Why Can’t We Be Friends?

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.

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 you can for your client is the relationship (the planner/buyer) with the sites you are doing business with.

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 as the primary means of communication, buyers and sellers can go weeks without ever actually hearing each other’s voices. They really no longer have to meet.

Yet, given the pressures everyone is under with the kind of time compression that has evolved as a common component 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 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. Yet, at the end of the day, we like to work with people we like. 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 or sellers make a “friend” out of one another?

The same way it gets done on the playground, in school, or at work: 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 person-ness 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 necessity’s to find something they have in common with another individual in order to build common ground-based communication.

It is a lot easier to listen, understand, and react to someone with whom you feel an affinity, rather than with someone you don’t. I have defined affinity as cutting through, clarifying, and capturing that kernel of commonality within another human being. This allows one to more amiably and advantageously expedite an interaction that might otherwise ordinarily be difficult and burdened with barriers from ignorance and the unknown.

I know there are those of you out there who’ve tried to get 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 that 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.

Guess which one represents the future?

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