With all the noise in marketing these days, the need for more meaningful conversations has become more important than ever. The rise in digital platforms has transformed how we communicate. Anyone can broadcast their thoughts to anyone at any time—even worse, everyone feels a need to. Feeling the pressure to reach customers and weed through the chatter, people tend to share their message everywhere possible. Instead, I encourage you to focus on building a stronger network with meaningful conversations. To make meaningful, emotional connections, I choose to interact on a deeper level. And sometimes, that means interacting with fewer people at a time. My most successful (i.e. profitable) business relationships are those where the two of us have ever-deeper interactions. Every time we get together, we learn a little more about each other, find more things we have in common, and feel emotionally closer to each other. Here are some tips for deepening your relationships by having more meaningful conversations:

Uncover commonalities

  • Ask questions: about their business sure, but also about their kids, travel, hobbies, places they’ve worked.
  • Look for things you have in common and explore those topics.
  • Find ways for the two of you to bond.

Deepen the human connection

  • Tap into the way they are feeling and the emotions they are expressing, and mirror those.
  • Use feeling words (e.g., that sounds frustrating, you must be elated).
  • Get a little vulnerable. I will often share a mistake or challenge I’m facing as a way to be more authentic.
  • Share something that only your closest friends or family might know about you.

Be memorable

  • Create a special moment (e.g. make a joke, give them a compliment, refer to something unique). In doing so, that person is more likely to remember you and what you discussed.
  • Refer to a previous conversation. It’s much easier to pick up on the last conversation if a memorable topic was discussed.
  • Memorable conversations build on one another, so that with each interaction, you deepen the relationship.

Be likeable

  • Talk about unique experiences you’ve had—especially about those you have in common.
  • Don’t try too hard. People are drawn to others who are open and real and trustworthy. Just be your most authentic self.
  • When we like someone, we want to see them succeed, so it’s a lot more likely an “ask” will be answered with action if you’ve made the effort to get to like each other first.

Bottom line: meaningful conversations are key to building authentic relationships. It’s essentially the only way to stand out in a sea of endless dialogues. Endeavor to improve upon the silence and stop wasting time with useless chatter. We believe the world NEEDS to be having more meaningful (and civil) conversation. Honoring this philosophy in the way we work with clients, the way we market our business, and the way we work with our team members has led to higher profits and more fulfilling work. If you’d like to have a meaningful conversation about how to have meaningful conversations, get in touch with us!

If real, authentic relationships are important to the success of your business, it’s invaluable to know exactly who you can build relationships with.

In my book Clicksand, I share the idea of the Universe of Potential Relationships. You can only build relationships with people who meet three criteria:

  1. They are someone you want to have a relationship with.
  2. They are open to starting a new relationship.
  3. You are able to build rapport with them.

Each of those three criteria can be represented by a circle, and the universe of potential relationships exists where all three circles overlap (when people fit all three criteria).

In two recent articles, I explored items 1 and 2 from the list above. Now, let’s take a look at the final piece of the puzzle: people you can build rapport with.

A “common” problem

Building rapport with another person starts with understanding how relationships are formed. It’s a simple misperception that in order to build a relationship, you need to get the person to like you. The belief is that relationships are formed just by Person A and Person B liking each other. But that’s not how it actually works.

Relationships are actually formed (and deepened) when both Person A and Person B like the same things. Both like Thai food? Check. Similar sense of humor?  Done. Golf fanatics? Great! Those things that both people share are called commonalities and they are the secret to building and deepening relationships.

Here is a quick exercise: make a list of a few people that you have great relationships with. Then, make a list of all the things you have in common; things you both like, whether you’re both introverted or outgoing, similar experiences you’ve had in life (even if they weren’t things you did together), your opinions on politics and the world, what you do to relax, and so on. When we do this with clients at Civilis Marketing, they are often surprised at how long this list can become. They can quickly come up with twenty, thirty or even fifty commonalities they share with their best relationships!

Next, write down a couple of people you wish you had a better relationship with and make a list of things you have in common. Like our clients, you’ll probably find that the list is much shorter—maybe only two or three things total.

The question, then, is are you just out of luck when it comes to those people? The good news is that you’re not out of luck—you just need to get more creative in finding commonalities with those people.

