Customers want to be engaged, but you have to be engaging

Below are two versions of a letter that will be sent to the customers of a northeastern marina asking them to schedule their boats for winterization as the boating season wanes.

You will find that the first letter is very generic and boring to read. It gets the job done, but makes little effort to connect with or inform the customer it is intended for. Take a minute to read it below:

August already and time to schedule the winterization & storage of your boat. Our Marina strives to excel with a knowledgeable, courteous, and
professional service department.
If you have questions regarding storage or winterization services, please call the
service department at 555–555–5555, Tuesday through Saturday
8:30 am to 5 pm.
Please schedule your winterization services by November 15th
**To schedule by fax, send completed forms to 555–555–5556
please call or email to confirm receipt of faxes
Email: The marina email
*** To schedule services by mail, send completed forms to:
 The Marina, 123 Ocean Road

Thank you,
Staff of Service Dept.

Now read the letter I wrote as a replacement:

Hey there! We hope you’re having a kick-ass summer, enjoying all the things that boaters love to do: fishing, cruising, bobbing around at our local watering holes.
We want you to keep the good times rolling (and your boat working properly next summer) by having your boat maintained this fall or winter by our certified technicians. So that’s why we’re reaching out to you.
Winterization and storage time is on the horizon and we want to get a jump start on the process. With this letter you should also be receiving our winter service and storage forms to start looking over.
Continue to enjoy your boat while the warm summer days are here, but in the meantime please complete our winterization and storage forms, and send them back to us. The sooner you can get them back to us the better, but we would like all the paperwork in by November 15th at the latest.
Call us with any questions about our winter services or storage. We can be
reached Tuesday-Saturday 8:30am-5:00pm at 555–555–5555.
Completed forms can be summited in the following ways:
Mail: 123 Ocean Road
Fax: 555–555–5556 (call to confirm receipt)
Carrier Pigeon: The Marina on the bay (they know the way)

The second letter has essentially the same information and requests as the first, but I wanted it to read more like a letter from a friend. I wanted to offer some necessary information and present it in a manner that was pleasant and inviting to read. I also didn’t want to be too demanding or pushy. (No boater wants to be reminded of winter storage during the height of summer!)

Understand that when writing a customer, or prospect, you are asking them to spend a portion of their time interacting with you. Their time is valuable, just as your is. Don’t waste it. Make it worth while for them to read it. Add a good (and short) story. Add some humor. People like dealing with people, not getting a generic letter from a business.

Next time you’re trying to drive engagement or a response from your customers, offer them something worthy of their engagement!