Let your human show


Sharing an inspiring conversation with John Cecilian, founder of Cecilian Partners, on strategic communications at the Housing Innovation Alliance’s first ever virtual Staycation, I was reminded of a quote from Neil Golden, former CMO of McDonald’s. He said, “The core purpose of marketing is to understand a customer, address a problem or opportunity, and make their life better.” Amen. As we are into week eight of a nationwide economic shut down due to COVID-19 and businesses and brands, many of whom are closed for business as usual, look for ways to engage customers, this advice is spot on. John and I talked a lot about this—and some of it is worth repeating here.


Cecilian Partners is a company focused on the transformation of customer experience through data, technology, and human capital. John launched his company after 17 years of deep experience in retail leadership with brands like Abercrombie & Fitch, Michael Kors, Under Amour, and Vineyard Vines. He knows a thing or two about customers. And he talks and thinks about them as people. Not “traffic” or “prospects,” or “units.” People. His whole focus is on making their home shopping experience easier and better. And while his company has developed a prop tech platform called The XO (get the reference to love?) it’s not about the technology.

It’s about capturing real-time insights, in the form of real-time data, having a single source to house that data, then using automation and advanced reporting to basically make things better (and easier) for people buying homes, and builders building them. Thinking about and putting people first. It’s so simple, and so hard to do when you start from the point of view of your business and think about what it is YOU need to communicate. Flip that around in your head. Ask yourself, “What do people need to hear from us right now?”

All week I’ve been asked by clients to help craft messaging to communicate their re-opening procedures to invite customers back. My best advice has been to not just reiterate the state or county-mandated guidelines for safe opening. Those messages are everywhere. Translation: your customers most likely already know this. And they are either overwhelmed with it or ignoring it. Yes, they expect you to be disinfecting everything more than before, providing hand sanitizer, wiping/cleaning pens if you need them, wearing face masks, taping 6-foot increments on the floor, and so on. Please, please, please don’t put out messaging that stops short at this.

Now is your opportunity to make your customer’s life better. They’ve been missing you and you have been missing them. Put some human into it. Like the dental hygienist I got an email from this morning, with a link to a video message of her outside in her backyard saying how much she has missed going into the office and working with patients. And that she knows we all feel that way. In her own words, shot on her iPhone I’m sure, she said she can’t wait to get back, but when she does things will be different. Sure, she explained she’ll be wearing PPE and a gown and even booties on her shoes, but she did it as if she were just talking to me. Not selling something. Not pushing me to make an appointment. Just checking in. But I now know they are opening soon and planning for it, and yes, I will re-book my cleaning I missed last Monday.

So, whether you’re selling homes, dental services, or food and drink, this is the time to really stand out in what will surely be a sea of sameness. Make your return to business matter;

  • Let your human show

  • Share a story that people can connect with and relate to

  • Make things as simple as possible—we’re all going to need this

  • Embrace and don’t apologize for imperfection. We’re coming out of a time when messed up tech on Zoom calls is the norm

  • Try some new things, ways of working, product offerings. Take a risk now—you’re more likely than ever to be forgiven if you fail and appreciated for trying

  • Repeat … let your human show. And do what you can to make people’s life better.

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