The Wild, Wild Web

Get Personal to Outwit Online

Loyalty guru Jenn McMillen of Incendio urges messaging that aligns and empathizes with consumers’ newly stoked concerns about safety as businesses reopen

Hand-addressed envelopes get opened 99% of the time. U.S. households receive only five personal letters a year and most millennials (75%) say personal mail makes them feel special, reports the U.S. Postal Service.

Personalization is powerful, and the global health crisis obliges marketers to ensure messaging is sensitive to consumers’ new top priority, safety and basic physiological needs, says Jenn McMillen, CEO of Incendio, the Dallas loyalty firm she founded after an extensive career heading loyalty marketing at GameStop, Michaels, and other retailers.

McMillen shared how eyecare professionals can shine during unsettling times: “Acknowledge you know what is happening.”

Jenn McMillen


Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid, a framework showing what motivates people, puts “self-actualization” at the top, the ultimate goal. Fulfill this aspirational need and win lifetime customers, right? Not anymore. Not now.

Post-Covid recovery demands business focus instead on the pyramid’s lowest tiers—basic needs and safety—because that is where consumers’ heads are at today, McMillen says. Personalized marketing that is sensitive to this concern will build trust and loyalty for the long term.


Handwritten notes have impact because they’re extraordinarily rare. “I know your receptionist has some downtime,” McMillen says. Have them use those breaks to scribble birthday wishes, thank-you notes, and offers of free adjustments or cleanings. “Getting something handwritten is so novel that it separates you from the pack,” she adds.


Utilize tools like Constant Contact and Mailchimp, whose low-cost newsletter templates enable ECPs to author and send customers articles on topics like “What Happens to Your Eyes When You Fly?” or “Why Your Eyes Need a Rest From the Screen.”

Sharing expertise via brief articles conveys compassion, a key differentiator.

Create a custom eye chart that sneaks in an inspirational quote or caring—and whimsical—reminder to rest eyes to avoid eye strain. Add fun graphics and invite patients to download the image as background “wallpaper” for their phones or desktops. Such caring gestures endear customers and cement loyalty.