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Are we there yet? Have we – as a culture, a society, a species – finally reached that point where the sheer magnitude of advertising and marketing messages that each of us encounters in a day outpaced our ability to actually process any one of them? And if that is the case, could there actually be a benefit – to our culture, our society, and our species—to NOT use our social marketing channels to broadcast our every thought, opinion or activity?

Everyone’s a broadcaster

Let’s look at our current advertising and marketing landscape. Since the emergence of digital media (Google, Facebook, Twitter, and the list goes on), virtually anyone can now broadcast their message to very large audiences, 24/7/365. Such ready access to such powerful microphones makes many people (teenagers, anyone on Facebook and yes, some businesses) feel compelled to say something—anything—even if it isn’t particularly valuable or interesting.

The rest of us are the audience

Since virtually everyone on the planet has become a broadcaster, it means the rest of us—the audience—are now subject to a barrage of incoming messages with very few ways of filtering them out before they reach our ears, eyes, and brains. Combine digital marketing and advertising with other mediums, like TV, radio, billboards, sports arenas, park benches and buses, and you will agree that the collective noise has become downright overwhelming. Depending on who you believe, the average person sees anywhere from 250 to a staggering 5,000 advertisements a day.

Q: So, what’s a consumer to do with all this marketing noise? 

A: Well, our brains handle this inflow (overflow) of information by simplytuning ALL of it out. 

Q: And what’s a marketer, who wants to make sure their message somehow makes it through to the intended recipient, to do?

A: There’s a tendency for marketers to just speak more loudly and more frequently with the hope of somehow magically rising above the din.

But when you look at it that way, how crazy and fruitless is that?

Practice mindful marketing

As marketers (yes, we get paid by clients to create and place messages on a variety of digital and traditional channels), we know that when it comes to content and its distribution, sometimes less is more. As expert marketers, it’s our responsibilityto practice mindful, intentional, purposeful marketing. That means our aim is to not contribute to the noise, but instead responsibly produce content on behalf of our clients that has value and worth.

To that end, we’ve created a set of standards for ensuring the content we create – whether for our own channels or for those of our clients—is something the intended audience will find useful. Here are our standards for deciding whether a piece of content is worthy of putting out there:

  • Does it have the 4 “I’s?” Is it InformativeInterestingInsightful and Intelligent? If what you have to say doesn’t inform your audience, pique their interest, make them think differently, or respect them as intelligent individuals, it’s best to forego it.
  • Is it Relevant to the audience?Will it strike a chord with the audience of readers, whomever that audience may be? Relevant content doesn’t try to reach everybody; rather, it is meant to resonate with a small group of people who will care about what the message is. If the message gets too broad it loses relevancy and in that case, it would be better to say nothing at all.
  • Does is provide Value?Will the recipient of the message feel it is a gift? Valuable content will add to the conversation, impact readers, and inspire action. Will this message add to people’s lives today, or is it just noise? If it’s the latter, it’s best to do the responsible thing and not post it.

That’s right—We just said (3 times) that sometimes you SHOULDN’T put content out there.

Improving upon the silence

Mahatma Gandhi, a man of few but profound words, once summed this up quite eloquently. He said, “Speak only if it improves upon the silence.”

We advise our clients to follow that same principle. Think before you write, post, or tweet, and make sure that whatever you’re putting out there will add to the conversation, not to the noise. And yes, we’ve even advised our clients on occasion that the most impact they could have at a particular moment is to say nothing at all.

If nothing else, following Gandhi’s example would at least boost the overall quality of our messages. After all, if he were still with us, you can be darned sure he wouldn’t tweet something like: “Great brunch @MeditationCafe. Mmm, yogurt and mangoes. Yummy! #delicious.”

If your business is like mine, where a handshake is required to close a deal, you know that building and nurturing 1-to-1 relationships is the biggest key to success—without those relationships, you (and I) simply don’t have a business.

One of the most important tools we have in our company is a list of our Top 100 Relationships. Everyone on our team knows who those 100 people are (not just their company names, but the name of each individual), and recognizes the value and opportunities our relationship with each of them affords us. Maintaining personal, genuine, 1-to-1 relationships with the people on this list reinforces the success of our business in a variety of ways.

Finding your top 100

If you sit down and systematically identify the people who’ve proven to be valuable in the past—and who may be valuable in the future—you might be surprised at how quickly these folks will turn up.

Here’s a handy little checklist we use to identify our Top 100—anyone who falls into one of the following categories belongs on the list.

