Every single touch with another human being is an opportunity for your company to shine. More importantly, it’s a chance to differentiate yourself from the competition. But there are a handful of situations where you can reap massive rewards, and you’re ignoring them.
Here is one opportunity that you are missing out on right now, and how to fix it.
Going on vacation? Great! The out-of-office reply is the single most overlooked opportunity a brand has to be remarkable.
Firstly, it should go without mention that anytime you’re going to be away from the office for a day or more, you should set up an automated email reply. I know it may seem silly to say, but I’ve honestly met more than a few people that have told me they never use an email autoresponder. This is a big no-no. You don’t want people who email you to think you’re ignoring them.
Okay, with that out of the way, let’s discuss how you can turn this simple message into a marketing opportunity.
Does this look familiar?
I will be out of the office until August 27 with limited access to email. If this is urgent, please contact Jane Doe at Jane@fluffydecks.com.
John Smith, President
How did you feel reading that? Not too warm and fuzzy, I would assume. Do you think John cares about his customers? Heck, John didn’t even start the message with a hello.
You can do better than this—much better.
Start with the subject line. I just did a search on my inbox and found 1,046 emails with the phrase “out of office” in the subject line. Not really standing out from the crowd, are we?
Be different. This is a fundamental branding concept. Remember: every touch is an opportunity to show off your brand.
Try writing like a human. Imagine you’re sitting on the beach, and you had to manually reply to the email when it came in. I doubt you would write “Out of Office Reply” in the subject line.
What if the subject line said, “Thanks for the email!” That sounds more human, don’t you think? Or what about, “Sorry, I forget to tell you.” That’s more personal, wouldn’t you agree?
Now, let’s move on to the body of the email. Every out-of-office response must address two important things: when you’ll be back, and how the person who wrote to you can get help if they need it.
- When you’ll be back
This seems easy enough, but pump the brakes for a moment. If you’re going to be away for an extended period of time, like five days or more, then you probably shouldn’t put the actual date you’re return- ing. Odds are, your first day back will be nuts! You’ll be playing catch- up all day long. How do you expect to get back to everyone who is waiting for a reply? Add a day or two to your return date and give yourself a fighting chance. If you’re able to get back to someone soon- er, great! This is a perfect time to under-promise and over-deliver.
- How to get help
It’s important to give the emailer another contact to reach out to, in case they need immediate assistance. But consider the circumstances in which someone may need immediate assistance. Some situations will be somewhat important. But one or two of them could be four- alarm fire important.
Be a caring and concerned representative of your brand, and show them you will always be there for them (well, within reason). Depending on your brand personality, perhaps something like this will work:
Sorry, I must have forgotten to mention that I will be away on vacation until Tuesday, August 27.
I promised my family that I would not be working (not even a little bit) during our time together, so I won’t see your message until then.
That being said, my kids know that sometimes disaster strikes. So if it’s really important, please resend your email with stop family time in the subject line. This phrase will trigger an alert on my phone, and I will get back to you as soon as I possibly can.
A message like this is sure to make the emailer know how much you value them, and still make them think twice about bothering you with something trivial.
Finally, you should give them a gift. Hey, you’re off on some tropical island sipping margaritas, and these poor people are knee deep in the daily grind. The least you could do is lessen the sting. Right?
Seriously, though, every communication is a marketing opportunity. Have a call to action. Give them a free download, access to resources, or just brighten their day with a funny video (preferably something that promotes or otherwise aligns with your brand). Use your imagination and have fun with this.
Using these three components, let’s see what our out-of-office email looks like now.
Subject: I Guess I Goofed
I must have forgotten to mention that I will be away on vacation until Tuesday, August 27.
Sorry about that.
The thing is, I promised my family that I would not be working (not even a little bit) during our time together, so I won’t see your message until then.
That being said, my kids know that sometimes disaster strikes (they’re understanding like that).
So if it’s really important, please resend your message with stop family time in the subject line. This phrase will trigger an alert on my phone, and I will get back to you as soon as I possibly can.
If it’s not that urgent, but it can’t wait until I return, you can contact our office manager, Jerry Smith, at 555-465-1125.
If neither of those are the case, then I guess it can wait until I get back on the twenty-seventh!
By the way, we’re an exhibitor at the Home and Garden Show being held at the convention center on September 12–14. Think you’d like to come? If so, click here to print a free pass to the event, with our compliments. I hope to see you there!
Talk to you soon, John Doe
Fluffy Decks, LLC
So what do you think? How are you feeling? Do you think John is genuinely concerned about you? Do you feel like you will be taken care of?
I use this tactic all the time, and the responses are phenomenal. Besides leaving a great impression with clients and prospects, I receive loads of compliments on having “such an honest message.”
What’s more, I’ve had my out-of-office emails forwarded hundreds of times. (How’s that for free advertising?)
Mark Harari, Excerpted from Lobster on a Cheese Plate: How to Stand Out, Attract the Best Clients, And Win Every Sale That Comes Your Way.
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