I got an email recently inviting me to join the Staples business advisory board. Although it said it was an invitation, I actually had to fill out a short survey so they could determine if I was eligible to join their board. It turns out I wasn’t eligible because they already met their marketing professionals quota by the time I took the survey, but you know what I always say. “Marketing is marketing” and this “exclusive online research community,” — the business advisory board — is an idea worth considering if you don’t already have one, whether you are a patient care facility, vendor, manufacturer or educational institution.
Start with thanks
My invitation to Staples first thanked me for being a customer. That is a great start. It said it valued my business, and in the spirit of “making more happen” when it came to my business needs, they asked me to join their exclusive online research community, the Staples Business Advisory board.
It explained the community was dedicated to learning more about me and my needs as a business customer. This interactive community space serves to share my thoughts and experiences with Staples decision makers.
That is a winning strategy to get my attention, because I just might have a thing or two to say about Staples.
The invitation made its point quickly and cleanly by asking short questions and using bullet points to describe the benefits of being on the board.
If I qualified, I would get the opportunity to influence new products and services and connect with other Staples small business customers. I would also be entered into a monthly contest to win small cash prizes. And who doesn’t love cash?
The invitation said I would participate in surveys and discussion forums about twice a month and generally give Staples some input to help them solve particular challenges they face in reaching customers and providing a high level of service.
In exchange for my participation, the invitation promised that Staples would listen to what I had to say, share with me what they have learned from the community, and — this is important — never sell my information to a third party.
A lot of companies have advisory boards. The genius behind this one is the wording of their invitation and the promises they make. What messages are they sending me?
- I am worthy of an exclusive invitation.
- My feedback is valuable.
- They are truly interested in meeting my needs.
- They need my help solving problems.
- I will be heard.
- I might win money.
These are pretty powerful messages they are sending me, right? I buy a lot of stuff from Staples so I was not surprised I got the email but I still felt special. Why? Because, of course I think my opinion is valuable and that I could genuinely help them solve problems. I am a Staples super user — my word, not theirs. I am in the store and online at staples.com all the time. I have lots of answers, if only they would ask me. Don’t most of us feel that way about companies or organizations that we spend a lot of time or money with?
I am sure that you could compile a list of patients and customers that would not be surprised if they got your invitation to join your exclusive community, otherwise known as your company’s “business advisory board.”
You will make them feel special. Even if they cannot participate, the fact that they were included in the exclusive invitation will make them feel special. You will reinforce how important they are to your business. You will get valuable feedback about your business that you can use to make changes to your business that will ultimately make it better. It is a win/win for everyone.