Business is all about relationships, it is personal. Businesses prosper as a result of good relationships, conversely business suffers as a result of poor relationships. For a business to fully prosper I am talking about relationships throughout the entire business – prospects, customers, suppliers, staff and the wider community.

 

Relationships are complex

As in life, not everyone gets on with everyone else. Personalities come in to play – the way people are made up, wired, their beliefs and opinions are often different. People have relationships on many levels:  life long close friendships which stand the test of time; friends, people they know and like; acquaintances, people that they come across in their everyday life; and, they have enemies, people that they actively dislike or disagree with. In business, as in life, a brand will have a range of relationships and it is important to remember that you can’t please all the people all the time.

 

Nurture the positive relationships

A key business objective should be to build the best relationships you can with as many people as you can. Time and time again I see business failing to do this. Often it is a blind panic to chase the money – businesses then become ‘transactional’ and are consumed by the desire to get the next sale – at whatever cost. This is a very short-term approach to business rather than building a long-term sustainable business.  

 

Sales are made on an emotional level

We forget sometimes that the biggest driver to any sale is ‘Emotion’ – people buy on an emotional level. This is why we all buy things we don’t actually need but emotionally we feel we want. The old adage that people buy from people is very true. In this context, brands are also considered as people.

So often businesses sell on price or simply on ‘Features’ alone. This is not why people buy and not why people engage with businesses. People buy because they have a problem that needs solving. However, their true problems can be on different levels.

The ‘what’ you do is often just the external problem you solve – An accountant solves getting your tax return completed, a restaurant solves your problem of hunger.

These are not emotional problems that are being solved. By looking beyond the basic problem and understanding how your prospect is feeling provides a much stronger pull. These are emotional problems such as confusion, uncertainty, avoidance of bad outcomes, embarrassment etc.

A house decorating business for example – their client’s external problem is the house needs redecorating; internal problem is that they are embarrassed about the state of their house.

 

Walk the walk

People also buy into the brand and what it stands for. When you shop at John Lewis or Waitrose you are buying into what the brand stands for – good/quality products and high service levels. People can buy into brands based on the beliefs of the business. We are seeing a big increase in ‘ethical’ business because the movement to save the planet is gaining huge momentum. People buy into the beliefs of the brand, but these have to be genuine.

Brands that don’t walk the walk will ruin established relationships where people bought into one thing however the opposite is true. Increasingly, Transparency in brands is key to establishing strong relationships.  

 

Will you marry me?

My fellow Heart of business Member James White put this perfectly in a recent presentation where he made the analogy that sales like dating, where successful relationships are built gradually and over time. When you meet someone for the first time you get to know them, you go on a second date, then a third and so on until you reach appoint where you have fallen in love, ask them to marry you. You do not ask for their hand in marriage at the first meeting!

Successful relationships are built over time. Once you have the relationship then it needs to be nurtured. If you do not see a friend for a long period of time eventually that friendship dies. Each person’s relationship with a brand is personal, communications need to be personal. Clients need to feel that they are the only one that matter and need to be valued.

 

The multiplier effect

Establishing strong relationships leads to a stronger business as these relationships will result in repeat business and / or referrals to your business. The multiplier effect is that your business will grow. Look after your customers and they will look after you.

 

Relationship Marketing

In today’s digitally driven marketing environment we have many more ways to communicate with our target audiences. This can add a layer of complexity as a business needs to maintain multiple channels however these channels are more immediate and provide businesses with a way to engage on a very personal level.

This is why creating engaging content is vital to a business wishing to build and maintain strong relationships. The content needs to be show that you as a business clearly understand the problems that you solve, what that means emotionally, to drive sales now and in the future.

It could be argued that the objective of all marketing communications is to build and maintain the strong relationships that your business has created. Business need to develop their marketing engine, to effectively communicate with their audiences and maintain strong relationships which will in turn drive business growth.

The crucial first step on this journey is to make sure you completely understand the problem that your business is solving.