In Marketing, Motives Matter

What happens if you put relationships ahead of profits?

by Ilana Rabinowitz |

Marketing is becoming a very different business. I’m not talking about the new tools and platforms. I’m talking about how marketers themselves have to change the way they think about the people they reach.  That change is going to be counterintuitive and uncomfortable for business people. It requires that we look at the ultimate goal as the relationship.

Now, I can hear you saying “we’re in business to make a profit.  That has to be our goal.” And I promise you, behaving in a more human way won’t hurt you there.

Think about how people choose us.  Think about what it takes for them to decide we are worth spending time with; talking to; listening to and sharing with their friends.  It’s true in your personal life and in business as well.  Did you learn how to do that in B school?  I didn’t.  But that’s what marketers need to practice today.

The relationship is an end in itself

When my marketing team meets to discuss our plans each week, we focus on how to surprise and delight people.  We brainstorm ways to inspire them or teach them something we think they’d like to learn.  Because we’re in business, we constantly look at the feedback we’re getting to make sure we’re resonating.  The goal; however, is engagement first and foremost. We nourish the relationships as an end into itself.

But even if you know that relationships are important, you may be doing them with an old marketer’s mindset.   The old world marketer’s goal is to engage in order to manipulate with only their key performance indicators in mind.

Transparency isn’t about what you choose to share

we are transparent whether we like it or not

We all talk about transparency in social media. What we sometimes forget is that with all the online communication on Facebook, blog comments, and Twitter, we are transparent whether we like it or not. People can see who we are. It’s not just what you do, but why you do it that becomes apparent. And, that’s why motives matter.

Think about your closest friends and loved ones.  You work hard to maintain the relationships because you value them.  Unless you are a social climber, or person “on the make” you don’t look at people as targets or opportunities to improve your situation.  In our personal lives we can sniff out a manipulator.  What makes you think that people in business aren’t capable of doing that as well?

There are two kinds of relationships in business and in life

It’s a radical idea to view business relationships in the same way–so much so that many will roll their eyes at the idea.  Engage with people online with the motive that you truly care about them? Little bit crazy for a business person.  But if you’re ready to shift your attitude toward healthy-relationship marketing, here’s a reminder of what the two kinds of relationships look like:

Healthy relationships
  • You give without a specific expectation of quid pro quo. You do it for the relationship first.
  • You genuinely care about the person
  • You don’t abuse the relationship by behaving in a way that could be detrimental to the other person just to satisfy your own needs.
Manipulative relationships
  • Your sole motivation for acting friendly or generous is to benefit from the relationship
  • Your only desire in understanding the other person is to further your ability to control their behavior
  • You judge your success only on short term results and eliminate marketing that results in engagement without conversion.

Are you ready to think about online relationships in social media, email marketing and e-commerce the same way you think about your healthy personal relationships? The comments are yours…


How To Hire A Great Social Media Manager

9 Ways Business Needs To Change To Become Social

About the Author

Ilana Rabinowitz

Ilana Rabinowitz is the vice-president for marketing for Lion Brand Yarn and blogs about social media at Marketing Without A Net. Rabinowitz approaches marketing with an uncompromising focus on the customer and a grounding in psychology and neuroscience to understand what motivates people to make buying decisions.  She believes that businesses need to develop their own media as a means of creating a branded experience for customers.  She has spoken at digital marketing conferences including Web 2.0, Blogher Business and Internet Retailer. She is the author of a book about psychology, a book about mindfulness and co-author of a book about the culture of knitting. Follow her on Twitter at @ilana221.