Infinite possibilities

The number of things you can have in common with another person is almost endless, but we have been able to condense them down into five different types:

  1. Characteristics – What and who you are. Title/responsibilities, industry certifications, ages/genders, ethnicities, group memberships, physical traits, and family situations are examples of potential shared characteristics.
  2. Behaviors – What you do and how you do it. Being very organized or disorganized, following the rules or breaking them, being boisterous or quiet. People who have similar behaviors are more likely to form a relationship than those who don’t.
  3. Experiences – Where you’ve been and what you’ve done in the past (or what you are going through right now). Travel experiences, raising kids, working at a certain company or job, living in a particular place, or going through some sort of life event are examples of potential shared experiences.
  4. Interests – What you enjoy. The list of potential shared interests is long: hobbies, sports teams, movies, music, food, vacation destinations, particular authors, business gurus, sunny weather … the list goes on and on. Interests provide the widest variety of potential commonalities.
  5. Opinions – What you think and how you see the world. Political views, religious affiliation, commentary on current events, and business industry views fall into this category. Opinions are the most volatile of all commonality types. They can forge incredibly strong bonds between people, but they can also alienate people who don’t share your opinions. So, great care must be taken to ensure that your opinion is one that the would-be relationship agrees with before exploring it as a potential commonality.

Even with all five of these types, there are still times when we find our clients have trouble identifying enough commonalities with their important (or desired) relationships. That’s when it helps to take a different perspective on things that might not initially seem like they are commonalities.

Going deeper

Let’s say I like running and you like golf. On the surface, there is no commonality there.  But wait a minute, running and golf are both outdoor activities, so we both love being outside. And, I can guarantee you that if we are stuck in the office on the first warm day of spring, we’re both yearning to be outside enjoying the weather. So, while we don’t like the same sport, we do love the same weather.

When you go deeper on items that don’t appear to be commonalities (or just look at them from a different angle), you can almost always find aspects of them that are shared between two people.

When we work with Civilis Marketing clients, we are always able to generate much larger lists of commonalities than they expect for the people they want deeper relationships with. If you take some time with your own relationships, I’m sure you can do the same thing and push your relationship-building efforts into another gear!

In Clicksand, I explore the concept of the Universe of Potential Relationships. There are three overlapping circles: the people you want to meet, the people who are open to meeting someone new, and the people you can build rapport with. You can only build a relationship with the people who meet all three of those conditions—where all three circles overlap.

When we begin working with new clients at Civilis Marketing, we find that many of them have been making mistakes related to one (or more) of those three circles. In a previous article I spelled out ways to critically think through who you want to have a relationship with (it’s not always obvious!).

Now, let’s look at the flip side: people open to meeting someone new.

Out of control

The first—and most important—point to make about whether people are open to meeting someone new is that you have no control over it. You can attempt to open a dialogue, but it is the other person’s choice whether to accept your overture or not. And if they choose not to, you need to respect their decision—especially if you ever really do want to have a meaningful business relationship with them. Too many companies these days (especially those that believe what online marketers and tools tell them) keep hammering away when they really want to meet someone. We all get emails that start out with some variation of “You didn’t respond to my last email, so…”  Then, they go on to explain why it is so important that you let them into your life. They think that if they are persistent enough, people will eventually relent and respond, allowing them to move the relationship forward.

Online marketing companies like HubSpot call this irritating persistence “nurturing,” and build tools that encourage the behavior. But no matter what HubSpot calls it, in truth, it’s badgering. It even verges on stalking.

There is absolutely no way you can try to begin a relationship with someone by badgering (or stalking) them and have it turn into a healthy, long-term relationship. So, the bottom line is: If you want to really build solid, authentic long-term relationships, start by respecting the other person from the very beginning. If they don’t want a relationship, don’t push it.

But that doesn’t mean all is lost.

The more things change

One fantastic characteristic of people who don’t want to meet anyone new now, is that eventually they will want to meet someone new. It’s a sales axiom that “no” just means “not yet.”