  1. Individuals who are currently paying you money. Your list of current clients is a great place to start. These people are presently benefiting from your business and are paying you cold hard cash for your products or services.
  2. Individuals who have paid you in the past. Never mind why they aren’t buying something from you now—at some point in the past they found value in their relationship with you. They may become a client again (when the time is right), or even refer other clients to your company.
  3. Potential clients who haven’t closed yet. These people have expressed an interest in a possible relationship with you because some aspect about your business is attractive to them. They may prove to be a perfect fit, or maybe they aren’t quite right—regardless, keep them on the list!
  4. Potential clients who have gone silent. The deal never closed, and these people have stopped communicating. However, these folks once had an interest in a possible relationship with your business. There could be any number of reasons for their silence, but keep them on your radar—you never know when they might be ready to re-engage.
  5. Everyone who has ever referred business to you. These people believe in your business enough to put their own reputation on the line. They know your company intimately enough to refer business that comes to fruition—clients who are the right fit. Maintain a healthy relationship with these people and they will continue to send business your way.
  6. People who’ve referred business that didn’t materialize. They still staked their reputation on you. Even if past referrals didn’t work out, future referrals just might. Keep them close!
  7. Well-connected professionals you know. They know the people you don’t know and want to know (see number 8). They can be the difference between just wishing you had a reason to become aquatinted with a particular person, and actually shaking that person’s hand.
  8. Well-connected professionals you would like to know. These people are well known in your industry or professional community and can help grow your network exponentially. You likely know of these people, but haven’t yet been properly introduced.
  9. Well-connected people in your personal life. There are people who you might not know just through your personal social circle who could turn into valuable professional connections later down the road. Think of folks who might be in your hobby groups, frequent the same restaurants, or those friends of friends that you’ve never been fully introduced to.
  10. Anyone who wants to see your business be successful. Finally, and perhaps the least obvious, are the people who benefit peripherally from your business wins. You can list your mother if you want, but I’m thinking more along the lines of your CPA or business attorney. Cast a wide net as you make this list—there are lots of people whose success is tied in some way to yours.

You have your top 100… now what?

Once you have assembled this list of names, take steps to purposefully nurture and maintain these relationships. Learn who these individuals are: not just their names but their personalities, their likes and dislikes, what keeps them up at night. Think about how you came to know these people—identify the avenues that led you to one another and take the necessary steps to keep those avenues clear.  Then demonstrate that you know and care about them with systematic, disciplined, scheduled outreach.

Having this master list at the ready will help you stay organized and keep everyone on your team informed about the status of your relationships.

You may be thinking, “I don’t know anywhere near 100 people.” But if you think carefully (using the suggestions I’ve shared with you here), you’ll discover that you have more relationships than you realize, so building a Top 100 isn’t as lofty an undertaking as it seems.

And if you find yourself struggling with any of these steps, give us a call.

It’s no secret that the more successful your business, the more relationships you have. And after a certain point, it becomes very difficult to maintain these relationships. There aren’t enough hours in the day for you to stay in personal contact with hundreds or thousands of people. Fortunately, you can leverage advances in technology to help handle certain aspects of business relationship management, especially B2B sales relationships. What’s more—you can hire someone to do it for you.

Read on and you’ll see that outsourcing your business relationships is not quite as inhuman as you might think.

The stages of a relationship

Every single person we interact with in business is involved in a relationship with us to some degree. Psychologist George Levinger suggests that every relationship has five stages:

  1. Acquaintance: The “hello, how are you?” phase. It’s where a relationship begins, sometimes because we’re introduced by a mutual friend or in-common associate, or sometimes by physical proximity (for example, a new office opens across the street). Or maybe it’s simply a cold call or a message received from a website.
  2. Buildup: This is the stage in which two parties start building trust and concern for one another. This stage requires compatibility, common backgrounds, and/or common goals. In a personal relationship, this is the “falling in love” phase. In B2B sales, it’s where you start thinking, “There’s something here—we have a lot to offer each other.” Nothing good happens, in either personal or business relationships, until you get to this stage.
  3. Continuation: This is the goal. In a personal relationship, this is where you get married and commit to staying married. In business, it’s where mutual trust ensures that both you and your customer, vendor, or employee are benefiting from the relationship, and if so, the relationship is sustained for a long period of time.
  4. Deterioration: In personal and business relationships, we hope to avoid this stage—but it happens sometimes, due to dissatisfaction, boredom, or resentment. We communicate less, and trust erodes.
  5. Ending: Just what the name implies—the relationship comes to an end. In a personal relationship, this is a breakup or a divorce. In business, it’s a little different: for example, a customer may have to cancel your service for any number of reasons, but that doesn’t mean you will never have contact with them again. A relationship can still exist, with the possibility that you can nurture it back to life over time.

How outsourced relationship building works

While the stages of a relationship are easily defined, it can be difficult to determine which actions should be taken in which stages in order to advance the relationship. The typical executive at a large company, for example, doesn’t have enough time or attention to devote to the relationship that’s required during the acquaintance and buildup stages.

This is where professional, outsourced relationship building comes in.

It’s possible to initiate and maintain relationships in a genuine way, thanks to advances in technology. The “shielded identity” afforded by being able to communicate from behind your computer screen allows others to transmit your thoughts and ideas on your behalf.  What’s more, “asynchronous interaction” makes it possible to have a conversation that doesn’t take place in real time. You interact to build those important business relationships, but you’re not the one pushing the buttons to make it happen. Whether it’s via e-mail, LinkedIn, or some other digital channel, it’s still you communicating, but somebody else is doing the legwork.

Relationship building comes in handy in the continuation stage, too: It’s easy to send little “hello, how-are-you-doing messages” every so often, reminding people that you care and you’re interested in them.

Relationship-based purchasing

People want to buy from people they know. The trend in relationship-based purchasing is on the rise, especially among affluent consumers. The bigger the ticket on the item, the higher the demand is for intimacy between buyer and seller. And besides, you never know where business relationships are going to lead. Nurturing the relationship after the sale has been made could lead to other business for you, or to important mentor/mentee relationships. After you’ve invested time and money in developing a relationship, it doesn’t have to deteriorate and end.

In the choppy waters of business relationships, outsourcing can be a lifesaver. If you think you could use some help in the critical areas of your business relationship management, give us a call.