Yes, it’s business and no, it’s not personal; but there really should be an emotional connection between a marketer and client. When I say emotional connection, I don’t mean that you have to get all over each other’s personal life and do dinner; but it’s a relationship and like all relationships, to be healthy, there needs to be a strong foundation. Relationships are between people – not between institutions – the companies might have the contract, but the people involved need to make it work.
Every relationship starts from a mutual demand or need for something. It’s not as cold and clear cut as your marketing company wants your business (and the money it brings in) and you need the marketing services (and the money it brings in). While a personal relationship, whether friendship or romantic might have very different needs than a professional relationship between internet marketers and a brand, the needs, such as more website traffic, or better search engine rankings or a more engaged social presences, should be clearly defined as a goal that both parties are actively working towards. Without that goal, the parties involved might very well be working towards opposite ends.
What are you looking for from this relationship? Take a long-range view. Just like a marriage is an agreement to spend a future together, the business contract also dictates an agreement to spend time working together. How long and for what purpose?
This is not much different than putting “marriage minded” or “looking for a long term relationship” or “single gal seeking fun” on your dating profile. How your marketers deal with your brand will be different based on what it is that you need and we need to know where you want to go with your marketing campaign. For instance, if you really need to increase traffic to your website by 35% in 6 months order to prove to your CEO that SEO is a valuable expenditure, then you need to tell your marketers. Keeping with the relationship analogy, your CEO is expecting that big fat diamond from Tiffany’s within the first 6 months and if he doesn’t get it, he’s going to be disappointed. Let’s avoid that, shall we? Tell your marketers what you want- what you really, really want.
It also helps to know your beliefs about relationships. Different people have different and often conflicting beliefs about relationships personal or business. Do you look to your marketing partners as trusted advisors or people who are there to do you bidding on demand? How controlling is your brand management style? How many people are involved in the decision processes? Knowing what your company expects from the business relationship should be defined internally and then, step two, communicated so all understand.
To be understood and to be heard are basic needs in every relationship. A good relationship is not a guessing game where we hope and pray we get it right. Even if the goals and expectations are clearly defined, you are now blending the working processes of two companies and often those processes need to be understood without the help of a crystal ball. Know your company needs and speak up for them clearly, but with an open mind. Explain why decisions are made so that differences of opinion do not get dismissed. And on the same token, be ready to understand why your marketing company is recommending or doing things a certain way.
Relationships that are true and positive should be sincere and natural. This can be one of the hardest hurdles to get over since sometimes the nature of business is not 100% natural. We can all try to put our best face forward whether as employees or a company, plus we are measuring the quality of the relationship built on something more than just warm fuzzy feelings and quality nights cuddling on the couch. Clear communication helps us know how to manage differences that will arise.
Disagreements based on miscommunication should never sink a working relationship. Stonewalling or avoiding conflicts is NOT managing them. If you don’t understand or like something your marketing partner is doing, ask about it and why he or she is doing it. Again, the key is communicating, listening and understanding. Talk and explore the reasons why they are making the choices they are, don’t assume. Don’t let resentments or confusion simmer, solve problems as they arise and learn to negotiate especially in the changing world of internet marketing. As the online possibilities are fluid and constantly change over time, and business needs change too, good relationships are negotiated and renegotiated all the time.
Plus, it’s much easier to trust in someone if you understand why and how they are thinking what they are.
Relationships builds and are nourished only when it is positively beneficial to both parties and individuals concerned. Both parties must benefit from the relationship and this does go beyond the check is in the mail and the results are in the report.
Mutual respect for each other’s needs, concerns, and work is a good place to start. Respect helps each of the parties feel safe. Any relationships should not have to be about living in varying degrees of stress, apprehension or anxiety. Your marketing company should protect your brand, watch out for your company and keep your best interests at heart. On the same token, your marketing company shouldn’t become a scapegoat, or a whipping post, or the first people that get thrown under the bus if you get a bad review online.
On the same token, acceptance cannot be overlooked; in fact, one probably has to accept the other parties fully before real trust can be had. It’s going to be very difficult to have a good relationship with your online marketers if your director of Marketing thinks all social media is garbage and resents that you have to have a Facebook page. It’s also equally important for your marketers to accept some things that just MUST be done a certain way for your brand. Just as you must accept that while your marketers are professional and knowledgeable, they can’t call up Mark Zuckenberg and tell him to change the name of your Facebook page.
Look at it this way; you choose to work with each other because of the things that you saw as positive values. However, no one is perfect; no person, no company, no campaign. Just like in love we must learn to accept the positive and negatives about the ones we love, we have to accept that mistakes happen, people make typos or add up numbers wrong, and life goes on. Accept the reality of the situation respect the factors leading up to it and trust in the intentions of the parties involved.
Relationships foster among people who share something in common. In this case the common goal is the needs of the brand and the marketing campaign. It’s you and your marketing team against the rest of the internet; battling the changes and demands of Google and Facebook and the economy, not each other.
You are stronger as a combined force as now you have unique individuals bringing different perspectives and strengths. That is the value of a team your differences that you all bring to the table and why you brought in business partners to begin with. You needed their expertise, so accept it. View your brand and marketing partners as a team, not an afterthought! Do you include them in decision making or planning for the future or do they find out about new company changes by reading a website update? A team working together with all the information is better able to meet the goal!
Like a good marriage; a good business partnership will go though its cycles. It’s unrealistic to expect that everything be perfect all the time, but a strong foundation can help any relationship make it through the more difficult periods because you end up working together not against each other!