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One of the most important things for any business to build, as well as the actual products and services it is famous for – is relationships. And it is surprising how many ‘business relationship building rules’ are pretty much the same as ‘personal relationship building rules’. Let’s take a look at three of them.
1. Great relationship-building businesses tend to be ‘for’ something – not ‘against’ something.
The friend you have that is always moaning about something. The friend that is always going on about ‘that thing’ that really gets on their nerves. The friend that continually focuses on their problems – and how their life is negatively impacted by their problems. Yes, as a good friend – you listen. But after a while, if the moaning and the negativity are all you ever hear about then it can all get a bit, well, depressing.
It’s the same with businesses. Good brands tend to be ‘for’ something – not ‘against’ something.
If what you offer gives people confidence, then it makes sense to focus not on what a world without confidence looks like, but to instead focus on everything that a more confident ‘you’ can experience and do. The focus of your storytelling should be ‘for’ a gregarious outlook, not ‘against’ isolation.
If what you offer is a professional legal service that helps separating couples or business partners to go their separate ways with fairness and as little fuss as possible – then that’s the focus. There is a lot of scaremongering in business, frightening us into fixing something instead of trying to motivate us by spotlighting the positives. And whilst scaremongering might get short term wins from the vulnerable or the worried, it rarely builds good long term business relationships. People in business, as well as in life, want to feel safe – not exposed. And when they feel the latter – they tend to remember who made them feel that way.
This all sounds obvious. But take a look at how you describe your business. Or how someone you know describes theirs. Business owners are problem solvers by definition, so far too often there is more focus on the problem rather than the solution. And because positive businesses and brands are just far more likeable than negative ones, we need to keep an eye on this. It really does make sense to focus on what you are ‘for’ rather than what you are ‘against’.
2. Great relationship-building businesses don’t always talk about themselves.
That dinner party you went to. That dinner party where you sat next to Bob for the first time. You remember Bob. You remember Bob because all Bob talked about – was Bob.
So the very next time there is a similarly assembled dinner party, you are sure to remember the one person you really don’t want to be sat next to this time. Yes, Bob.
Businesses talk about client wins. And new recruits. And new premises. And awards wins. And initiatives that they develop to bond and embed their teams. Businesses talk about themselves. A lot! And that’s not good.
It is said that when businesses talk across social media platforms, content generally falls into three categories. First, there’s chestbeating (client wins, new recruits, new premises, award wins, new initiatives). Second, there’s moaning. Third, there are gifts.
Our advice? Yes, it’s OK to skip across the three from time to time. But if you can choose (and you can) – almost always choose gifts.
Giving gifts within your business messaging, just like giving gifts within your personal life, builds relationships.
And this doesn’t mean chocolates, champagne and caviar.
If you read a great book, write a 200-word review and post / ‘gift’ it online saying who should read it and why. And if you want to go a bit further (it’s always great to go a bit further) buy 5 copies of the book for your online friends and gift them to the first 5 people that ask for one after they read what you’ve written. That’s a likeable thing to do. And it will probably cost you under £50.
If you run a home protection team of plumbers and electricians and joiners, and you have a call-out fee, imagine if you posted / ‘gifted’ a short ‘top 10’ article of the 10 best ways to avoid unnecessary call out fees. I know who I’d call out next time something went wrong with my central heating.
Great relationship building businesses don’t always talk about themselves. They talk about me in a way that shows they understand me, that shows they have my interests at heart and (ideally) adds value. That’s the way great business relationships start. Give a little – get a lot.
3. Great relationship-building businesses can sense the prevailing mood, are authentically interested in it, and adopt what’s required as an integral part of who they actually are.
It’s a bit of a mouth full, this one. But it basically means that you and your customers are authentically like-minded. They believe what you believe. They care about what you care about. You’d get along, you understand each other and there is a cultural fit.
All of these things matter in personal relationships. All of them matter in business relationships, too.
And the reason there’s a ‘timing’ element built in (‘prevailing mood’) is simply because timing and context are important. Great relationships have a sense of ‘nowness’. You and they are aligned in thinking, needs and wants – right now. This is why understanding your current set of customer avatars is so important.
To illustrate the importance of ‘nowness’, think about the brilliant group of friends that you were part of at college, university or in your early twenties. You were like-minded back then. Now think about if you’d get along quite so well with every single one of them if you are reading this (say) twenty years after those heady times. It is unlikely you’ll get along with every single one of them as you would have all those years ago. Because things change – and people change.
Great relationship building in business is born from a mutual set of current beliefs, clearly and openly communicated.
So there we go. A brief look at three great ‘personal relationship builders’, the principles of which make great ‘business relationship builders’ too.