Relationships That Sell

Last fall, Nick convinced our Editor-in-Chief, Ann Handley, that he could write a weekly column about words that sell. While Ann may have been a Doubting Thomas beforehand, I don’t think she’s sorry she took him up on it. And I don’t think Nick will ever stop reminding you about the power of words in online marketing. But now he’s shifting gears to focus on a vital aspect of selling online: the importance of creating real relationships with people. If you know Nick, you know he excels in relationships – online and offline. So here’s the first in the series. Enjoy! – Claudia Bruemmer, Managing Editor

This column is going to explore ways in which you can profit from creating relationships with your prospects and customers online. This isn’t about that thing called relationship marketing. It isn’t about permission marketing. (Although it overlaps with both.)

This column will be about that wonderful moment when one human being reaches out and touches another – at a level that actually means something.

Right now, hundreds of online companies are pursuing relationships online. But they’re not really relationships at all. Just because I give you permission to let me know when a new book by Michael Wolff comes out doesn’t mean we have a relationship. Just because I bought some software from you last week doesn’t mean we have a relationship today. Just because I subscribed to your high-end ezine and give you money for information doesn’t mean we have a relationship.

You’d like it if we did. You’re telling your investors that we do. You’ve even persuaded yourself that we have a relationship. But we don’t. And I’ll tell you why.

Because it takes two to create a relationship. And wishful thinking on your side won’t make up for an absolute lack of interest on my side. I’m just not that desperate that I have to form an emotional bond with a database on a server somewhere in Brooklyn. Not by a long shot. You may think I’m splitting hairs, but I’m not.

The point is that creating real relationships with prospects and customers online is the Holy Grail of e-commerce. Why? Because a real relationship insulates you from the competition, educes attrition, boosts revenue per order and increases lifetime value.

And that all boils down to profits. Healthy ROI. Better therapist. Nice new house by the beach. That’s why we all want relationships with our constituents online. “Well heck, Nick,” you say. “If you want to reach out and touch someone at a level that actually means something, you’re in the wrong business.”

I don’t think so.

In fact, reaching out and touching people is one of the things that the Internet does best. It’s where it all began. A network of people connecting on many different levels:

Check out an AOL chat room. Listen to 13 million people touching one another through ICQ. Feel the passion of convictions held, shared and disputed at slashdot.org. Trouble is, in the world of ecommerce, we’re all in such a huge hurry. We’re not forming much in the way of real relationships. Most of the time, we’re paying and bribing prospects to share in the illusion of a relationship. Using my favorite offline, dating analogy, if you pay for a relationship in the real world, it’s going to be a little light on those important attributes like loyalty, intimacy and longevity.

Same thing online.

It seems to me that the long-term winners will be those sites that have a little more patience and actually invest time and money in creating real relationships online.

How can one set about achieving this? Well, that’s what This column is going to be all about.

Watch this space!

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