If you sell a product or service that your ideal customer needs, it is only a matter of time before they are open to looking at a new solution. The secret is learning what the triggers are that will cause them to move to the “willing to meet someone new” circle.  There are many such triggers, including:

  • Performance problems: They reach a point where they need to make a change in order to improve their results.
  • Management change or turnover: New management comes in or old management leaves, resulting in an openness to new ideas.
  • Macroeconomic factors (recession, low/high unemployment, etc.): Changes in the economy (in the country or just in a particular industry) can cause businesses to become open to new relationships.
  • Non-economic external factors (natural disasters, news events, etc.): Businesses are often affected by legal, environmental, criminal, or other societal factors outside of their control.
  • Supplier failure: The supplier they have been happy with previously lets them down, causing them to need to find a new solution.
  • Competitor change: A new competitor appears, or an existing competitor makes a change that causes them to reexamine their own business model.

The roadmap

The bottom line, though, is that if your business is built on authentic, long-term relationships, pay extra attention to the needs and desires of the people you want to have relationships with. Being pushy and trying to move things along more quickly so you can meet your own goals or deadlines might feel good in the short run, but it will only ruin your chances of long-term success.

Spend time thinking about the people you want to start relationships with. What are their lives like? How far they are willing to go (or not go) now?  And prepare for the moment when their life will change, causing them to move into the “willing to meet someone new” circle.

One concept I explore in Clicksand is the Universe of Potential Relationships. It is a concept we use a lot with our clients at Civilis Marketing.

The idea is that for any new relationship to form between you and another person, three conditions must exist. First, the person must be the kind of individual you want to have a relationship with. Second, that person must be open to meeting someone new. And finally, you must have (or be able to build) enough rapport with that person in order for the relationship to start and subsequently flourish.

On the surface this process makes sense—no one ever disagrees with us when we describe it. But when you actually start putting it into real world practice, it is not nearly as easy as it sounds.

Let’s take the very first condition: people you want to meet.

Most business owners think this is simple and tend to spend very little time on it. They have a target description like, “we want to meet CEOs of companies with 10-50 employees” or “we want to meet managers at Fortune 100 companies who make purchasing decisions about [insert product or service here].” What they are doing is demographically describing their target customer—the focus is almost always on the title of the person and the size of the company. Sometimes business owners add a geographic area or specific industry when describing the company, but in general, the pattern is people with a certain responsibility at certain kinds of companies.

While having a clear demographic description of your target customer is certainly a good thing, it’s usually not the place to begin building and nurturing valuable business relationships. There are three additional considerations.

Think beyond customers

When we dig into a client’s business to uncover the relationships that really drive their success and result in them bringing in those target customers they desire, we frequently find that their most valuable relationships are with people who aren’t target customers at all. In almost every business we examine, we find that new business is driven by a variety of third-party relationships—people who advocate on behalf of the company with the target customer.

Sometimes, it is obvious because the company has formal referral relationships with businesses or individuals who are in a position to make recommendations to the target customers (accountants, consultants, complementary product or service providers, and so on). In these cases, business owners we talk to are usually aware of the importance of those referral relationships, so they readily agree.

But in other cases, there are key relationships that aren’t as obvious. Happy customers are frequently critical drivers of new business that can be unnoticed if the company isn’t watching for the signs. Past customers are another commonly missed source. A manager who worked with you at Company A, Inc. might move to a new firm and advocate for you without you realizing it. And, there are probably twenty other similar relationship models that exist in your business. With the right analysis, however, we can often uncover the patterns that really drive any business.

What’s important is to make sure that you spend time on the relationships that will really pay off (which is almost always someone who already knows and loves what you do), instead of hammering away on people just because they have a certain job title at a company of a certain type or size.

Getting psycho

The target customer profiles of most companies we work with contain information about what the target customer is (title, company size, etc.). But it’s also important to account for what the target customer thinks and feels—psychographics.

Who are you the perfect fit for? A customer who loves new ideas and wants to be on the cutting edge or one who wants what is tried and true? A customer who values performance or one that values loyalty?

Knowing and expressing what makes one customer a better fit for your business than others, is a key component of making sure you are building relationships that lead to getting the customers you really want.

It’s personal

Finally, remember that relationships are with people, not companies (or titles). When we go through a discovery exercise with new clients, the last (and most important) step is to get down to specific individuals.

