Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Value + Trust = Relationships


Yesterday, I started talking about the "exchange of relationships" and why they matter more than the "exchange of information" or even "exchange of ideas" these days.  We seem to be in a rush for the newer, better, faster, flashier but we've forgotten some of the basics.  Specifically, we've forgotten that our customers are multi dimensional and that they are more than ROI, ROMI, CPM, EBIT, etc.  They have wants and needs that deserve to be heard first, understood second and sated third.  It's a textured process but it's a process nonetheless...  much like building a meaningful and lasting relationship which is what we should be striving for with each customer and prospect out there.    

It takes time.  And it takes effort.

In my daily social media tour yesterday, I came across an interview with Mitch Joel, President of Twist Image, which I thought was very interesting and totally apropos!  What luck.  Please read the interview after you've read this post -- it's full of great stuff.  For our chat today, I'm going to share my favorite nuggets.  The first one is about being connected versus being engaged:

"A lot of people feel they have a right to shill, promote, and push their wares just because they are "connected."  In a day and age where following, friending, or subscribing to anyone about anything is nothing more than a simple click away, there needs to be some time, effort, and thought put against the idea that being connected is basic and primal, but actually creating any level of engagement with an audience, community, or whatever you want to call whomever has agreed to follow or friend you, is a whole other ballgame. People make the assumption that just because they're following you, they're engaged with you...and that's a misnomer ... People like to say they have X amount of friends and X amount of followers, but how many of those friends and followers are really engaged with them?  Those are two totally different worlds as far as I can see."

Yes!  Exactly!  He talks about followers here but I'd like to twist this a bit because I'm concerned about marketers (or those who are followed) and how well they engage their followers and build relationships with them.  I'm sure we can think of any number of Facebook pages sponsored by a brand where they exist because the manager feels like it should exist -- much like crossing off tasks on a "honey do" list.  This is opposed to having well thought out, strategic, almost primal, organic reasons to exist with customized content for those who choose to follow.  I myself have joined fan pages with high hopes only to be slightly bored with what I see.  

True story: I saw an informal survey on Facebook where someone was asking if they should have a group page or a fan page for their budding business -- which, to me, was a cart before the horse type of question.  My response was to figure out the customers and prospect first, strategize, develop the right approach and then consider the delivery channel in the efficient drive to attract and develop a relationship with the truly engaged...  All of which takes time and planning... and trust.  This anecdote brings us to this other part of the interview:

"Marketers want everything (more sales, more brand awareness, more recall, and more word of mouth) and they want it fast.  I think marketing has it all wrong.  Digital marketing is about being slow and that's how you build your circle of influence.  Yes, you can make fast decisions, but optimal results take time.  You can't quickly start a blog and get results.  It takes time to build your content, find your voice, develop a community, and earn trust and respect.  You can't just publish a podcast and expect your cash register to start ringing.  You can't join an online social network and derive any value from it unless you take the time to meet the right people, connect, share, build and grow.  Slow does not mean resting on your laurels and not engaging in these new channels.  Slow simply means that long-term results take time.  There are no shortcuts to success. ... You become the go-to-person by adding value and building real relationships...and taking the appropriate amount of time to do so."

Wow - I'm struck by a few things not the least of which is that the "no shortcuts to success" sentence feels like this guy is channeling my parents (shout out to R and A).  But it's where I'd like to start first.  That anecdote is the perfect example of the digital trap that many are falling into these days.  We think that just because information is instantaneous and can be delivered via mobile channels, it means that the payoff should be instantaneous as well.  Not in the slightest.  When we build relationships, online or offline, personal or business, it's based on earned trust and delivered respect.  And, both of those are derived from the value that you bring to the proposed relationship.  There's no such thing as a free lunch, as my dad often says!

As marketers, we don't get value brownie points if we're on foursquare, Facebook, Twitter, developing an iPhone app, etc.  These days, that's akin to turning the lights on and making coffee.  It's the cost of entry.  It's what we do and how we do it that sets us apart.  Case in point: Nestle is still suffering over the palm oil brouhaha that started with a Greenpeace report and then spilled over to its Facebook page (Google Nestle to see articles covering the story).  How Nestle interacted with its audience on its Facebook page made a smaller problem into an inferno and it seems to keep fanning the flames instead of putting out the fire.  Why did it explode in the first place?  It was the tone.  It was the sheer disregard of the issue at hand.  It was a gross misunderstanding of the social media platform itself.  All because it didn't take the time and effort to develop its voice, build its community and earn trust.  

Again, the value of the discourse with and the respect you deliver to your customers and prospects distinguish you from the others.  

Which builds and strengthens relationships.

And, great news!  It delivers profits.

That's it for now...  There will be more on relationships in the next post.  Please keep leaving me notes or comments -- here or on LinkedIn!


Parissa Behnia

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