Building Your Relationship Capital
Recently I attended the global sales meeting of my client, SkillSoft. It provided a great opportunity to spend time with my client, meet others in the organization and hear about some of the latest developments with their customers. In many ways it was typical of these kinds of events. But one of their guest speakers, David Nour, author of "Relationship Economics" gave a thought provoking talk about relationships. In it he talked about bridging the gap between relationship creation and relationship capitalism.
His primary point was that most of us are very focused on networking and creating as wide a network as we can. Social media tools -- LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ -- foster this kind of activity. While this is certainly important and provides great benefits, it shouldn't be the end point. The goal, according to David, is to take actions that will deepen your relationships and create "Kodak moments" with your most important business relationships.
This made me think about how we operate in PR today, especially in agencies. We're often so busy and focused on building our networks that we don't spend enough time nurturing them. In many ways, the cards are stacked against us in making this happen. Technology has turned the majority of our interactions with clients, the media and influencers into bursts of disconnected messages. We send email, leave voicemail messages, tweet and post.
If you calculated it, what percentage of your communications would actually entail a two-way, asynchronous conversation? I'm guessing if you said it was 20 percent you would be doing pretty well. But where does that leave you in terms of relationship capitalism? Does it really provide you with the chance to create those Kodak memory opportunities that make a relationship truly valuable? No it doesn't.
With this in mind, here are some thoughts on actions you can take to foster relationship development so you can derive more value from them.
- Make relationship capitalism a goal. Think about who your best relationships are today. Are you speaking with them regularly? If not, start working that into your schedule.
- Make every interaction valuable. When you have that chance to meet or talk on the phone make sure you provide your contact with information or an experience that helps them do their job or enhances their capital.
- It doesn't always have to be about business. Think about treating these contacts as friends. They have lives. Find out what's important to them outside of work. Connecting with people on multiple levels can deepen the value you each get out of the relationship.
- Be there even when there is nothing in it for you. How often do you connect with a friend in the media and talk about what they are working on and whether you can help them with a resource, even if it doesn't benefit you or your client?
- Get in their face. Any time you can meet face-to-face, take the opportunity. I find that getting together over breakfast later in the week works best. Going out for drinks is always great, but most people have to get home to take care of their families or personal business.
- Offer to help their contacts. How often do you receive a resume from a contact asking if you know anyone that can help out their child, a friend or another colleague? I get this a lot and every time I do my best to give them at least a couple of good contacts or places to look into.
In the end, it's about building a trusted relationship. If you can get to that place, you will have something you can bank on that will pay you back in interest in the years to come.