Business is about relationships. We’ve all heard it. Probably more times than we can count. But what does it really mean? And could a mint make all the difference?

Digital marketing agencies around the world have been selling the value of personalization for years, but often without any explanation of what this means.

In the digital world, this means anything from having a prospect’s name appear in the subject line of an email to successfully offering or predicting additional products you might like to purchase through an e-commerce platform.

In person, we all know we like to do business with people we know, like, and trust. Chambers of Commerce across the country have been telling us this for generations. And there is truth to it. You’re more likely to make a sale or an up-sell to someone who trusts what you’re doing.

But how do you measure it?

Professional salespeople work hard to find ways to establish trustful relationships with clients from the get-go. It’s hard. But there are techniques, rooted in psychology, that can help you get down this road further than just offering a great product or service.


A study done by the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration titled “Sweetening the Till: The Use of Candy to Increase Restaurant Tipping,” examined how a simple gesture by servers impacted tipping in restaurants.

They looked at four groups and how the servers interacted at the end of their meals.

Group One, the control group, received only the bill for their meal from their server.

Group Two had their bill presented with a mint.

For Group Three, the server left two mints with the bill, announcing that they were leaving two mints.

For Group Four, the server left two mints along with the bill and walked away without saying anything. Then, the server stopped, returned, and left a few more mints with a comment about how nice the people were and how they deserved the extra mints for their kindness.

Compared to the average tips left in the control group, tips for Group Two increased three percent. Group Three increased by 14%. Group Four went up by 21%.

Basically, the more personal the interaction, the better the tip. Psychologically, this could be interpreted as an understanding of more personal interaction equals more good feelings equals bigger reward. And what was most interesting to the researchers: the jump from Group Two to Group Three was not a simple doubling, it was more an
exponential increase.


Of course, this is one study of particular interactions in a dining situation.

The bigger question is could it work elsewhere?

Amazon has been doing it since it was just an online bookstore. Even in the earliest incarnations of the e-commerce giant, the Amazon interface would use data collected through the consumer’s interaction to present additional and alternative options for what they were looking for.

Today, we see it in just about every e-commerce interface,

“shoppers who purchased [the thing you’re buying], also purchased [these other great products.]”

The concept is that of a trusted personal shopping assistance walking the online store with you.

When it predicts correctly, it engenders more trust and a better shopping experience: The consumer is made to feel included, and as a a result, feels good. For the online retailer, more sales are generated. It’s an all-around win/win.


The same approach works very effectively with face-to-face interactions. It’s why the best networking conversations and sales meetings begin with discussions of family or pets or pastimes. When you connect about fishing stories, or what your kids are into, you automatically connect as humans. It’s ultra-personal. Suddenly the people on both sides are disarmed and connection is occurring over common interests or challenges.

Commonality and trust make you feel good about a relationship, that translates to trust in business, or shopping or tipping.


In the age of the coronavirus, we’re living in a time where we’re spending an inordinate amount of our professional time on email, and the phone, and video calls. Sometimes even by text message. For many people, communication seems different. Personally, I’ve done it this way for years and I have many clients I’ve actually never met in person.

So how do we make personalized connections during these trying times? Ask about how they’re doing under the stay at home orders. If they have children, ask about the challenges of online learning. Communicate that you understand and care about how challenging it can be. Maybe even tell a brief story about your own situation.

Before you know it, you’ve navigated the challenges of non-verbal communication in digital formats. You’ve made a connection and the next part of the conversation gets smoother. Leave them a verbal mint and remind them that you think they deserve it. They’ll appreciate it more than you know.

Lyle Smith
Principal, Founder and Chief Writer at | | Website

Lyle Smith is the principal, founder and chief writer for Nymblesmith, a content marketing agency dedicated to brand and business storytelling, and story-focused content strategy. Nymblesmith has delivered highly profitable content and content strategies for some of the most recognizable business brands in America.