You will build and nurture relationships with Jack and Tina and Jamie, not “purchasing managers” or “buyers.”

Some companies have a list of individuals that they have already identified as critical business relationships, but many don’t. If yours is one without such a detailed target list, it is worth the investment of time up front to make sure your efforts to build relationships will pay off.

When I was younger, I dreamed of being Douglas Adams, writer of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He is one of the most innovative and entertaining storytellers I’ve ever read and I relished his sense of humor. One of my all-time favorite Adams lines was from his 1992 book Mostly Harmless. It was the fifth book in the Hitchhiker’s Guide series and the tag line on the cover of the first edition said, “The fifth book in the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhikers Trilogy.”

The Hitchhiker’s Guide series grew well beyond its originally intended length, and while I could never hope to be in the same universe as Douglas Adams, I do have one small thing I can relate to in his world. My “3 Ways Building Business Relationships Can Be Like Playing Golf” article was intended to just be a single blog article, but interest and comments have helped it continue to expand well beyond that first post. The original “3 Ways” led to a second “3 More Ways…” article, and now it’s time for a third list of ways business relationships are like playing golf. This time, we’re looking at the emotional part of the game.

1. Resiliency required

Golf courses, in general, are masterpieces of green serenity. Manicured greens, welcoming fairways, and formal tee boxes all provide gentle, beautiful places to play the game. Unfortunately, most golfers don’t play in those well-trimmed areas. A lot of golf is played in areas on the course that are not welcoming at all: long grass in the rough, sand traps and water hazards. In fact, even the best of the best, the pros of the PGA, only hit about 60 to 70 percent of their tee shots into the fairway. This means that almost a third of the time, the best golfers in the world are trying to recover from a bad tee shot. And you can imagine how much worse the percentages are for regular, everyday golfers.

This means that a big part of playing golf is dealing with problems and setbacks. You can’t compete and win in golf if you can’t recover when shots don’t go as planned. This is an area where golf and business relationships are very similar.

It would be wonderful if we could all present our products and services to prospects and have everything go just as we expected: The prospect would be interested, and we’d be on our way to a sale to a happy new customer. Unfortunately, just like those golf tee shots that don’t always end up in the well-groomed fairway, things don’t always go as planned in business relationships.

People get fired. They are out sick. Initiatives get put on hold. The number of things that can (and do) go wrong as we work through business relationships is almost infinite. But just as in golf, the key to ultimately succeeding is accepting that those things will happen and being ready to deal with them when they do.

2. Relaxing under pressure

Golf is one of those paradoxical activities where you must be relaxed and loose to compete successfully. No matter how intense the situation or important the stakes, you must be able to maintain a calm, steady demeanor to hit a consistent shot.

Business relationships can require a similar approach. You might really need to close a deal, but if you push too hard you can ruin your chances at success. Often, the more you can relax and not try to move things ahead too quickly, the faster they will actually move.

3. The true you

The English humorist P.G. Wodehouse once said, “To find a man’s true character, golf with him.” This is a sentiment that has been echoed by many others. Golf, with all its randomness and adversity, tends to bring out the true nature of a person.

Business relationships that take time to develop and nurture do the same thing. Disingenuous sales reps, if they don’t really care about a prospect and just want a quick buck, can fake being sincere and caring for only a short time. Eventually, their true nature comes out and they revert to trying to coerce a sale.

If you or your team needs help developing a consistent, successful process for developing and nurturing relationships, our team at Civilis Marketing would be happy to help you. And if you have ideas for more “Ways Business Relationships Can Be Like Playing Golf” articles, let me know! We might be able to get all the way to the fifth article in our increasingly inaccurately named trilogy!

In my previous article, I talked about how the many organic variables involved in playing golf make it a lot like trying to navigate business relationships. The article struck a chord with many readers and I heard from several avid golfers who suggested more ways in which the two are similar. So it’s time for the sequel, with three more ways business relationships are like playing golf.

