Everything Personal is a Relationship

Everything Personal is a Relationship1/15/08: Here’s a concept “The more people you reach the more likely it is that you’re reaching the wrong people” (yup, S. Godin again). It’s the unspoken, but absolute keystone to the following business sermon, which started with All Business is Personal. The overall premise goes like this.

All business is personal
-> Everything personal is a relationship
-> -> All relationships are an exchange
-> -> -> All exchanges can become more valuable

Business requires “blocking and tackling” (pardon the sports analogy). And successful business requires better “play calling”. You have to do both. And do them well. This post is about better “play calling”.

So everything personal is a relationship. No blinding insights there. But what about…

Relationships to People We Don’t Know?

Yes, we’re in relationships with people we don’t know. Those would be our suspects. They may, or may not need our services.

So, what’s the problem? We don’t know them, and they don’t know us.

Or do they? Word travels. Gossip’s cheap. People talk. Promotions occur. Jobs are changed. And there’s Google.

Many people may know us (and our business) who we don’t know.

Later on, we may know them. And if they fit our target profile, they’re no longer suspects. They’re prospects.

The key is they’re out there first, before we know who they are.

These unknown people will hear about us from potentially many different angles.

We’d like to think they’ll be knocked out by our clever print ads, Flash/video web sites, or glossy brochures. And a small percentage will – if we’re very lucky. But don’t count on surviving this way. The numbers don’t add up.

The best and strongest first mention of us to a suspect will be personal; a referral from a customer evangelist during an RFP, or word of mouth buzz at a trade association luncheon.

It’s the metamorphosis of suspect-to-prospect-to-customer that begins with relationships to people we don’t know.

And all this business is personal.

Making it Easy to get to People We Don’t Know

Help make it easy for the people you know (customers) to spread your word. Here’s a simplified list.

1. Give ‘Em Something to Talk About

Overperform in delivery and value for your customers. You want more than extremely satisfied customers, you want ravers. Those customers are hungry to spread the good word about you. (I’m sure you’re already working on this)

2. More Than a Tagline

Provide an easily shared message. Create 1-2 short sentences that customers can remember, and then repeat in their own words. You can’t force your customers to use this message. But they’ll pick it up if you use it consistently in person, in emails, in almost every communication. And if it accurately reflects your value, your strengths and your uniqueness. Learn more about messaging here in the Leaning Tower – Part I & II.

3. Bake It In

With both the above in place, incentivize sharing. Create a simple referral program that rewards customers and your employees.

Rewards can be business related (discounts, additional services or free products) or personal (lunch, gift certificate, mention in a newsletter). Is it necessary to say be careful when giving cash rewards? Remember, appearances can be misconstrued.

Rewards are earned from referrals that call in, and/or lead to promoting the good word about your business.

Obviously the large rewards go to referrals that lead to contracts. But these can take time, and because of that don’t happened as often. The reward can be too far away from the effort.

Look for rewards you can give more often. Consider rewards for every referral that contacts you, especially those you didn’t know about.

This works for suspects that call in, even if they won’t be prospects because they don’t match your target profile. Here’s an opportunity to give a minor reward to your customers and educate them about the prospects you’re looking for.

Whatever program you come up with, make it:

  • Simple to understand
  • Easy to run
  • Rewarding frequently & appropriately

4. Create a Target Profile

It’s essential you define what your prospects look like. How else will you know them when you come across them? Learn more about creating a target profile in “How to Write a Sales Plan”.

It’s also worthwhile to put some effort to find out the size of your market. This would be the number and size of target prospects. This will help you decide where and how much of your resources to spend.

How are you developing relationships with people you don’t know?

Chris Arlen


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