If the customer relationship is key, how do we build hundreds, thousands, or millions? In 1936 Dale Carnegie wrote "How to Win Friends and Influence People." Many decades later it stands the test of time as one of the most influential relationship self-help books of its time and today. With a mere 15 million-plus copies sold, I turn to Dale and his immutable principles to help us understand the foundations for building digital relationships.
Here are Dale Carnegie's "six ways to make people like you" principles aligned to the B2B company buying journey.
"Become genuinely interested in other people." Translation: hire people in marketing who are not only good communicators, but have endless empathy. You can learn to communicate better - my 3-year-old daughter does every day - yet I don't believe you can learn empathy. You have it, or you don't. Empathy equates to listening and fundamentally a "give-first" mentality; the first key ingredient to building relationships. Empathy often tangentially translates into emotional intelligence and we've all seen the research proving the most successful people and leaders all have high EQs. Empathic execution-oriented marketers are going to rule.
"Smile." Easy, be positive. Don't lead with fear, or harp on the challenge your product solves. Focus on the solution. People may respond to fear in the political world, but this does not translate well in relationship building or the business world, unless you are a lawyer or insurance broker (dig). The most genuine example I can give is an intensely intelligent, successful, well-recognized, and respected individual named Rand Fishkin. I've had the pleasure of getting to know Rand over the years well before he reached his rock star status. What he was then, he is today. Whether you are listening to him speak or having a one-to-one conversation, he projects enormous confidence with a "nerdy/humble sophistication" and genuinely positive outlook. Proof: one of my colleagues, a guy's-guy, has a heart-shaped picture framed on his desk of him and Rand. State challenges, dig deep into solutions. Share optimism in your marketing messaging and materials and subconsciously attract more people. Even in the face of great challenges, the truly positive people see enormous opportunity. "Smile" in the digital experiences you create.
"Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language." Translation: personalize. We have tremendous opportunities to "remember" visitors, study their behavior, and give them the most hyper-relevant experience possible. Sometimes so much so it can seem super human and a bit "uber useful/creepy." Cookies, reverse IP lookup, regression modeling, content algorithms, predictive modeling, and more. We should be giving a better experience to each individual based on the information we know, will learn, and can predict. It's all available, and when we invest to take advantage of these digital clues we can build better relationships, faster.
"Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves." In the digital world, this is data. Data is simply a means of listening and responding at scale. Of course, we'd all love to have one-to-one conversations with our customers every day if we could. But we can't. Yet, we can leverage our customers' digital body language to collect and connect data from each individual throughout the entire buying journey; then roll this individual data up to view engagement and interaction at a company level. What does the collective group of individuals from a single company tell us about where they are in the buying journey and what we need to give them to enable a purchase? First, what are they telling us? Then provide the answer; solutions, testimonials, demos, features and benefits, or a sales rep. Understand first, solve second. Our customers will respond.
"Talk in terms of the others person's interest." This is the very foundation of a user-centered, data-driven approach. Stop thinking of your brand first. Start thinking of your customers first. Stop thinking of pushing direct marketing campaigns. Start thinking of the customer journey, and customer needs and wants throughout the buying journey. Start thinking about relevancy measured in authenticity, usefulness, and satisfaction. Stop thinking that your brand, product, or IP is the most valuable asset. It's not; your customer relationships are. In short, create strategies, programs, and campaigns that address the buying journey. Identify what consumers need and how they need it in each phase of the journey. Then, and only then, align the journey to marketing activities. Give first, get second, measure this. Ultimately close more business by doing so.
"Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely." In short, leveraging an empathetic approach first and taking the information that is given to you, the marketer. Collect and connect all data so you can deliver meaningful digital experiences. These meaningful experiences will help to build digital relationships at scale. It's that feeling we get when we go home for the holidays. Our true friends and family know who we are, listen to us intently, give us what we need, and have the conversations that are important to us. This builds a deeper relationship. It feels good. It makes the world go around. We can do the same in the digital world; it just takes a whole lot of empathy and a lot of good data woven together so we can create "Thanksgiving-esque" experiences online.
Remember, Dale didn't write this book for charity or to encourage people to join the Peace Corps. Nope, he wrote it because he believed that those who were able to win friends (relationships) and influence people (power) would rise to the top, build careers, make more money, have more influence, and ultimately live a more enriched life doing so. OK…and it possibly makes this world a little better by doing so. And I believe the same. It's a latent approach to success. Give first, build the relationship second, sell third. In a digital world where your competition is a good digital experience away, it's the only way.
Thad Kahlow is the CEO of BusinessOnline and is responsible for the entrepreneurial leadership of all operations. His visionary leadership style has helped propel the company into the online marketing spotlight, making BusinessOnline one of the nation's leading digital agencies. He focuses on the alignment of business goals and customer needs so our clients can make business decisions guided by information that matters. Thad's "roll-up-the-sleeves and get it done" attitude coupled with a commitment to client relationships allows him to effectively direct the agency to support large engagements with sophisticated, global clients.
Thad is considered an authority on online marketing. He has presented at numerous industry and executive conferences including the DMA, HTMA, AMT, and Online Marketing Summit, is published in leading trade and business publications like iMedia, ERA, and B2B Magazine, and was one of the original founding members of the SEMPO institute.