There is a lot of banter these days about forming and maintaining meaningful relationships between brands and consumers. Relationships and brand perception is so hot right now in the marketing world – and also a big reason why the PR industry is the golden goose, because it is what we do best.
Here’s a little secret
It’s not nearly as complicated as you would think, and with a little practice anybody can master the art of forming relationships with customers, potential clients, the media or whomever you wish to be attracted to your brand or company.
Relationships between people or entities exist primarily because there is something in common, whether by default or design. This common connection however does not equate to a meaningful connection. You may be connected to your mother in law by default for example –yet the connection could be a tad faulty at times, but I digress…
What you need to remember is that you are communicating with human beings – and what do you know, you are a human, so bam – your first level of common ground established. You may be communicating on behalf of your brand or company, but the company is made up of people, and you are talking to people. Apply the same rules you would to your personal relationships as you would to business relationships and it’s suddenly a lot simpler and comes much more naturally.
Rules of Engagement
What then are the real rules of engagement in any relationship – be it personal or professional, that result in a happy long term mutually successful one?
1. Ask yourself why?
You know why YOU want to talk to them, but have you asked yourself why they would care? Will they be interested in hearing what you have to say? If you want people to let you in to their space, you have to entice them, make yourself interesting and give them a reason to want to talk to you. Put yourself in their shoes (yes, even if the shoes are ugly) and ask yourself if you would actually give a damn about what you have to say. If not – then either move on to someone with similar taste in shoes, or go back to the drawing board and make it interesting.
2. The law of indirect efforts
The Law of Indirect Effort states that you get almost everything in your relationships with others more easily by approaching them indirectly rather than directly.
So if you want to impress people, the direct approach would be to try convince them that you are awesome by talking about your brand, products, services and the accolades of your wonderful brand (smacks of advertising and push marketing doesn’t it?). The indirect way to impress someone however – be impressed by them. Yup it’s that simple, the more you are interested in them, the more they are impressed.
3. Establish the mutual benefits
Make sure they actually want or need what you are offering before you ramble on about all of your features and benefits. Sounds obvious, yet so many brands spend way too much time trying to convince people to buy their stuff, rather than honing in on the ones who are actually interested. Would you convince a happily married lady whom you don’t know from
Adam, to hop into your car and go on a holiday to an unknown destination- because you think it’s a great idea? So why on earth would you take that approach when talking to customers, potential clients or stakeholders? If however, you are a tour operator, and said woman is newly divorced and reading a travel brochure in search of ideas for a healing retreat, while at a travel destination expo which you happen to be exhibiting at – this would be a very different and much less creepy scenario.
4. Talk to people in terms of their interests
People love it when you can talk to them in terms of their interests. If you are knowledgeable on subjects they enjoy and can hold up an intelligent conversation about things that matter to them, this will go a long way. If you are meeting with an executive from JSE, take the time to brush up on the daily stocks – a small point that can make the biggest difference to the outcome. That doesn’t mean you have to be an expert in every field, but you should know your audience before you start speaking. The next time you meet, you book a table at an organic restaurant near his office because you remembered he is a vegan.
5. Be positive, friendly and kind to people around you
People will form their opinions of you by what they see and not what you say about yourself. If you speak badly about your competitors, previous clients or the like, but act differently to the person you are trying to win over you your insincerity will be as transparent as the poorly constructed lies of a 5 year old. Ever been in a situation where you are having dinner with someone who seems perfectly nice, but is rude to the waiter? Enough said. Be positive. Be sincere. Don’t be fake, because eventually your façade will blow away like a cheap toupee on a windy day.
Lee Wanless is account director at PR Expert.