Monday, March 29, 2010

Ideas Mean Nothing; Relationships Mean Everything


I hope you're well and enjoying your day so far.  I've had a great couple of weeks and I'm still riding that wave -- always a good thing.

One of the many things I've learned in a very short period of time is the importance of the personal touch as you're making connections on LinkedIn, acquiring new customers or managing your Facebook page.  Whether it's peer or customer, this same question applies: how is the relationship forged and matured in ways meaningful to everyone?  And, can you have both quality AND quantity?

J is a new connection (I prefer friend) via LinkedIn recently and he's very eloquent when speaking about what relationships mean and why they matter.  He doesn't make connections unless he thinks there is a chance for a good exchange of ideas, etc.  In the short period of time I've known him, he's become my Yoda because I get interesting tidbits, thoughts and articles (when I least expect them) that get me thinking.  True to form, he sent me a quote from Pam Alexander, CEO of Alexander Ogilvy, the other day which made me consider marketing and how we market these days...  which I know was his point.  Here it is:

"ideas will only get you so far these days.  Count on personal relationships to carry you farther.  The new economy is not just about the exchange of information; it's about the exchange of relationships.  Relationship management is nothing new, but with the advent of the internet as a communications infrastructure, it's more important than ever -- particularly at a time when there's more noise than ever.  To break through that noise, to get your message out, count on personal networks.  Relationships are the most powerful form of media."

This is rife with great stuff and I don't know where to begin.  I will tell you that this "exchange of relationships" concept is intriguing to me.  In our race to say our brand/product is cheaper, faster, better, prettier, cooler or the race to have cooler digital platforms we sometimes forget to see the customer as three dimensional. We evaluate customers and prospects as tools to build share, revenues and profit which is as it should be.  But, we need to know the basics about our customers and prospects, then understand them and only then solve for the stated (and sometimes unstated) need.  

Case in point: I attended a webinar on March 17 hosted by an online marketing agency that offers up the following services: paid search, email marketing, strategy, "social media", etc.  So, imagine my surprise when this is the follow up email I received from the Director of Sales and Marketing literally a few minutes ago:

"Hi Behnia, Thanks for attending our webinar last week.  I hope you found the information to be useful.

Please let me know if you have any follow up questions or feedback.  I am also happy to discuss your specific online marketing goals, past campaign performance or other related topics by phone."

Friends, I've not been addressed by my last name since high school.  Sure, I've got an unusual last name.  But, if the stated expertise is online marketing and the intent of the webinar is to demonstrate their thought leadership, then I've got to believe there are checks and balances in place to avoid boo boos.  Also, this is a prospecting email.  What warm fuzzy am I to have when the basic salutation is incorrect?  Despite the unusual last name, it makes me wonder if other areas of their business are similarly lax. 

This is likely unfair criticism of those nice people.  But, my reaction is no different from any other customer or prospect when we don't get the basics right or we just don't "understand" what it is they need or want.  Truly, my Neiman Marcus "Surprise and Delight" post comes to mind here.  If you recall, my point was that as customers, we want to be treated in a way that make us feel wanted and welcomed.  So why aren't we doing that as marketers?

Which is why I was so struck by that quote.  We're in a rush to share the idea but are slower with fortifying the budding relationships.  Some may say that social media platforms mechanize the exchange of relationships and that as these platforms and technologies continue to evolve, the concern will be mitigated.  

I think that may miss the point.  A good relationship is channel agnostic.  The "what" I deliver to my customers should be the same at all times and is predicated upon the idea that I understand my customer and that I am delivering a solution to their stated need/pain. How my message gets delivered is channel strategy and of course there are differences between online and offline approaches, tactics, etc.

This notion of relationship building will span a couple of blog posts because I think it's so important.  I really do thank you for and welcome your feedback whether through here, email, LinkedIn or Twitter.

Have a Great Day!

Parissa Behnia


1 comment:

  1. Parissa:

    You webinar example has me thinking this afternoon. I find webinars an interesting sales & marketing tool, but impersonal thanks to their delivery system. However, what makes them even more impersonal is how weak the follow-up is. Now that I think about it, I only remember one individual following up on a webinar recently, it was a one and out conversation. People really do need to get back to classic relationship building in our digital era.