Marketing gold: Get curious about people’s names

Hi Contact NameWould you have been suspicious if you’d been told the names of the Korean pilots on board the Asiana jet which crashed in San Fransisco recently were Sum Tin Wong and Wi Tu Lo?

They were read out in a TV news bulletin  but I’d like to think you and I would have spotted them as fake, instantly, because marketers understand the importance of names, don’t we?

For a long time in the world of marketing and sales, we have understood that using someone’s name is a really powerful tool for connecting with them because it signals respect and attention.

Copywriters also know that using the word ‘you’ in the wording of web pages, brochures and advertisements, beats words like ‘free’ and ‘sale’ in power and influence.

It is also the reason why email service providers like MailChimp make it easy for you to merge recipient names into your outgoing newsletters – we read them. Except when they arrive like this one did (pictured, above, click to enlarge) from an Adelaide marketing firm recently; kind of saps the feeling of being loved!

The reason I am sharing this with you (and me) today is that sometimes our busyness and the pressure under which many of us operate leads us to shortcuts and can distract the full focus of our consciousness, with names sometimes falling by the wayside; a costly mistake in business.

INDAILY, the South Australian alternative to a Murdoch newspaper, recently ran a story that should be a modern day, business parable.

This one’s for ‘wheelchair’

Wheelchair name on cup INDAILY Image by Natalie In the story, What you see – and who I am [INDAILY, June 25, 2013], State Government lawyer, Natalie Wade recounts an horrific experience at her regular cafe.

Most Saturday morning she visits the same (unnamed) cafe, where customers’ names are scribbled on take away coffee cups.

On this fateful morning, Natalie saw that instead of her name on the cup, the cashier had scribbled ‘wheelchair’ (see image, right).

“The cashier obviously didn’t hear or understand me and so instead of asking for clarification wrote this,” says Nat.

While this reaction by Natalie was gracious, she had every right to kick up a storm.

It’s okay to ask again

If we accept that hearing our name holds our attention and even attracts or bonds us to the person speaking, perhaps we should feel more confident and emboldened to ask someone to repeat their name when meeting them for the first time, or even the 100th time.

It can feel awkward or embarrassing admitting you have forgotten someone’s name, but the effort to show you care about getting their name right typically forgives everything.

In my media career I conducted more than 40,000 interviews and darted about from new person to new person daily. Sadly, it took a while to learn the skill of asking for someone’s name because people just assumed I met so many so they offered theirs up front.

You might be in a similar position if you come into contact with scores of people every week.

However, whether it is customers, clients, business partners, sales partners, influencers, or new contacts at a networking event, the point is that making the effort to use a person’s name is a fundamental social skill, let alone a critical business, sales and marketing skill.

Let’s test ourselves and see how many names we can recall this week!

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