Last day of the year and it falls on a TunesDay. I looked up the most read post with that theme and it was one from this past July when the Mrs. and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary. Not content to let that speak for itself, I turned to a rock classic to talk about relationships between our businesses and our customers. I hope you enjoy it (again!) and please have a safe New Year’s Eve. See you on the other side.
It’s Tunesday! Today is a special one for me since it’s the 35th anniversary of the day the Mrs. and I got married. Because of that, I wanted a song from roughly the time when we got married that’s also a love song. What popped into my head this morning is “Let’s Stay Together“, a hit for both Al Green and Tina Turner. The two hits actually happened on either side of our wedding date and I’m very aware that a lot of folks use this as a wedding song (we didn’t – Embraceable You, as I recall…). I’ve always thought that Al Green’s version was way too low-key for the passion of the song and the video below is a live Tina Turner version which captures the song’s essence:
So what’s this got to do with business? Actually, quite a bit. You see, trying to stay together is what all of us do as businesses – with our customers, our team, and our vendors:
Let’s, let’s stay together
Lovin’ you whether, whether
Times are good or bad, happy or sad
The one thing that makes a relationship last is the trust that you’re standing on certain ground. As the lyric says, you may go through bad times as well as good but never wondering about the underlying connection is crucial. A customer with issues may not be happy but they’ll stay a customer if they trust you’re working to resolve their problem. They want to hear “let me be the one you come running to”, not “I’m unable to help you.”
At its core, a relationship of any sort involves an investment of some sort. While there is a lot of sanity in not throwing good money (literally and figuratively) after bad, it’s generally easier to keep a customer than to find new ones. A commitment to trying to stay together makes that happen. That’s how you celebrate 35 years as partners!
We’re going to a wedding this weekend.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
You know you’re getting up there in years when it’s no longer your friends that are getting married but their adult children, which is the case here. Having been married for 35 years my own wedding is a distant memory but I do recall a few things about the day that I think have some business implications as well. Pretty romantic, huh?
One thing I remember was a sense of great optimism. We were making a statement about our belief in our relationship and how we were better together than we would be as individuals. Attacking life together was going to advantage us and pooling our emotional and financial resources (which were pretty limited at that point) would give us a leg up. I don’t think we thought about it in those kind of terms exactly, but we knew it was the right thing to do.
What we didn’t know was the work involved. Anyone who tells you that a marriage is an easy walk in the park probably hasn’t been married or for very long. The stress of every day life can test not only the partnership bond but also the very concept of being together in the first place. Making it work can be hard but it’s been tremendously rewarding.
New businesses are the same. You have a great idea. You think you can add resources, gear up, and do something better than anyone else is doing it – solve a problem with a product or provide a service. You take on partners – investors, other workers, even the people who pay the bills – clients or customers. Easy right?
Ha! No sane business person will describe it as easy. It’s a lot of work and unfortunately the business failure rate is almost as high as the divorce rate. How the partnership deals with adversity and ever-changing conditions shows a lot. Is there honest dialog or a lot of shouting? Are you working on the problem together or are people retreating into their safe shells while things fail around them?
I love weddings, maybe because I’m an optimist at heart. I love young businesses too – I work with a few in my practice. The key to both is a commitment to work together to solve the mysteries that are life and business. So far, so good for me. You?
I’ve been married a very long time (33 years and counting, thank you) but I still remember getting engaged. I have no clue what it’s like today, but it used to be a big deal and there was a ritual to be followed (I still thank my lucky stars that her father was way easier on me than he should have been…). I spend a fair amount of time these days talking about getting engaged except it’s not with my daughters (statement of fact, not a complaint!). Instead, clients and I talk about “getting engaged” with their consumers. The thought struck me that it’s not all that dissimilar.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
An engagement is a commitment in either sense of the word (marriage or otherwise). The only way one partner can figure out if the other is worth spending a lot of time with is to engage one another in dialog. You know – appropriate questions, thoughtful, honest answers – a dialog. Obviously, you can’t spend your time telling your prospective partner how great you are. Things go a lot more smoothly if you spend a fair amount of time telling them how great THEY are. While it’s important to keep your own goals in mind, you can’t be a crazed egomaniac if an engagement is your objective.
The hard part is listening. As marketers and content producers, we tend to put out a lot about ourselves and don’t take in enough about our potential customers. As an aside, we do the same as managers in a lot of cases – “jobs” are often known as “engagements” after all.
We need to woo our customers, our users, our clients – whatever you want to call those who pay the bills – as we would a potential spouse. That’s the only way to get engaged. Hey – who says romance is dead!
Today’s screed isn’t about Joni Mitchell or her song from the late ’60’s. It’s about being an effective businessperson. I was going to write “negotiator” but as I’m thinking about it, this is really applicable to all areas of business – sales, relationships with other members of the team, – pretty much everything. As an aside, I think it’s one of the factors behind the gridlock in our political system but we don’t do that stuff in this space so just file that away. Quite simply, if you want to get to agreements on things, there’s one ability you must have and that’s our topic. Continue reading
I’ve been in meetings all day so this will be really brief but sometimes short really is sweet! I had breakfast this morning with a former colleague. Although we were in different departments of a large company, we often collaborated on things along with a third person. I always enjoyed her thinking on things – she was (and is) bright and energetic. The work was challenging, especially since it was in the early days of digital and the “right” answers weren’t very obvious (and still aren’t a lot of the time!).
This morning she asked me a question I couldn’t answer: why did the other colleague and I stop speaking to her? What triggered our silence? Honestly, I had no clue, but the question did remind me of a great lesson. Continue reading
Lots of things have changed over the years since I began my business career. One of the things that has NOT changed for the better is the relaxation of the common courtesies we all call manners. No, I’m not thinking it’s a good idea to return to the age when everyone was Miss Smith and Mr.Jones but I do miss some of the basic principles of manners I was taught, many of which have gone by the wayside, it seems. Continue reading