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Greenville Business Magazine

Courting During Covid: Connecting During Social Distancing

By Ashley Pastore

I did a fax blast last week. Yes, you read that right, a fax. If you have participated in a promposal or hosted a gender reveal party, you probably think faxing is an ancient form of communication (like smoke signals, pay phones and Morse code) or have no idea what I am talking about. For those of us in the healthcare arena, sending a fax is still a regular thing, a very HIPAA-secure thing.    

So, if doctors need to send records via fax for purposes of patient privacy, why on earth did I, a non-clinical marketing representative with countless technology-driven methods of communication, send faxes? Hashtag COVIDTIMES. Sales and marketing professionals rely on making new connections and nurturing those already in existence, which is tough to do in this current state. Thankfully, we are also a highly creative bunch! Equate sales, if you will, to the dating world. It starts with the chase, followed by some casual dates, which hopefully leads to a committed relationship… or many committed relationships, because in the business world, polygamy is clutch. 

If sales is romancing a customer, let us consider the five love languages. With physical touch out (and always prohibited per HR policy – I know you saw that orientation video), we are left with: quality time, words of affirmation, receiving gifts, and acts of service. To strengthen the bond in your customer relations these days, not only do you need to know which love language speaks to your target market, you need to pair the approach with social distancing guidelines.      

Quality Time: Coronavirus has certainly slowed things down. After whiplash from the halt in March, followed by restlessness throughout summer, we have hit the time to hunker down and hibernate. From an evolutionary perspective, slow love is adaptive – because the human brain is soft-wired to attach to a partner over time. Romantic relationships can be triggered rapidly, whereas feelings of deep attachment take time to develop. We were designed for slow love and perhaps quarantine is helping to draw out this courtship process.

If working from home has provided hours back to your day (eliminating early morning primping and grooming, lengthy commutes, fighting traffic and weather delays), try using this time to woo customers. The quality time love language is about undivided attention, not necessarily long amounts of time together or time spent in physical proximity. This one is all about how you spend the time - being attentive and focused will have them feeling valued.   

Words of Affirmation: Get caught passing notes! Did you see the story about a guy in New York City who attached a message, with his phone number, to a drone and flew it over to a girl he had spotted on a nearby rooftop? They eventually shared dinner over Zoom (which he paid for via Venmo) and went on a walk together, sans hand-holding as he was in a plastic bubble. Talk about words, acts, gifts and time all wrapped up in one geeky Gen Z fairy tale! 

Getting back to work, my job revolves around communicating with physicians, referral coordinators and other medical staff. Now that I am blocked from walking into their offices, I had to search out another entry point: enter the fax plan of attack. 

Handwritten notes are so rare they are memorable, making them a fabulous form of communication. Think old school, ink on stationery, looking up a ZIP code kind of mail. Express congratulations, share a short story, provide encouragement, give an employee kudos or simply say ‘thank you.’ If you forgot where to buy stamps, you can pick up a phone to call, send an email, video chat, get yourself a fax machine on eBay or if you have a drone – go the Mr. Gen Z route.  

Receiving Gifts: This one is a no-brainer. Freebies, swag, handouts and presents all tend to make people smile. That being said, new water bottles have been banned from our household. In fact, my husband does a bimonthly purge and has yet to go without tossing a few (I swear water bottles multiply behind closed cabinet doors). 

Along with preferences, you need to know any rules. If I spend over $423 on a physician during the course of a year, the federal Anti-Kickback Statute would kick me right on out of a job. This speaks to the true purpose of the love language: make gifts thoughtful and intentional. When I bestow referral coordinators with bottles of logoed hand sanitizer, I am not expecting them to turn around and send their next patient to CORA Physical Therapy. I hope that sanitizer says, “I want you to be safe. I thought about something you could use. CORA clinics are clean.” 

Here is my secret: keep notes on key decision makers. Do they have children; how many? The swag means more when you hand over a few extra for their kids. Also, what is their caffeine du jour? Bringing someone their favorite coffee order opens many a door.

Acts of Service: Without letting this just become more gifts, I encourage you to consider your industry’s entire ecosystem. Where can you contribute in a way that would benefit another group, while also shedding positive light your way? If there were ever a time to enhance brand awareness by helping others, or giving back locally, it would be now. Since 2020 has become a euphemism for “all things bad,” I am sure favorable publicity is earning bonus points nowadays.

Consider teaming up with your intended customers. Not only would joint efforts cast a wider do-good net, but you could score valuable networking time as well. Win-win!

While science is about ready to perform their own service act, distributing the gift of Covid-19 vaccinations, we should take time to consider the lessons imparted upon us throughout 2020. This pandemic has forced many changes, but when the world recovers, should we fully revert to the way it was? Maybe, if there is a silver lining to be found, coronavirus has reminded us that personal connections are the essential ingredient to healthy relationships - both inside and outside work.

Ashley Pastore is a marketing representative at CORA Physical Therapy.