Time Is On Your Side

There are plenty of situations in life where time is decidedly not on your side.

That shiny new car of yours? “Used,” the second you drive it off the lot. The funny-smelling milk that you just snuck back in the fridge, hoping your wife didn’t notice? Bound to smell even funnier tomorrow.

And don’t even get me started on that wedding portrait of yours sitting atop the mantel, about which your own children point and inquire, “Who are those people?”

No my friend, time takes no prisoners.

Happily, however, there is one notable exception: relationship building. In this case, the passage of time is not just on your side, it’s your best friend.

Quick story…

I got a phone call a few weeks ago from a woman whose opening line was, “This is Kathi Johnson with XYZ Insurance Company. Do you have a few minutes to talk?” I get my fair share of telemarketing calls during the day, so I said, “That depends. Are you buying or selling?”

Happily for both of us, the answer was “buying.” Turns out Kathi is with a company in the Midwest and she called to see if I’d come out and do a half-day e-mail content workshop for her staff. We chatted a bit, and I promised to get back to her in a few days with some specifics.

Before we hung up though, I asked her how she’d heard about me. She told me that her colleague, Dan, had been receiving my newsletter for a while and he suggested she get in touch.

Later that afternoon, I finally got around to looking up Dan in my database to see how long “a while” actually was (get ready, here comes the punch line). It seems that Dan had signed up on October 30th … 2006.

That’s right. Three-and-a-half years later, a little newsletter seed bore fruit. Two weeks after that, I was on a plane to Chicago, all set to meet my newest client.

Here’s the thing. When it comes to growing a business, many people are preoccupied with the quick sale, the fast deal, the low-hanging fruit. I have no problem with any of that, it’s just that low-hanging fruit tends to attract a crowd. If you and I can see it and reach it, chances are everyone else can too.

Instead, I spend nearly all my marketing time on the other side of the equation: building relationships through this E-Newsletter. Three reasons why:

  1. It’s a whole lot easier. Kathi said it herself when she called … she was there to buy. No written proposal, no “tell us about your qualifications,” no “thanks, we’ll keep your name on file if a need ever arises.”

    Sure, I had to eventually put something in writing and we needed to agree on the details. But thanks to our “mutual friend” Dan, we were both working together to find a fit. Easy.

  1. It works in the background, even when you don’t (sorry, that sounds like a laxative). Don’t miss this crucial point: Until I shook hands with him last week, I’d never even heard of Dan. I wasn’t diligently and proactively tracking him for three-and-a-half years … I didn’t even know he was alive.

    What kept our “relationship” going was that for all that time, I gave him something useful enough and interesting enough that he allowed me back into his in-box month after month. “Allowed me,” because in the e-mail marketing game, the end user holds all the cards. (Read that sentence again, it’s important.)

  1. All the other, “If you don’t have an E-Newsletter yet you’re out of your mind” reasons: It’s easily shared, easily archived, interactive, measurable and has almost zero variable cost. Plus, you can use the content to write a book, or record a podcast, or morph it into a presentation. Plus, you can send it to your mom who will then print out copies and snail mail them to your aunt in Florida (that might just be me).

Here’s the bottom line. As a professional service provider, the best clients you’ll ever have are the ones who watch you for a long, long time before they call. Like an old friend you haven’t yet met, the interactions with these veteran readers tend to be straightforward and satisfying for everyone involved.

Until then, your job is simple: Provide useful, interesting, no-strings-attached content in a way that positions you as expert in whatever it is you do. Then just sit back and let time work its magic.

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