stop being sales-y


Everywhere we look, we’re being sold something. Ads are on our social feeds, in our video games, productivity apps, in addition to all the usual places like radio, TV, bus shelters and more. The explosion of satellite radio, streaming services like Shomi, Netflix and Spotify, ad blocking and the introduction of Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CASL) prove consumers will pay to be free from advertising.

The problem is not sales and advertising per se; that’s part of doing business. The problem is that today everyone wants instant return on investment. Advertising driven by an instant ROI attitude makes communications purely transactional, instead of relational. Who wants to be treated only as a dollar sign? It’s made even worse by malicious scams and spam, which is why the new CASL laws were put in place.

If you stop being relational in your communications, people will do what they can to avoid you completely.

A few years ago, I attended a seminar in Toronto with Vancouver-based marketing expert Callan Rush. She explained how education or content-based marketing focuses on the needs of the customer first.  This builds the trust needed for people to want to do business with you in a very skeptical world. More importantly, it shows that you are willing to make the relationship more important than the transaction.

But a recent article shows how content marketing is still not as strong as it should be, even now in 2016. The article concludes by saying “…many companies would see far greater results (and better, more qualified leads) if more emphasis was placed on nurturing, engagement, and providing value through content marketing.” Building trust, taking time to listen, offering added value…isn’t that how we all want to be treated?

So how can you build trust and be more relational in your communications and marketing? Here are three tips to help get you started:

Start by finding your story.

If you’re a small business, non-profit or entrepreneur, there’s a reason you got into business and why you keep at it despite all the challenges you face. Have you ever told it? A good story is compelling, disarming and since it’s yours, it’s real. Authenticity is a good thing.

Consider your audience and channel

Once you have your story, make sure you then consider how to tell that story to different audiences on different channels. In his book Jab, Jab, Jab, Left Hook, social media expert Gary Vaynerchuk points out that part of telling a great story is making sure it fits the channel you’re telling it on. This means not copying and pasting every post or article from LinkedIn to Facebook to web blog. Sometimes this works, but audience demographics and expectations are different on each channel.  So again, consider the needs of others as you tell your story.

…good relationships take time to develop and maintain. Not every post or video is going to get a ton of likes or shares, not every coffee meeting will be the one to close a deal.

Rethink ROI

From here, you will have opportunities to engage, explain, follow-up and promote. You’ll likely have more stories or tips to tell that will keep your channels stocked with good, native content. But if you remember one thing from this article, remember this: good relationships take time to develop and maintain. Not every post or video is going to get a ton of likes or shares, not every coffee meeting will be the one to close a deal. It’s pretty normal to not have instant return on investment because trust needs to be earned. But people do notice if you care about them and are consistently making an effort to meet their needs.

So slow down the sales pitches and take the pressure off your current or potential customers. You’ll find that being more relational makes business better for everyone.

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