When I left banking in 2001, I was reminded about the importance of relationships.
I was surprised and touched by the number of customers who asked me not to leave banking and who told me how much they valued their relationship with me. (It was only a pity that they had not told me earlier before I had made the decision to leave!)
Looking back, I can now identify the reason that I had to leave banking. The bank was asking me to do things that meant that I could not properly honour the relationship that I had built up with my customers.
How could I sell them products and services that I would never buy myself? I simply couldn’t do it and live with myself. (But it seems plenty did and hence all the mis-selling scandals we have seen in the UK.)
I started a business consultancy immediately after leaving the Bank and for the next 5 or 6 years attracted new business to my consultancy principally from those former banking customers.
Today, I’m trying to drum into my daughter and son-in-law, who are both working long hours in the city of London, the risks they are taking by leaving their two young children in the hands of nannies. They are seriously under-estimating the importance of their relationship with their children and the impact it will have on all their lives.
The older I get, the more and more importance I attach to relationships. Whilst we may be poor in money terms, if we are rich in relationships then we are rich indeed. (I admire the Asian community for the way in which family, friends and community support each other, particularly in business – it is one of their great strengths in my opinion.)
Surveys have shown that many poor people in the under-developed countries are actually happier than more wealthy people because of their relationships within their community, family and friends.
Having too many possessions can actually be a huge burden because they need maintaining, securing, storing, insuring etc Do people like you because of who you are or what you own?
On the other hand, you can never have too many genuine relationships.
I have been considering the role that relationships play in internet marketing. It seems to me that most relationships are pretty superficial:
- take ‘friends’ on Facebook for example – are they really friends or just people you want to exploit or who want to exploit you in some way?
- how about subscribers to your list – do you genuinely care for them and their success or are they just a source of cash?
- how about our relationship as internet marketers with local businesses – are we simply preying on their ignorance rather than offering genuine value to those business owners? I have seen plenty of so-called web designers that have produced websites that will never earn a return on their customers investment.
In business, the strength of your relationships will generally be based on your ability to improve the life of your customer (and very occasionally will develop into something stronger and more personal.) It seems to me that you cannot go too far wrong if you concentrate and focus on helping to improve the lives of other people.
In order to do that you need to know who they are, what they are interested in and what they might want and need. Without that you are shooting in the breeze (which is what most internet marketers do which is why they end up in my spam folder).
You can mitigate that a bit by segmenting your lists but it takes a lot of work to communicate ‘personally’ with each list. One strategy is to automate your follow-up sequence for each list so that those emails address the immediate reason the joined that particular list. So your first 7 days emails are directly relevant to what they opted into. After 7 days you might then address other problems that are commonly encountered in their niche.
You also need to acquire the skills to be able to improve another persons life.
Simply calling yourself a ‘coach’ without having any coaching skills is asking for trouble because your customers will eventually discover the truth of what you can deliver and potentially your reputation in the marketplace will never recover. As the banks will discover, once lost, reputation and trust takes an awfully long time to recover.
But how do you stand out from the crowd of marketers that are filling your prospect/customers email inbox with their communications?
Here are a few things that you might consider:
- make your communications fun and entertaining – become an expert at telling stories
- be authentic, genuine and open – tell them the good, the bad and the ugly i.e. about your failures as well as your successes, the pros and the cons, your weaknesses as well as your strengths. Only promote from a position of personal knowledge of a product or service (rather than obligation or being motivated by money) i.e. be worthy of trust
- have a personal opinion – even if it risks alienating some people with contrary beliefs i.e. stand up for what you believe in
- ask for your customers feedback and respond to it e.g. surveys
- offer free value or bonuses together with your promotions – this is called an ethical bribe.
- be approachable – give them your direct contact details
- communicate in face-to-face videos – let them see who you really are and show them that you have an attractive personality.
- show them your depth rather than your surface – most of us only reveal ‘the tip of a very large iceberg’. How can we expect people to know, like and trust us if we only reveal a carefully doctored image of ourselves?
- respond promptly to requests for help and assistance.
- treat them as you would wish to be treated by others – no tricks, lies or deceit. (Turn away customers that you cannot help, or refer them elsewhere, rather than trying to deliver the undeliverable.)
Please let me know in the comments below how you develop relationships with your prospects and customers?
Do you agree with my comments about the importance of relationships or do you prefer the strategy of burning your list by hitting them with offers right from the outset?