Relationships Rule in Online Media Planning

There are those of you out there who know me or have had some experience dealing with me in a buyer/seller setting. Those of you who belong to this group may find some of what I’m about to say out of character; others might say it is downright inconsistent with how I do business.

But those of you who really know me will find that what I have to say this week isn’t actually all that far off the mark from my approach to dealing with my vending partners in the online marketplace. In fact, it is also the same approach I take with my friends.

The most important aspect of negotiating online media and putting together the strongest buy for your client that you can is the relationship between you (the planner/buyer) and the sites with which you do business.

Though there is a lot of talk in the industry about relationship marketing and partners and the like, there honestly isn’t that much of it actually happening between buyers and sellers.

Compared to the old days in traditional media, there are much fewer “relationship-based” interactions in the online space. With emails being the primary means of communication, buyers and sellers can go weeks without ever actually hearing each other’s voice, let alone meeting in person.

Yet, given the pressures everyone is under with the characteristic time constraints of modern business, there really isn’t time to meet. We seem to no longer have the opportunity to develop meaningful and productive relationships with the people we must interact with every day.

It seems an anathema that so much money is trading hands between people who know nothing about one another, all for the purpose of trying to foster relationships between advertisers and potential consumers/users/readers/visitors with whom the advertiser wants to simulate a personal relationship. How can we possibly do this successfully if we are not doing it among ourselves?

The fact of the matter is that people do business with the people they like. Quality, price, service, and logic certainly must apply to the deals we make and the partnerships we enter. This has been true since the dawn of time, and it will continue to be true beyond the horizon of the future. This truth must be applied to all of our dealings.

Well, how does this happen? How do buyers and sellers become friends?

The same way it happens at a playground, in school, or at work: from time spent in the throes of activity. I see you every day, or talk to you, or share work with you; eventually, aspects of our personalities become evident, and we are either taken in by those qualities or repulsed by them. Our relationship moves forward accordingly.

My father (an old human resources guru who spent 25 years of his long career fostering relationships with employees, unions, vendors, and even adversaries) once talked about something he termed “requisite variety.” Requisite variety is an individual’s necessity to find something he or she has in common with another individual in order to build common ground. It is a lot easier to listen to and understand someone with whom you feel an affinity than it is to listen to and understand someone with whom you don’t.

I know there are those of you out there who’ve tried to reach me on the phone or via email who think I’m full of it right now, but I do honestly believe this. I try every day to exercise this position and advocate this practice. It doesn’t always go well. (After all, we are human and have bad days, mood swings, clients who expect the impossible, or chips on our shoulders.) But in the long run, this will benefit each participant in the process: buyers, sellers, and clients.

Oscar Wilde once wrote, “True friends stab you in the front.” I like to think that:

“He who has a thousand friends
Has not a friend to spare,
While he who has one enemy
Shall meet him everywhere.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

The aggressive end-run direct-to-client sells and the hard-ass media buyer approach might work for the short-term fast money, but it is destructive to the long-term slow-money strategy.

Guess which one represents the future?

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