Unsolicited Relationship Advice.

Karen Hitchcock LOVES Oreos

I used to eat a bag of double stuff EVERY day after Cross Country practice. And stay skinny. What happened?

I’ve been thinking a little bit about relationships today.  I find both personal and business relationships extremely fascinating. What makes people tick? What motivates someone to do well? Which relationships are worth nurturing and which become too taxing. I bet in your personal life, you start phasing out a friendship when the relationship gets one -sided. Do you do the same in business? If relationships are important to you, it would benefit you to think about them in business terms too.

Marketing and branding are some fancy, fun words; if you toss them around a lot, people will think you’re super smart (which may very well be the case). But marketing and branding, at their core, are really about the relationships you have built with your customers. So I ask you, are your relationships one-sided?

When people ask me what I do and I reply that I am a marketing consultant who helps people evaluate and choose the appropriate tools to market their products or services, they definitely get it.  But what some people don’t  get is that you also need to use these tools to develop the relationship with your customers. There are a lot of companies who put up Facebook pages or establish LinkedIn or Twitter accounts, only to see these efforts stagnate after a couple weeks. That’s because this action is not a magic bullet, unless of course you are willing to take the time to give it your all.

Remember that Janet Jackson line, “What have you done for me lately?” Don’t even go there! As a business, your theme song should ring, “What have I done for them lately?”

I’ve mentioned him before, but Haywood Simmons of Champion Style Athletics does a really nice job of using Facebook to develop relationships. He comments on people’s status, offers inspirational quotes and even inquires about fans’ general well-being. I have only met Simmons once and haven’t even taken his class yet, but I feel like I know him.  This is because he is using FB as a marketing tool to foster relationships. In essence, he’s used this very modern tool to build a very old-fashioned notion: rapport. Now, his efforts won’t pay off with everyone, but that’s ok.  They will, I bet, pay off with the customers he really wants.  Insert 80/20 rule here.

Creating relationships with your customers means that you have to offer them value in exchange for their loyalty and business. For some companies, the value is the product itself.  Take that godsend cookie, the Oreo, for example. I like Oreos so much, that I’m a fan, even though Oreo doesn’t really have a relationship with me. And pretty much,  the only way they might kill my passion is to make Oreos in sweatshops in some developing nation (oh please, don’t let this happen).

But in most other cases, I want a real relationship with the company with which I do business —  Like Champion Style Athletics or KEVA Sports Center or the bands I follow, or the Edgewood School of Business. Each of these organizations (only one of which is a client, BTW) does a really good job of sharing  information, articles, events, etc. I get a benefit from this relationship.

So I’m curious…who do you follow, like, and build a relationship with? Which companies do it best? I like to give a plug for those who are doing it right, which means I need to hear from you.

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This entry was posted in Consulting, Do Gooders, General Musings, Management, Marketing and Strategy and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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