A few weeks ago I was speaking at an event and two fans of our work shared their personal concern, and I could tell disappointment, due to a series of marketing emails that were sent in the run up to the launch of the Relationship Masters Academy. One lady said that Who’s Got Your Back had saved her life and she felt she had to come and see me in person to understand what was the truth – was the real Keith the one in the book or the one in the pushy emails?
That feedback came in the midst of a week of emails, blogs, and tweets echoing the same. I’ve been thinking about the situation ever since. First up, I need to say I’ve been listening. I am truly grateful for such vocal generosity in letting me know that I let you down. Exactly the behavior we all need to practice with those we care for. Thank you for caring.
So let’s talk about how a guy who believes in authenticity, candor, and generosity above all ends up sending out a bunch of crazy-Eddie “act now or else” give away-style emails to his fans and clients.
I think the details will just feel like excuses and are frankly not that important for the purposes of passing on what I’ve learned. But basically, we hired outside experts who have made a science of how to hit the numbers in email campaigns. And our team, new and under pressure to succeed right out of the box in the online consumer space, thought we could control and customize their techniques to avoid messaging that wasn’t in line with my identity. The campaign was a financial success and at the same time we utterly failed. And I am sorry.
As you guys were quick to realize, those emails were just not me. Ironically, even though I didn’t craft them myself, they had a voice and tone that was weirdly reminiscent of that kid I once was at Yale who, in unfamiliar territory, tried to fit in by working hard NOT to be himself. Thank God that back then, enough of me shined through for many to forgive my occasional lapses – maybe some even understood where they came from – and ultimately look to me as a friend and leader. Well, I’m hoping for the same again.
I’ve always said that marketing is really just another word for relationship-building at a distance. With e-mails it’s in a virtual environment, but it’s all about figuring out what people need and offering value (by giving generously), confidently treating people with the utmost of respect (by speaking authentically and candidly) so they will listen to the story you have to tell (sharing deeply and intimately), and finally, making clear promises and then keeping them (by being accountable).
Together with my team, we put together a list of things we learned in the last month, which anybody can benefit from. I’m also hoping you’ll contribute your own rules and insights in the comments section to benefit others.
Six Rules for Building Relationships Online — And Off
1. Define your values clearly, both to yourself and to others. The older I get and more success I experience, the more I believe that we win when we authentically believe in what we are selling (products, ideas…) and represent ourselves in a way that makes us proud. That said, the tough thing is that you have to be self aware enough to know exactly what you care about, and then do your best to be true to that. This can be especially challenging when you’re growing and developing your business, but you can’t let others bend who you are. Commit to an ongoing process of self-evaluation.
2. ALWAYS lead with generosity. Generosity starts with a solid understanding of the individual and your pre-existing relationship. You get there by asking questions and paying attention until you’re clear on what they really need. Then, speak in a language that’s familiar and consistent. Anything else is at worst condescending, and at best, blockheaded.
3. Don’t phone it in. There are times when relationships require our personal attention, and it’s best to err on the side of caution rather than risk the impression that you’ve outsourced your responsibilities. That’s unacceptable, so when those times come, do what it takes to be present. Otherwise you risk losing an important relationship (or thousands!).
4. The buck stops at you. My wrestling coach Mr. Brown used to say that there are two types in this world, those who make excuses and those who get the job done right. No excuses. You are 100 percent responsible for anything that has your name on it.
5. Strong relationships are always two-way. Chris Brogan just reminded me of this recently, pushing me to do a better job with @replies on Twitter. It’s easy to fall into the “broadcast” mentality in our virtual communications, when what’s needed is a conversation. One client comes to mind as does a very close friend who never answer e-mails – so frustrating! Be present, ask for feedback early and often, and when you get it, respond. Also, when considering your communication strategy to any segment or individual – whether a marketing campaign, a presentation, or just a coffee – make sure to make listening as much a part of the plan as speaking.
6. When you mess up, come clean. Ask for help. Carefully consider where you went wrong and how to avoid it in the future. Then take steps to correct your course.