1. Most shots are not aimed at the hole

Of course, the goal of golf is to get the ball in the hole.  But one of the ironies of the game is that the vast majority of golf shots are in fact aimed elsewhere. Shots off the tee are usually aimed at the fairway. Approach shots are focused on getting the ball closer to the green or onto the green itself. And even some putts are from far enough away that the goal is to just get the ball close to the hole to make the next putt easier. Now, if one of those shots accidentally goes in, it’s cause for celebration. Holes-in-one are rare and joyful events. But many shots in golf have no chance of going into the hole because they are not aimed anywhere near it. Instead, they are aimed at putting the player in a better position for the next shot.

If you think of playing golf as analogous to developing and nurturing business relationships, getting the ball in the hole would equate to making a sale. And what we can learn from golf is that, just as every shot is not aimed directly at the hole, every interaction in relationships should not be aimed at making a sale. The majority of interactions in business relationships should instead focus on putting the businessperson in a better position for the next interaction.

2. Some holes are longer than others

Just as some relationships take longer to develop, some golf holes are longer than others. Par-5 holes are 67 percent longer (in terms of number of strokes) than par 3s. This is why golfers carry so many different clubs. Big drivers that get used off the tee on a par-5 hole aren’t even touched on a short par 3. So even though the goal is the same (get the ball in the hole), the necessary tools and techniques are very different.

In business, sometimes it just takes longer to build a relationship with one person compared to another.  And we find that often, the bigger the potential value of that relationship, the longer it will take. Plus, not only does it take longer, it can require different kinds of relationship-building techniques and tools (just like longer golf holes require different clubs). Be certain, therefore, to have a mix of activities “in your bag” to utilize for different types of relationships.

3. The goals move every day

Other than sports where you’re trying to hit a person (boxing, MMA, dodgeball), I can’t think of any other major sport where the goal (or target or end zone or basket) is moved from place to place. In golf, though, the hole is moved to different locations on the green on a regular basis (and in between each daily round during professional tournaments). This helps to keep the greens from wearing out from too much traffic in one spot but also adds to the complexity of the game since the same course will present different challenges as the holes are relocated to different places on the greens.

It also provides a perfect analogy for business relationships. Even with all the planning in the world, sometimes the goal moves. People get fired, new bosses are hired, and business goals change. It can be very frustrating when you think you are on track, only to find out the destination is no longer where you thought it was.

The key is to make sure you have flexibility built into your relationship development and nurturing process. If your system is too rigid, it will not be able to accommodate the changes that are guaranteed to occur.

Let me know if I can help with any aspect of your business relationship process, and here’s hoping you get that ball in the hole no matter where they place it!

With the warm weather of summer, a lot of business owners find time (or would love to find time) to hit the golf course. Golf season always reminds me of a great analogy I heard from Frank Agin, owner of the business networking company AmSpirit. Frank explains that building and nurturing business relationships is a lot like playing a hole of golf. There is the initial meeting (the tee shot), then there are a variety of shots that lead to eventually putting the ball in the cup. Sometimes, it’s an easy shot from the middle of the fairway. Other times, it’s pitching out of a sand trap or hacking out of the rough. And of course, there are external factors that are out of your control, like wind, divots from previous players, and so on.

What I love about Frank’s golf analogy is that it shows how relationships have a starting point and a goal, but the path in between is never perfectly predictable. You know where you’re trying to end up, but you must navigate your way there through unexpected variables. In fact, there are three ways that golf and business relationships are similar.

1. Every shot is unique

Possibly more than any other sport, golf is a game of infinite variables. Played outdoors on a natural, organic surface (or surfaces, if you think about how fairways are different than roughs or greens) with shots of different length and complexity (sand traps, water hazards, dogleg turns, etc.), golf presents players with challenges that are literally unique with every shot. Even if you could play the same course over and over and hit every shot exactly the same way, there would still be variables like wind that would change the outcome every time.

This never-ending series of puzzles and surprises is one of the things that makes golf so appealing. It’s also one of the things that makes the sport similar to developing business relationships.

While there are patterns that are similar from relationship to relationship, there are so many variables involved in any human interaction that it’s important to treat each interaction uniquely.

2. It’s a process that can’t be automated

These days, it’s an instant knee-jerk reaction to look at any process and immediately think of automating it. Sit with any consultant and discuss ways to scale up a business, and automation will come up as the first idea. But what we know from our work at Civilis Marketing is that human relationships can’t be automated. There can be a process for working to deepen them systematically over time, but that process cannot be turned over to a computer.

