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There is a neighborhood restaurant I go to every week or two and when I’m in there, something funny happens. The owner remembers my name. There are times when I haven’t been in for a while and he might forget, but he makes the effort every single time. And every time I’m in there he’s having a great time with the other customers and they seem to be enjoying their time with him. But here’s the really strange thing. It’s the only business I can think of where that happens! And therein is the great opportunity for almost all of us.

What is your experience? Maybe you are lucky enough to live in a “Cheers” inspired world where “everyone knows your name.” If that’s the case, I am positive you are an exception! The one small step of trying to remember customer’s names or somehow connect with them is a greatly lost art in the mass marketing world, but the exact opposite should be true.

Here’s a quick question to make the point. When I say Wal-Mart, what are the first three things that come to mind for you? Right along with ‘big retailer’ you probably also thought about the greeters. It is a signature part of the Wal-Mart world — and a small attempt by the company to address exactly what I’m talking about. The biggest retailer on the planet gets the idea that you have to make at least some attempt to connect with the customer right away, every time.

So what are you doing about making that connection in your business, service or agency? And what are you going to do differently in 2011? I can make a not-so-bold prediction that by the end 2011 many of the companies that will have grown the most — big and small — will have made that connection THE priority for the year. How do I know that? Because it’s true EVERY year. At a time when local restaurants are going out of business every day in my town, the little local place where they remember my name is going strong. Have they suffered over the last two years? You bet. But the doors are still open, in part, because they make a key element in their operating plan every single day, to remember and make a connection with the customer. Whether it is your web site or your waiting room, make sure you are putting that priority in your plan for 2011.

Update on October’s Monthly Memo: You might recall the local scandal here in the Phoenix area where a political leader’s wife was arrested for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a teenage boy. The next public comment from the politician after the initial flurry of coverage was that he had filed for divorce — again, no comment on her difficult situation or acknowledging the life he and his wife shared for more than 20 years. (Ironically, his official biography remains unchanged — including the proud mention of his wife and family.)

New ways to connect with Cary: As we move into 2011 we’ll be offering new convenient ways for us to connect — CDs, webcasts, and telephone coaching to improve your communication skills. Watch for more and start planning your 2011 budget!