A few years ago, I created an annual mixtape called Building Blocks that I sent to friends. It was a CD – back in the days when people had CD players – with my favorite tracks from the year. It became a way for my friends and family to discover music. I was their filter and curator, and we got to connect through the shared experience of the music. But something about the project came as a complete surprise.
One of the strongest, most emotional reactions people had was simply receiving the CD itself. Over the years I fancied up the packaging so that opening the CD was an experienceunto itself. This was before unboxing videos on YouTube (which I still don’t get), so maybe I was ahead of my time. Foolishly, I thought that the packaging left the largest imprint on Building Blocks recipients.
Recently I ran a direct mailing experiment. I hand-selected about 100 recipients and mailed them a letter with a silly photograph of a koala bear. The photo was intended to grab attention. To stand out when 1) most people don’t receive direct mail, especially mail with genuine handwriting, and 2) no one has received direct mail with a silly koala meme photo (I’ll bet big $$$ on the latter). The feedback I got from this campaign was phenomenal. In one meeting that resulted from the campaign, the person said “that was so creative…I had to take a meeting with you because I liked it so much.”
Separate from all of this, I’m getting in the habit of sending hand-written thank you cards whenever the mood strikes me. When I get a referral, when someone comes on my podcast, or…anything really. Whenever I want to say “thank you,” I prove it’s genuine by sending a nice handwritten, letterpress card. I recently sent a Thank You card with a measly $50 Amazon gift card after getting a referral worth $10k in client services. In response, I received this email from the recipient:
I just received the Thank you card and Amazon Gift Card. THANK YOU so much. That’s really too much, but so very appreciated!
My mixed CD, direct mail campaign, and Thank You cards are all mailings, sure. But I’d go more basic: they’re physical. You can touch and handle them. You can set them on the desk, or pass them around the office, or pop them into a CD player. They might go in the trash, or act as permanent reminders, but they’re real.
About Human Connection
Our first method of communication to another human being is touch. When we’re born, our vision isn’t all that good, and our cognitive abilities develop slowly over the first months and years of our lives.
Touch is core to our being. It’s the basis for our connection with our mothers and fathers and families.
As we grow up, we get less of it. And as we live more of our lives digitally, we get even less real experiences, and less touch. But we don’t get enough of it. There are even cuddle parties to give us the touch we need. Yet, “we come equipped with an ability to send and receive emotional signals” through touch.
The Personal Touch They Can Feel
With all the talk about “mass personalization” – which is quite obviously complete bullshit – there’s something that can be real personalization. Something that can’t be faked.
Maybe this is a bit too touchy feely for you (pun intended), but it’s hard to deny the power of touch between people. It creates a bond, and allows us to see who is sincere, and who is not.
So go ahead – send something physical. It can be felt, and interpreted, and it 100% is real. It can be a CD, a letter, a photograph, a gift card, or an invention entirely of your own making.
It’s the next best thing to actual touch.
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