We all get examples of this electronically every year on our birthday. Businesses that have attempted to automate their relationships with us as customers or prospects send out messages that are obviously automated. We all can tell they didn’t really take the time to think about us as individuals, and often the messages do more harm than good. I get one every year that literally has the subject line “Happy Birthday from Your Dentist.” I’ve been getting it for years. And the funny part is that it’s not even my current dentist. It’s from a dentist I used to go to.

But let’s get back to golf. A process is defined as “a series of events that produce an outcome,” and the steps of moving a golf ball from tee to cup fit that definition. There is a process to playing golf. But with all the variables built into the game, it’s a process that can’t be automated. It takes a human to factor in the wind, the lie of the ball, and all the other things that must be considered before hitting each shot.

It’s the same with business relationships. There are too many subtle and subjective variables involved in each interaction to be able to trust a computer (especially one with pre-programmed messages) to move the relationship forward. Both relationships and golf still require a human.

3. Measure twice, cut once

Speaking of variables, there are so many in the typical golf shot that players spend much more time planning than they do actually playing. As with the carpentry proverb that says, “measure twice, cut once,” you’ll notice when watching the pros that they spend considerable time researching (consulting the yardage chart), examining (checking the wind and the lie of the ball), discussing (talking with their caddie), selecting (choosing the perfect club), and preparing (taking practice swings). Then, it’s all over in about twenty seconds—five seconds of golf swing and fifteen seconds of ball travel.  A golfer that spends two minutes planning is investing six times as much time in preparation than he or she is in making the actual shot.  But they know that the shot would not be successful without that prep.

It’s the same with business relationships. To move a relationship forward, it’s important to take some time in between each interaction to examine where things are (the “lie of the ball”) and what the best steps are to continue progress from that point.

I hope you get a chance to enjoy the warm weather of summer on the golf course and that you find ways to translate that success to your most critical business relationships. As always, let me know if I can help.

The advantage of digital marketing is reach. You can reach so many people so often, so fast, and (if you know what you’re doing) so effectively. But at what cost? And I don’t mean financial cost. I’m talking about the potential relationship cost.

We’re social creatures after all. So, what can happen to relationships—personal and business—when we allow people to remain perpetually at arm’s-length? Or worse, allow those relationships to become virtually mechanized (emphasis on “virtual”)?

Digital marketing: efficiency… but at what price?

So much of my work is accomplished in a virtual environment, with a large percentage of my day-to-day business interactions taking place through email. It’s fast, easy, and efficient. It’s the way business communicates today. But its efficiency discourages talking with people face to face.

When more time than I’d like separates in-person meetings, whether they’re with clients or coworkers, I tend to start questioning the status of my professional relationships. Are our clients still happy with what we’re doing (e.g., what are they saying among themselves offline)? Do they still understand and believe in the success of strategies we’ve developed? Are they steering off course? Is there disconnect within my team?

I know I can’t be alone in experiencing these misgivings—however unfounded they may be.

Without regular authentic conversation, it’s hard to know what one’s digital “audience” is genuinely feeling. Existing in a virtual cocoon can lead to skewed perceptions of reality on both sides of the relationship.

Emerging from the cocoon of online marketing

Email communicates through words, but conversation involves so much more than that.

What I’ve found, without fail, is that reuniting with a client in person forces a heightened level of communication that answers any questions I have about our relationship. I typically find that everything is good, and that most, if not all, of my worries were unfounded. And if there is a concern, conversation brings it out faster, when the issue is smaller and easier to address. Even better, clients are actually more likely to reveal their satisfaction in conversation rather than through an email. Many people (especially busy executives and business owners) don’t have time to gush over email.

There’s another advantage as well: You’ll be reminded of how much you really like that client (and vice versa). Strengthening relationships that way, beyond the obvious benefit of human interaction, can result in all sorts of unforeseen business opportunities down the road. And if the opposite happens, and one of you rubs the other the wrong way? Well, that can be valuable information, too.

What do you really know?

Think about the relationships you have that are based almost entirely online and through digital media. Maybe they involve people from high school that you’ve kept in touch with through Facebook but who you haven’t seen in many years. Maybe they’re with vendors you contact exclusively through email.

