad platforms are getting crowded.
Breaking Through The Blah
There’s still a way to cut through the fog. It’s that detail-intensive model called customized communication. Messaging that screams “I know who you are and this message is specifically for you!” will always create higher rates of connection.
Technology can assist in scaling customized messages. Understanding a person’s background and current situation creates a foundation for customization. CRMs combine past communications with current social media activities to let the business person understand the customer before contact. Lead management systems offer insights into a customer’s behavior to guide the conversation.
For all of the over-engineered sales and marketing emails we’ve used over the years, there is one message with slight customizations that has always converted the best:
- “Hi Jane, I see that you’re looking at homes in Seattle this morning, which neighborhoods are you interested in?”
- “Hi Dan, I see that you’re looking at condos in Bellevue today, what specific features are you hoping for?”
It’s so simple that it’s painful to realize it took us 10 years to get to this point. To cut through the noise of digital sales spam, though, we simply had to be personal and show that we knew this individual.
There are no images, no html formatting, just a message that says “We know each other.” It may take more time and effort than static messaging, but it works. Even in the age of scaling via automation, it turns out, it’s still all about the custom-er.