Here in New England, there are two ways to know that Spring has finally arrived:
Way #1: It’s going to snow tomorrow.
Way #2: The Boston Marathon is just a couple of weeks away. Monday, April 16th, to be exact.
And, since my office is located mere feet from the starting line of the race and directly beneath the friendly folks who organize the entire thing, there is a lot of buzz. By which I mean, runners – they are everywhere.
I don’t have any actual data (I rarely do), but I can tell you from personal experience that our town has more than its fair share of race participants.
The gravitational pull of the event is so strong around here that if you have even the slightest inclination to give it a try, sooner or later, you will.
And so, in the weeks and months leading up to the race, you end up having lots and lots of side conversations with town residents who are training for the event: The mailman. Your dentist. The college kid across the street.
Everywhere you turn here in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, you bump into someone who is training for the marathon. And yes, in case you are wondering, these people like to talk about their respective training routines.
Indeed, with the possible exception of, “Tell me about your grandchildren,” no inquiry on the face of the Earth leads to a longer and more detailed response than asking, “Could you describe your marathon training regimen?”
They will tell you what they eat and how much they sleep. How they warm up and how they cool down. The clothes they wear and the shoes they prefer.
And that’s before they even get into describing the running training itself, a complicated, month’s long process that by comparison makes completing your federal tax return seem as simple as unsubscribing from a long-winded email newsletter (don’t you dare).
But you know what you never hear in response to the “How do you train for the marathon?” question? Anything that sounds even remotely like: “Oh, I don’t know. I just do a little running here and there whenever I get the chance.”
Nope. These people have a system and, maybe even more important, a commitment to a process that, if followed, almost guarantees that they will be standing on that starting line come April 16th.
Interestingly, relationship marketing – like training for a marathon – also requires both a system and a commitment to the process. (You knew I’d get here eventually.)
Here as well, you’ll never realize the results you seek if your “training” regimen amounts to simply doing what you can when time allows and the spirit moves you.
That’s the bad news: You need a system and you have to keep doing it. And, unlike training for a marathon, it never ends.
The good news, though, is that it’s really not that hard. In fact, if you do it right, you won’t even break a sweat.
- Compile all your contacts into a single list.
You can create a list in Excel; you can use an online tool like Contactually; you can use note cards. The technology doesn’t matter; you just need a way to keep track of who your contacts are and when you last connected.
And when I say “contacts,” I don’t mean just prospects and clients. I mean all humans that you know – people that if you called* them up you wouldn’t have to introduce yourself. These people, and the connections they represent, are the fuel of your relationship marketing engine.
(*Note to Millennials: “Calling” is when you talk into your phone, with another person, in real time, and they … never mind).
- Commit to contacting a tiny portion of your list every day.
Two, three people … enough that you go through your entire list a few times a year.
I do this all the time. Not to sell anything or even promote my work. Just to connect and keep the relationships alive over time.
That’s it. Could you do more? Sure.
You could publish a newsletter; go to networking meetings; send snail mail notes; speak at local events; post on social media; and on and on. All of which are good ideas and recommended.
But if you’re doing nothing (or close to it) to market yourself right now, the place to start is always (I said always) with the people you already know. These are the humans most likely to talk about you, help you, recommend you, and hire you.
So start here – keeping these relationships alive – before you go off looking for new connections.
Here’s the bottom line. Relationship marketing isn’t hard and it need not take a lot of time. But it does require both a system and a commitment to showing up, day after day.
If you don’t have both, you may as well not even bother lacing up your shoes.
- Do you have grandchildren?
- That’s a delightful story; yes, they seem very smart.
- Sure … of course … I’d love to see some photos.
- Yes, indeed, they are beautiful, but I have an appointment and really need to leave.
- I’m getting in my car now.
- What system do you use or plan to use – Excel, Outlook, Contactually, note cards, something else – for tracking your relationships?
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