What do you really know about these people? Probably not a lot (though that can partially be remedied with active social media listening). In your business, you probably know 50 or more people who fall into this category. These are people who say they prefer the efficiency of doing business digitally but reserve disclosures of their utmost preferences and feelings to in-person conversations.

How many of those people could be incredibly beneficial to your business if you invested the time and effort in getting to know them better?

Business relationships thrive on real, not just virtual, nurturing

Perhaps you’ve heard of the 7-38-55 rule? According to Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, in “like-dislike” messages involving feelings or attitudes, 7 percent is conveyed through words, 38 percent comes through certain vocal elements, and 55 percent of what is communicated comes through nonverbal elements (facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc.). When you’re relying on words alone, you may be missing out on 93 percent of the true feelings and attitudes being conveyed.

Digital marketing moves products, and email moves more business communications faster and more efficiently than phone conversations ever could. But phone calls, face-to-face conversations, and well-crafted digital communications (the kind that feel as if they’re coming from a person, not a brand) can move mountains. They can fortify those business relationships that encourage real people to prefer buying from you.

That’s why both are so essential for successful relationship-based marketing.

If you’re feeling like maybe you’re living life and running your business in a vacuum, get in touch with us. We have processes that will actually help you move those mountains.

Whenever I make a keynote speech about the dangers of Clicksand, almost invariably the same question will be raised in the Q&A afterward. Business owners always want to know how they can get out of the trap. One of them will usually ask, “What is one simple thing I can immediately do (or have my team start doing) to get us back on the right track of building real relationships instead of being trapped in Clicksand?”

My response is to give them a phrase they can use as a practical guide. It’s the old Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

That’s a phrase we’ve all heard many times in our lives and it’s a good general sentiment, but when I tell audiences to use it to get out of the Clicksand trap, I don’t mean it as a fluffy feel-good adage. I mean they should use it as an easy-to-remember, literal how-to guide to reimagine their marketing communications—especially communications for their most valuable business relationships.

If you’re wrestling with the same “What’s something I can do right now to get back on the right track?” dilemma, here’s how the Golden Rule can lead you in the right direction.

Start with what people are doing unto you

An easy place to start when trying to (re)discover the most effective ways to communicate with the people who are most important to your business (potential customers, referral sources, high-level future employees, etc.) is to use yourself as a mini focus group. You receive dozens, hundreds, or maybe even thousands of messages a day. Most of them go unopened. And most of the ones you do open do NOT make you glad you opened them.

But a few messages get through that actually give you a good feeling. Maybe they provide you with some information you need, or make you smile. Even more important, a very small minority of the messages you receive each day are worth responding to—and you take the (valuable!) time to reply to them. Those are the messages to pay attention to as part of your “do unto others” focus group effort.

Then, do unto others…

As you notice which messages in your own inbox elicit A) good feelings, and B) a response from you, you’ll start to see patterns that are consistent across those messages.

In general, you will probably notice they are almost always personalized in some way—something showing that the sender knows (and values) you as a person and not just as a “target.” As social creatures, we humans are wired to notice if someone takes the time to care about us as an individual, and we all tend to respond favorably to anyone who treats us specially.

You will see other patterns as well. The messages will often reference something you and the sender have in common. Sometimes the message might ask a question. You’ll probably also notice that almost all of the messages you respond to are short.

We get into the science of these interpersonal dynamics when we work with clients at Civilis Marketing, but even if you don’t dive deeply into the psychology involved, you can gain a lot from this approach. Just noticing what you enjoy receiving from others will get you back into the proper frame of mind for what you yourself should be saying and sending to the people who can most contribute to your potential success.

But don’t stop there

It’s not enough, however, to just take note of what works and get into the “proper frame of mind.” Remember, the first word of the Golden Rule is “do.” It’s “Do unto others…,” not “Notice what others do….” So be sure you really put it into practice.

The easiest way to do that is to simply replicate what you see. If you got a message from someone and you liked receiving it, turn around and immediately send the same kind of message to someone else in your world with whom you want to enhance your relationship. Did someone send you a question that gave you a chance to feel like an expert and help out with a problem? Ask someone else a question to give them that same feeling. Did an old acquaintance send a note because it’s been too long since you’ve seen each other? Think of someone else in your world that you could similarly reach out to.

