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When I looked into her eyes, the rising sun shimmering through the trees, I remembered the first time I fell in love.
That's when I realized that my approach to business was completely wrong.
As an entrepreneur and writer, everything is a lesson about business, and (for better or for worse) this moment was no exception.
Usually Saturday is my day to write as much as possible. I keep this time sacred because it is. But I gave up all morning – somewhat reluctant – Taking engagement photos with my fiancé.
The conscious effort to connect with her is something I often take for granted and come back to our everyday lives. I make the coffee and put the dishes away. She feeds the dog and then we get to work. We go to the gym in the afternoon, then eat quickly and exchange a few words between bites. Every evening is a race against the clock to put the world right so we can read our books and then go to sleep. To repeat.
My desire to work harder, be more efficient and achieve more has optimized the relationship in our partnership. We became two people helping each other get through life on autopilot. We unwittingly replaced our relationship with a series of transactions.
It's easy to see how damaging this is to personal relationships. And yet, as entrepreneurs, we actively encourage this behavior and celebrate it as a real success.
Related: Can Excessive Ambition Actually Ruin Your Chances of Success?
A great opportunity for entrepreneurs
Every product and service sold in the online business industry aims to make more transactions faster and cheaper than before.
On a typical day, I see advertisements for software that saves me time, content calendars and swipe files to get every drop of engagement out of my content, and sales tactics that double my conversion rate.
Finding tactics that will improve your transactional skills is like couples therapy to better delegate your duties so you can stop struggling. That cannot solve the root problem – just minimize the symptoms.
For example, it only makes minimal sense to have the headline with the highest conversion rate. You surely want to create fascinating headlines. But I rarely read the headlines in my inbox. My gaze is directed to the line "From:". I read the content of marketers I trust, marketers who consistently publish high quality content, marketers who took the time to develop a relationship with me.
Several clever marketers have picked up on this trend and started teaching relationship building as a tactic to get more conversions. They show the best strategy for building a relationship so you can make a sale quickly. This is no different from the other tactics.
That way, you can go your way through life, optimizing for the best business and most efficient processes, but in doing so, you are stealing all of value. Transactions are a means to an end, while true relationships are an end in themselves.
Why we can't make the transition
Our greatest weakness is myopia, because we choose the easy path today over the more rewarding path of tomorrow. It's easier to skip the gym. It's easier to stay on autopilot in your relationship. And it's easier to think that someone figured it all out and all you have to do is copy and paste the solution into your autoresponder.
Conversely, it takes more effort to exercise, be honest and vulnerable with your partner, or create unique content for your audience.
Every decision our linear mind is faced with is a compromise between joy and pain at this moment. It takes training and discipline to break these habits. We forget the fate that awaits us on the street: hardened arteries, a cold heart and maybe (no guarantee of) financial success.
The challenge is to recognize and overcome these prejudices.
While you can get paid for the transaction today, you get paid for the relationship every day that you nurture it. Relationships bring later purchases, testimonials, valuable customer insights, and high quality recommendations. All of this enables you to acquire more customers faster and more cheaply.
Related: The 4 Cognitive Biases Entrepreneurs Should Avoid
A guide to relationship building
All of these sermons about relationships and moral superiority are great. But let's see how that works out in reality.
Building relationships rather than transactions can effortlessly increase your sales, relieve tension with your spouse, and make you a happier person. Here are five ways to build relationships with your audience, all of which apply to the relationships you have with your spouse and with yourself:
- Be consistent. Post content regularly. Maintain a standard for quality and customer service. It's not always easy, but persistence creates trust. And very few people do that. I keep hearing from people starting podcasts or YouTube channels, and three episodes later they're on to the next big thing. This sends a clear message to potential customers that when things get tough, you will give up. However, it is no coincidence that every McDonald's burger tastes exactly the same. Your empire is built on permanence.
- Use social proof: There is too much content in the world to be assessed personally, so most people rely on others' judgment as a substitute. As a result, virality has replaced value as the primary quality indicator. The most widely read books are widely recognized as the best. The articles shared the most quickly become the best. This effect can either ruin your business or get it going. Social proof and recommendations convince new viewers that you are trustworthy and that your products are working. This attention gives you the opportunity to cement your relationship with them.
- Be vulnerable. While everyone else is bragging about on social media, vulnerability instills empathy and instills trust on an emotional level. Sharing your journey through the toughest times shows the effectiveness of the solution you are offering. Take kryptonite, for example. Although it's Superman’s only weakness, it was invented to revive Superman comics from death through boredom. His vulnerability makes the story interesting.
- Create more content. The more you publish, the faster you can demonstrate your persistence and leadership, and the more opportunities you create to connect through shared experiences. Content creation is the fastest way to build a trusting relationship with each and every one of your target audience.
- Share rituals. Personal or virtual, rituals cement a bond between a group of people and their leader. It could be as simple as having a cup of coffee together, a victory song, or something much more complex. It is important that everyone believes in the symbol it represents and participates in it together. Many world religions have used rituals to maintain devout audiences for millennia.
Related: The 4 Things Every Customer Desires
Anyone can create a website and offer products and services online. What sets you apart is your ability to build relationships with your audience.
Finding a transactional business is like finding a long and loveless marriage. I would not wish my fiercest competitor this fate.
Maintain relationships with your customers. You both deserve it.