Creating conversations part II: The value of getting personal

Long before we had the Internet, e-mail, blogs, YouTube or Twitter, there was the humble buck slip.

You may not even know the term, though you probably have a box or pad of these magical slips. I learned about them during my 10 years with a major international corporation during the 1980s — a time when the Baby Boomers were hitting their prime and competition for promotions in corporate America was fierce. In that environment, an ambitious manager would write a little note, attach it to an article, stuff it in a brown envelope and send it via interoffice mail to a bigwig who might someday help his career.

It was a smart thing to do because it established the sender as a source of useful information. Later, there was always the chance that the sender would run into Mr. Bigwig on an elevator, and it would give them something to talk about.

Over time, we noticed that guys who used the buck-slip tactic got promoted a lot faster than the ones who didn’t. The executives were always looking for bits of information that would give them a competitive edge or a useful idea. The buck-slip sender stepped nicely into that role, and it paid off.

Buck slips have all but disappeared, but the tactic remains useful — not only inside big bureaucracies, but also among auction companies. Best of all, it amounts to the simplest thing on earth: Pointing to a piece of information amid a sea of irrelevancies and saying, “Look, this one’s important.”

A timely article about upcoming changes in the real estate market just might turn a prospect into a seller. Or a piece about a particular artist might be useful to a prospective bidder.

We’re all drowning in information, and we’re looking for ways to decide what’s worth our time and what isn’t. We have our favorite websites, newspapers and magazines, but we tend to perk up when someone we know and respect sends us something with his or her personal endorsement.

The various gurus of social media and Internet marketing have all kinds of buzzwords for this — the current favorites being “curation” and “engagement.” But it all comes down to creating conversations that establish you as a credible source of valuable information.

But here’s the catch: Nobody wants to be one of hundreds or thousands getting the information. We want it to be personal, and preferably, based on conversations we’ve had in the past.

In other words, I’m not talking about e-mail blasts that go out to thousands. I’m talking about one-on-one “touches.” This may seem awfully inefficient, but it pays off in major ways.

Start by staying on the alert for useful information. You can’t become a credible information source without being informed yourself.

I read voraciously and use Google Reader to scan headlines of 30 or so publications, wire services and news sources every day. When I see an article that would be useful to a particular client, it’s a simple matter to copy a link and send it.

Create useful information with a blog. If you’re successful, you’re constantly reading, thinking and engaging in lively conversations. So why would you have a static website that never changes except to update your auction listings?

When you’re on a conference call and have a particularly useful idea, jot it down in a notebook. Maybe you’ve noticed a trend in your business niche. Perhaps a certain type of antique has caught fire with interior designers. Write about it on your blog, and send a link to that guy who happens to specialize in that or similar items. It just might generate a sale!

Respect the other person’s preferences.  Find out how the recipient likes to receive information. Some people want e-mail but don’t want to be bothered by phone. Others won’t pay attention to your e-mail unless you call. I know some who will take more notice if you send an e-mail over Facebook or a private Twitter message. There are probably six or eight who would prefer a fax (I don’t know any, but I’ve heard they still exist). Sometimes it’s best to just ask.

Simple, right? That’s the key. When it comes to communication, simpler is almost always better.

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Filed under Auction marketing, Marketing

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