7 Rules Of Engagement: How Companies Create Real Connections During The Holidays
Opportunities to truly connect with people can be rare. Sometimes, these opportunities present themselves in a moment of vulnerability or because you shared the right story. However they happen, such moments tend to pop up during the holidays, perhaps because of a higher sense of emotion during these months. Sure, some emotions are centered around worry or stress because your family is going to drive you nuts, but others carry a sense of nostalgia or positivity.
It’s important that brands and individuals take a step back and make sure they’re engaging people in the ways that will help them form a real relationship with customers and anybody else who is important to them. Recently, Cheddar.com reached out to me to discuss how companies should be engaging audiences during the holidays. Here are seven rules of engagement to help you form real, lasting connections during the holiday season:
1. Give up short-term gains to build long-term relationships.
REI was closed again this year for Black Friday to encourage people to go outdoors instead of shopping. The company could clearly profit in the short term by staying open, but it chose to make a statement that some things are more important. In reality, this approach creates a more meaningful connection with people in the long term.
2. Account for emotions running high.
The holidays are a time to be with the people you love and who love you — if you’re lucky. Someone you know may have just gone through a divorce; others may have lost somebody they loved this year. So be aware of such losses, and try to give people a break or be there for them when you can.
3. Have fun with your campaigns.
Get creative with your messaging to amuse your audience and keep them engaged. Dollar Shave Club’s marketing is pretty much always entertaining, but a few years ago, the company did a fun campaign featuring people who wouldn’t use their product, like kids, bikers who haven’t shaved for years, and so on. That campaign stood out to me because it made the brand amusing to people who weren’t even their target market. I have a beard that I haven’t shaved in five years, but I ended up buying a subscription for a friend.
4. Make an effort to share what’s most valuable to people — even if it takes extra time.
Take this article, for example. A lot of my content is about developments in PR, content marketing trends, and other industry predictions. But I had been taking notes on these rules for myself over the years and finally just thought, “These could be really valuable to others, too.” So, late on Thanksgiving Day, instead of passing out from a full stomach of turkey, I wrote this article because I thought it would be useful to readers. When you know something could really help others, try to make the time to share it.
5. Remember, even the smallest touchpoints matter.
Jayson Gaignard, an entrepreneur, recently sent me a message that mentioned seeing me speak at a conference before wishing me well, saying, “Just thinking of you, bud.” I read that when I was at the store shopping for pinecones to make my house smell more Christmassy, and my immediate feeling was like “Aw, man. Thanks, my friend.” In moments like these, relationships naturally change from strictly professional to personal and become stronger.
6. Show as much appreciation as possible.
For a week around the holidays, I spend an hour a day sending out emails of appreciation. During the year, we get caught up in the grind, and it’s hard to take a break to remember the people who help you out or people who are doing a great job. Earier this month, I ran into Adi Ignatius, editor-in-chief of Harvard Business Review, at EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year event in Palm Springs. I enjoyed the conversation, and I typically would have considered it a nice meet-up and left it at that.
However, during one of the hours I spent this last week showing appreciation, I decided to send Adi an email giving him props for the way he’s surrounded himself with some great editors and staff. It’s always good to show appreciation and give credit to people who deserve it, and the holidays are a perfect time to do it.
7. Use the momentum to be better during the year.
Lastly, the holidays are just a short period of the year where people feel more cheerful and appear to be in better moods. Keep the momentum going when January comes along. For example, I send a lot of my holiday gifts for work and to show appreciation for relationships in January when people aren’t expecting them. I don’t just appreciate people in December; that’s why I send gifts in January and sporadically throughout the year.
It’s important to remember you aren’t doing these things to benefit yourself. If you come at it with the goal of only getting a sale or whatever else it is you want, people will see through your efforts. Do your best to take this opportunity to really help and engage others to create a real relationship. I promise you that in the long run, it will make a difference. At least, it has in my life.