How 211 Degree Relationships Can Be Your Latent Key to Success

Where do most of your sales come from? When I’ve asked this question in a weekly lunch I do with 60 business leaders, 59 of them say relationships and one didn’t understand the question.

So how do we shift more of our spend from advertising, direct marketing, and public relations to relationship marketing? The good news is that it just doesn’t cost that much money – it costs time. The bad news is that we think we can buy customers and would much rather spend money than time. Good luck with that.

It actually works if you have enough money to make a very big and sustained splash. But most business owners don’t have the kind of marketing budget that allows them the luxury of spending wads of cash and sitting back to wait for the phones to ring. Like it or not, we have more time than money, but again, the good news is that an investment of your time in building relationships will be much more effective than a quick, short-term spend of money.

The key is moving people from being “advocates” to “raving fans”. There are a lot of past and present customers along with friends and business associates who really like us a lot. But they have lives and we are not at the center of their lives. I describe an advocate as someone who likes me enough to give me a referral when I ask, but I have to ask. A Raving Fan however, is at a whole new level – this is someone who sends me customers without me asking.

The difference is one degree.

At 211 degrees we get hot water to make tea. At 212 degrees we get steam to power a civilization. We have a lot of 211 degree relationships who are really warmed up to us (Advocates), but what do we do move them that one extra degree to turn them into Raving Fans?

Here are some simple things that can turn Advocates into Raving Fans. By the way, the profound things are always the most simple.

  1. Serve people – meet them where they are at, not where you want them to be. You want to sell them something, but they need a babysitter or a new supplier. Find them that and forget selling them your wares.
  2. Set aside a few minutes a week to ask yourself what else you can do to move them forward? Do you want a client from them? Can you send them one instead? Or just call and say hi and ask them what you can do to push them forward.
  3. Relate/recreate with them – when was the last time you actually took time to build a relationship with an Advocate? Go to dinner, have a cup of coffee, invite them to golf, go to a workshop together. People buy from people, and they buy more from people they like. Become likeable.

Discover what your Advocates want and deliver that. If you do, they could become Raving Fans who will become gate openers for your business. What have you done for them besides deliver something they’ve paid for? Answer that question positively and you are on the way to turning your 211-degree relationships into 212 Raving Fans.

Make a list of five to ten people who love you and aren’t helping you grow your business. Then create a three month action plan help them grow theirs and watch what happens.

One degree – does it really matter? It just might take one of your 211-degree relationships and turn it into steam that can power your business for years going forward.

The Single Most Important Marketing Tactic Ever Devised

The most important marketing tactic ever devised is also the simplest. And it wasn’t invented by marketing people, but by business owners and sales people looking to grow their business the best, fastest, least expensive way possible.

Unfortunately it doesn’t get much traction because it doesn’t have enough complexity, bells and whistles or cost to make people pay attention to it. It’s just too simple to be that effective. The profound things are always simple, but we don’t believe that either. Yet people who have done it are almost always successful.

What is the single most important marketing tactic ever devised?

Make a list of everyone you know.

I mean your dentist, your mother, your sister, your clients, the bar keep – everybody.

Yep, boring, dull, simple, can’t be that helpful. Wrong. It’s the first thing every business owner and every sales person should do to before they open the doors. I could tell you a few dozen success stories of people who believed and did this, even a restaurant owner who did it, gave away four free nights of food to people on their list to open their restaurant and never looked back (or did much traditional advertising either).

Once you have your list made, divide it into two categories – potential clients and potential gate openers (people who can refer to me). Potential clients got a 1, 2 or 3 (most to least likely to become a client, and potential gate openers get an A, B, C (most to least likely to refer someone to me). I did this on Excel so I could then sort the two and all the 1’s and A’s floated to the top. Some people were 1-A (great potential client and also great potential referral partner). Others were 3-C (and some of them became great clients – our guesses are many times pretty bad).

Once you’ve got the list, figure out what to do with it.

  1. Call your best friends and family and beg for work. If you’re reluctant to do it, it’s almost certainly more your problem than theirs. They want to help you a lot more than you think, more than anybody else you know. Beg!
  2. Call others you know well and simply ask if they want to do business or know someone that does.
  3. Have a pizza party for your highest potential gate openers who aren’t likely to become clients and have a brainstorming session. Give them your 10-minute spiel and get 30 minutes of feedback. Then ask them to make a list of everybody they know (or 5-10 people in the meeting) and go around and ask each of them to describe somebody they are referring. That will help everybody to immediately think of someone they forgot.
  4. Create interest groups from your list and get a guest speaker to serve them – just put together the meeting to build relationships. They’ll love you for serving them and later you can ask for referrals.
  5. Go through the list and see whom you should connect with each other – you’ll be surprised at how much power you have to connect people who would love to know each other, and you’ll be the person who made it happen.
  6. Start a weekly or monthly interest or business group for those that have some common needs (get 5-10 other people on your list to do it with you and recruit 10-15 others you’ve never met – your list just grew exponentially). Put some structure and commitment to it – play kids games and that’s whom you’ll get.
  7. Do the usual where appropriate – send an email or a direct marketing piece or similar for those you really don’t know very well.
  8. Assemble your top 100 potential clients and gate openers and commit to call two of them every day and say hello – no agenda. Build the relationships and do business after it’s appropriate.

I put that one last because things like it (frequent, personal, relational contact) are the best way to use that list to build your business. And serve, don’t sell. Find out what they need, meet them where they are at, and watch your business grow.

If you have lots of money and no time, than just do advertising. But if you’re like most small business owners, you’ve got a lot more time than money, and you can reach people you already know a lot easier than going out cold-calling.

I’ve never done a cold call in my life and was the top sales person in every corporation I was in, with annual sales of up to $10 million. Make a list of everyone you know and build relationships with them. It’s the best-kept non-secret in marketing.