Relationships. There is nothing more valuable. Not in life. And certainly not in business. If you are a brand looking to build success, then it's essential that you be sure you know how to build a meaningful consumer relationship.
One of the most commonly held, old-school business beliefs that will hold brands back in the emerging economy is the belief that business is about commerce. Business is about connection and collaboration. These things, in turn, create commerce. Succeeding in the impact-oriented, "we economy" we now live in requires refocusing our efforts from simply filling our personal pockets to fulfilling the deeper needs of our consumers and the world they live in.
The trick is to build relationships and let them, in turn, build your profit.
Look at how your brand marketing and mentality operates. If you are primarily focused on just making the next sale, you are basically looking for a one-night stand. But if you are looking to bring meaning and fill the needs of people and the world they live in, then you are laying the foundation for a long-term relationship through which a lifetime of sales and support will naturally unfold.
So, how do you, as a brand, build those long-term relationships? As it turns out, the very same things that make for great personal relationships make for great professional relationships. Here are a few key checkpoints:
Openness: Don't operate in a shroud. It does you no good to hide your practices or brand behavior from those you claim to want to connect with. Not only is this dishonest, it's shortsighted. People are going to discover the truth. They always do. Be open, or as business terminology likes to put it, transparent. When you compartmentalize who you are or decide for yourself what a person, consumer, or other audience will or won't like, then you've undercut your connection right away. You're managing the information. Trying to manipulate the outcome. If there is something about your brand behavior you need to hide, then there is something about your brand behavior you need to change. Purpose.
Trust: If your consumers and clients don't trust you, they won't be your consumers and clients for long. To build trust, you have to be an honest brand. One that cares to make an honest-to-God difference in the world. There are always fuller, more authentic ways to bring your brand's chosen purpose to life. If you are a chiropractor, how do you help people walk tall in their world beyond a back adjustment? If you are a music store, how do you create harmony in your community? The more people see you walk your talk beyond trying to get them to part with their money, the more they will begin to trust you. Once you've grown trust, it must be maintained, and this requires loyalty. Being there when people need you, not just when you need them. Again, take a look at your marketing endeavors: Are you reaching out to your community all the time or just when you are trying to promote or sell something? Do you only talk about how you can get from them or do you also use your communication platform to give to them? Be it education, entertainment, or a positive social impact, a meaningful brand always has something of value to give its consumer community.
Balance: Good relationships are never one-sided. Especially in business. So many people seem so willing to forgo enjoying their careers and their families in exchange for the paycheck. In far too many companies, the work-life balance is anything but balanced. Good brand leaders don't allow this to happen in their ranks. Don't hold employees' paychecks over their heads in order to get them to work hard. Fear does not build healthy relationships. True leaders inspire rather than intimidate. Here is another place your double bottom line works for you. Linking your profit to a purpose brings meaning to the work your employees do. It's inspiring. For whatever reason, it is the human condition to want to help, to want to connect. It brings us fulfillment. And employees that are happy and fulfilled in their work tend to be more productive and work harder. Building hard-working relationships with your work force is not about having the upper hand, it's about creating a dynamic where the entire culture works hand in hand.
For a great many years, the fundamental relationship between businesses and consumers has been built on a "hit it and quit it" mentality. The very notion of the term target market implies someone is the hunter and someone is being hunted. Being on the prowl is the stuff one night stands are made of. Deeper connection is the stuff relationships, and the long lasting benefits they have for your brand, are made of.
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