Robert A. McFadden -- Relationship Marketing: Don’t Be ‘That Guy’

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At its core, relationship marketing (aka network marketing or direct sales) is about sharing a product or service that you value with a person you value. Your business will gain traction when you can do that in a very genuine way. We are a nurturing people. A characteristic of our species is that we want to take care of each other. When we can solve someone’s problem with a solution that we’re passionate about, that’s the crux of relationship marketing.

People will listen to you when they sense the emotion behind your belief in a product or service. They’ll follow your passion more than they’ll follow your product; if you care, they are more likely to care too. What you don’t want is to be “that guy”—the one that, every time you see him, is trying to sell you something. Oftentimes, people will be turned off by that approach. That’s because you’ve made it more about you and less about them.

The Viridian approach to relationship marketing can help you avoid becoming “that guy.” We recognize the four primary markets (listed below) that comprise relationship marketing and we’ve developed ways to approach potential customers in those markets to help you develop worthwhile connections:

  1. Hot: These are the people closest to you—the ones you could call at 3 a.m. to bail you out of jail. Almost everybody on the planet has at least three people in their tightest inner circle who will take action based on a simple passionate request from you. With these individuals, you don’t need to couch or filter your conversation. There’s no sales process … just a “Hey, I’ve got something I’m really excited about that I want to show you.”
  2. Warm: People with whom you have intimacy but not consistency comprise this market. You have a deep connection with these friends and enjoy spending time with them but you just don’t see them very often. Perhaps these are people you grew up with but who have moved out of town or are very busy with their families and careers. Contacting these individuals involves a different approach: You must re-establish rapport before introducing your product or service. As long as you put the relationship first—in front of the invitation to look at your offering—you’ll have a good experience. Otherwise, you may strain the relationship, depending on the depth of the connection.
  3. Cool: With these individuals, you have some consistency but very little intimacy, i.e., exactly the opposite of the warm market. In this grouping are people you see frequently—the parents at your kid’s soccer game or the receptionist at the dentist’s office—but no deep connection exists. Your approach here is to develop rapport. You must be on much more solid footing with these people before inviting them to see what you have to share.
  4. Cold: This market consists of everybody else in the world. It follows the 3-foot (1-meter in Australia) rule: Anybody who gets within 1 meter of you is going to hear about your business. Of course, this requires that you first build some sort of relationship with the individual. This is a three-part process, to be completed in this order: 1) start a conversation, 2) establish rapport, and 3) find out what the individual needs.

Where a person fails in relationship marketing is when he or she meets a potential customer and immediately launches into a sales pitch. When “that guy” shows up, people tend to scurry away. The main message here: Don’t try to grow your business before establishing a deeper connection or relationship with an individual.

If the relationship is there, the business grows on its own.

The relationship must come first

People who struggle more at building a relationship marketing business are typically people that struggle at establishing relationships. Or they don’t understand the order of the steps for growing a business. The relationship always has to come first. Otherwise, your business will stall and you’ll have a very frustrating experience in the industry.

Two archetypal personality types—influencers (natural leaders who are charismatic and admired) and nurturers (service-oriented individuals who have a tendency to identify and solve needs)—are most likely to be successful at relationship marketing. Yet the market is wide open to all types.

As in any business, networking is the key to a successful outcome. For example, doctors are often perceived as having pretty awful personalities, yet they have to network to grow their businesses. They’re able to do this because they’re good at their craft and they service a need. Even librarians, who are often perceived as being quiet and demure, make good networkers because they are used to constantly serving the needs of their patrons. “What can I help you find?” is often on their lips.

In other words, a phenomenal outgoing personality is not a requirement of relationship marketing.

When you get it right in this industry by putting the relationship first, you deepen your connections and expand your network of valuable contacts. When you get it wrong, you become “that guy.”