“Humor in sales and customer retention? You gotta be kidding me.”

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Actually, I’m not.

Is it OK to use humor in a professional environment when you’re trying to connect with prospects? Or how about with clients? Is it OK then?

Good questions. But, perhaps I’m not the best one to answer those questions. On second thought…yeah, I probably am.

I’ve been using humor to connect with prospects and clients for years. A lot of years. And, based on my experience, as long as the humor is done in good taste and solves a problem or an issue to which your audience can relate, humor will not only be OK…it’ll be welcomed.

CustomerThink Cartoon

In the example above, the cartoon is addressing the PR benefits of having a good Crisis Communication program. It quickly grabs the prospect’s/client’s attention in a humorous and memorable way. Then, the solution is briefly provided in the body of the email. In this case it’d be something like, “There are good and bad PR opportunities. We’ll help you make the best out of both.”

You get the idea.

The format works in email and oversized postcard formats. Most of us communicate via email, texts, and blogs. But going “old school” and sending a postcard stands out.

Keep it personal.

This cartoon is for email distribution and has been customized to make the client/prospect the “hero” who provides the solution (in this case it’s me). It’s relatively easy to do and I’ve found that people will oftentimes reply when they see their name in the cartoon. In fact, I’ve been told many times they look forward to receiving them. (Generic versions work for mailing postcards in large quantities.)

Psst. Pass it on.

I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of cartoons. I was at a client meeting in Europe and noticed one of the customized cartoons hanging in the person’s cubicle. It became a topic of discussion, not just with me, but with other employees as well. It was great, my contact created awareness on my behalf. It wasn’t just a one-time occurrence either. It happens frequently. A lot of the people who receive my cartoons have printed them out and pinned them up in their cubicles or shared them with their colleagues. How do I know that? Because they tell me (which gives me another opportunity to communicate with them and deepen our relationship).

Humor as a qualifier.

Who doesn’t like to laugh? I’ve encountered only one person in all the years I’ve been taking this approach who asked me not to send cartoons. One person out of thousands. And you know what? If someone can’t laugh, or doesn’t have a sense of humor, I probably wouldn’t enjoy working with them anyway. So, for me, the cartoons act as a qualifier.

Takeaway. It’s more than “just for laughs.”

I’ve found humor to be a great icebreaker for prospects and clients alike. Here’s how you can get started.

1. Think about it. Create 8 to 10 scenarios that depict situations to which your target audience can relate. It can be anything: lead generation, inbound marketing, PR, year-end-closing…any topic that keeps them up at night.
2. Concept development. Work with a cartoonist and ask for some pencil concepts for a few of the scenarios. Then, develop brief “solutions” for each scenario.
3. Ongoing communications. 8 to 10 cartoons will give you enough for up to 14 months if you space them out over 6 or 7 week intervals.
4. CRM. Include them as part of your ongoing CRM program.
5. Multiple uses. When appropriate, you can use them in presentations to summarize key points you’re going to make.
6. Make it personal. Customize each email cartoon with the client’s/prospect’s name to personalize it. Does it take time to do this…yes. Is it worth it? Yes, again.
7. Repeat. Whenever you make a new contact, you can start the whole cycle all over again.

If you don’t have any cartoonist contacts, I’ll be happy to give you a few. Or, I’m sure your ad agency will be happy to oblige too with an art director and copywriter.

We all get zillions of emails daily. I look forward to a little humor break on occasion. How about you?

Bob Musial
Bob Musial is a business development coach, author of "Soft Skills. Hard Returns." and humorist who works with professionals to help improve their competency in getting, keeping and expanding business. He's easy to reach. Pretty easy to talk with too.

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