Keep at it and you will quickly see (and feel) the difference in the way you are interacting with the people who are important to your success. You’ll also see results. The Golden Rule technique will start you down the right path, and the responses you get back from the people you reach out to will energize you, enhance your success, and entice you to keep moving forward to get out of that Clicksand trap.

This article is part of the 7 Deadly Sins of Relationship-Based Marketing series. In the series, we’ll chronicle different online behaviors and practices that can ruin your business relationships. Some are subtle, and some not so much. If the success of your business relies on maintaining healthy relationships with current clients, prospects, or a network of referrers, it could be time you start repenting.

Deciding what mix of tactics to use in your marketing blend can be like walking a tight rope: If you lean too far to one side, you’re not reaching enough people and your message is weak. If you lean too far to the other side, you come across as a bonafide stalker.

We talk frequently about how crucial maintaining healthy relationships is to a business’ success. Especially for those who sell with a handshake rather than a click (I’m talking to you B2B folks!). Okay, so let’s assume that that’s common knowledge to all who oversee their company’s sales and marketing efforts. But what does “maintaining healthy relationships” really mean?

What exactly is a relationship and how do we measure its health? Let’s break out the meaning of relationships, and while we’re doing so, we’ll set some standards.

Read on, friends.

What is a relationship?

A relationship, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is: “the way in which two or more people, groups, countries, etc., talk to, behave toward, and deal with each other.” Let’s focus on the action part of that definition, “deal with each other.” If you’re sending out hundreds or thousands of communications to people, and they’re not responding—or worse, not given the opportunity to respond—what you have is not a functional relationship.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but what you’re doing is more akin to stalking than engaging in meaningful conversation. It might be time to try a different approach.

Brand-building does not equal relationship-building

You might be thinking, “But how else are we to build our brand if we don’t broadcast our message far and wide, and to as many people as possible?”

You’re not alone in your query, but managing your brand as a whole and staying in touch with the people who can potentially aid your success are very different practices. Too many business owners are tricked into thinking each task is the same, or that you can accomplish one with the same tools you’d use to accomplish the other.

Sure, we as consumers have relationships with brands in that we develop opinions about them based on how they express their ideologies, the consistency with which they communicate their viewpoints and the niche they carve for themselves in their industry. Establishing an online presence is good, and we definitely encourage companies to do that (in the right way). But one-sided communications can’t replace your phone calls, personal emails and the unique touches that remind folks you’re a real person with a vested interest in them.

Are you actually engaging?

Think for a second about all the different marketing initiatives your business is engaged in currently. Your strategy is probably built around a mix of social media, an email marketing campaign, even some inbound SEO—a well-rounded comprehensive package, or so you’ve been led to believe. Some of these platforms might be right for your business, and others may only be enabling you to tick off the people you’re trying to impress. You can’t rely on digital tools exclusively to do your networking for you.

It will backfire.

I won’t name names, but there are people I know personally who offer services that I might one day buy. And I only hear from some of these people when I receive their monthly newsletter or a mass printed holiday mail card wishing me a “Happy Thanksgiving.” Do I consider myself the lucky recipient of such a thoughtful gesture? No. Instead, it reminds me that I haven’t had a real conversation with these people for months. That abysmal lack of personal communication demonstrates that they only think of me as a lead in their sales funnel.

And—it feels like they’re stalking me. Failing to recognize or acknowledge my own lack of response, they persist, with no regard or consideration for whether I’m interested in what they have to say.

How to save face

Don’t just advertise. Find something else to share with your connections. Ask them, (individually) about what’s new in their world, find out what their opinions are about your industry (or theirs), treat them like people. Because they are real people with real memories, and you better believe they’ll remember how you chose not to dump them into a black hole of automated marketing with several hundred others.

They’ll remember that you remembered them.

And the next time they’re looking to buy new windows, hire a caterer, a lawyer, contract someone to build their new office building, whatever it is you do—they’ll be more likely to consider asking you to do it.

If you need some guidance on how to walk that tight rope, give us a call.