Why the Future of Marketing is About Relationships

A couple of weeks ago, I participated in a Twitter chat hosted by Marketo about social selling. If you’re not entirely familiar with the term, social selling is about utilizing social channels where your audience is — like Facebook and Instagram — to discover and build rapports with sales prospects.

When social selling is done right, it reaps the benefits of targeted media placement, brand awareness and qualified lead generation. It also allows you to make a real connection with sales prospects and build a relationship together. Now, more than ever before, marketing tactics are slowly moving their focus away from being 100 percent numbers-driven to placing a greater value on listening to and engaging with the other party to find out where they are and what matters to them.

The future of marketing depends on building lasting relationships. Here is a look at the long-term value they can provide a small business.

The power of listening

Whether it’s a customer, partner or sales prospect, how does anyone identify a potential lead for their business? It’s a mix of giving as much as it is taking — listening as much as you’re speaking, if not more.

Unfortunately, statistics have shown that less than 2 percent of people have had any formal education on how to listen.

And in a recent TED Talk hosted by Julian Treasure, studies revealed that even though we spend 60 percent of our communication time listening, we only retain 25 percent of what we hear.

Here are a few actionable tips that any entrepreneur can utilize to better listen and absorb information from new and existing connections alike.

  • Get curious. There’s no such thing as a stupid question, and when you first meet or discover someone for the first time, you’re likely to have many questions. Ask!
  • Be authentic. Your brand should come from a naturally transparent place, not one that feels fake or forced. If you’re always selling, it’s difficult to understand the needs of others.
  • Switch your listening position. We don’t mean physically moving around, either. In his TED Talk, Julian Treasure suggests moving your listening position to what’s appropriate to what you’re hearing. Play around with your inner filters to get conscious about them — for example, if you’re listening from a critical place, switch to an empathetic one instead.

Identifying needs now and into the future

A good business knows what their customer wants now. A great business knows how to anticipate those needs into the future.

“Deborah, how can I do this? I can’t predict the future!” While psychic abilities aren’t necessary here, the key is to avoid clumping customers, partners or prospects into a one size fits all group with your marketing tactics. The best ways to build relationships are to identify the client’s needs on an individualized basis. Meet them where they are now and explore where they’re going by establishing a working rapport together and keeping the lines of communication open with incredible customer service.

Marketing strategy: creating a cheerleader effect

At the end of the day, your marketing strategy should create a relationship where the customer experience has been a positive and fulfilling one. This experience plants the seeds for a brand advocate to bloom from within. Or, as we like to think of it, helping to establish the cheerleader effect.

Win or lose, cheerleaders root on their team with everything they’ve got and they encourage fans to show the love, too. When the team knows they’ve got their cheerleaders on their side, they play a little harder to make them proud. Your brand is the team and your cheerleaders are your fans or customers, spreading great word of mouth about you to everyone they encounter. So, remember to listen, ask questions in order to keep learning and help provide solutions, and you’ll be on your way to building a relationship that lasts.

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