A letter from Mr Al Fayed. It’s how you say it that counts….

I was doing some long overdue filing this morning and came across the following letter….a response to a misguided mass mailer that inadvertently invited Mr Al Fayed of Harrods to a seminar in London on the subject of (eek!) open source software…

Letter from Mr Al Fayed - a B2B marketing lesson for technology firms

Now, the fact that Mr Al Fayed isn’t interested in this kind of thing isn’t a big surprise. What was surprising was the fact that I received a letter in response to such a piece of spam….and also what that letter said.

“The Chairman has asked me to thank you for your recent correspondence and has requested me to reply on his behalf….”

Once I’d regained my composure (I was a little embarrassed that this invite had been sent), I reread the letter and realised he’d made me feel like one of the gold plated Sphinx’s that sit in his shop…he’d thanked me and wished me well for the future!

Now, I haven’t been to Harrods for some time, and can’t remember ever liking the place, but I’m willing to give it another shot when I’m in the area…. and all because of this letter.

My guess is that Mr Al Fayed gets a lot of invitations to random events, and spends a great deal of money on employing an army of Kay Rahmani’s to respond to many more interesting invites than mine. But why bother?

Here’s the thing. Mr Al Fayed is a very smart guy. He understands that in a busy marketplace it’s *how* you say stuff that counts.

How do I know this? Well, I looked back over that mailing list, and found that some big wigs at John Lewis and Heals also got an invite. (I know this isn’t something I should be proud of – spam marketing is to be despised….but hey, these were tough times and I learned my lesson well.) Guess what? No reply. Not that I expected one – a rationale response to this kind of direct mail would be to bin it on sight. But that’s not what Harrod’s does…..

In a world where information and content is increasingly free and worryingly undifferentiated, it really pays when you go the extra mile and say and do something with passion, style and individuality. Think about it. You’re a B2B software company. What differentiates your latest marketing missive from the competition’s? Subject matter? Unlikely! Design? No way! Accessibility? Nope – everything’s free now. So why should I care about what you say?

We need to say things differently… and perhaps we need to act differently too. Like taking the time and expense to address something quirky that others ignore, and doing it in a way that’s memorable.

It takes a bit of balls to make these kind of content investments but I think it pays. Doing what Mr Al Fayed does is the future. You may only speak to a handful of people, and it may cost more to do it in this way, but do you think they’ll remember you…?

Now, where can I buy some luxury stationary so I can start writing some thank you notes….?


This new year the web will come of age. Quality will prevail as the cream rises to the surface

I once worked for mr Al Fayed as his private PA and did send hundreds of these. Forget about the letters though, this man was the most awful person. He did the most disgusting illegal things. You will probably read about it when he passes away and books get published…I bet Gaddafi also sent out the same letters…

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