In the Flesh: Developing Partnerships That Go Way Beyond Just Business

Brian Sofer

There’s no denying that breakthroughs in technology have made business and life better for millions. Computers are brilliant at doing exactly what they’re told to do. If you want it to process a transaction, serve an ad or blast out a bulk email — it will do all that and more. However, computers don’t nuance, iPhones can’t shake your hand and Facebook won’t brainstorm marketing ideas with you over dinner.

Some recently published stats piqued my interest. Apparently the average human being will spend a total of four years looking down at their cellphone. The average U.S. Facebook user spends 40 minutes a day on the social network, that’s 10 whole days a year. Likes, follows and brand relationships are nice — but developing them into worthwhile customer relationships is obviously much more valuable. Long-term relationship building is where it’s at — especially in adult, which is still very much a face-to-face industry. Don’t get me wrong, many of these recent tech advancements can be extremely helpful, efficient and fast — but unless you convert your digital relationships into real-life ones, you could be missing out on the bigger picture. As we all know, doing business with people who like you and vice versa makes things a lot easier and in many cases much more profitable.

Don’t be hesitant about escalating your social media relationships into ones in the real world. You’d be surprised how much professional marketing mileage you can get from personal relationships so try to pursue them all.

Once you’ve established online, social media connections the next step is humanizing those connections in the real world. In fact, Facebook or LinkedIn are great resources to break the ice and segue perfectly into a first “business” meeting. “Hey, I really enjoy your Facebook posts and find them interesting — I will be at the upcoming revolutionary industry event or trade show and was hoping we could grab a drink to figure out a way our organizations can work together?” When it comes to marketing opportunities, they are everywhere — the more relationships you build, the more conversations you can have to explore those opportunities. Marketing is just ideas and ideas come from everywhere, so use your newfound business friendships to brainstorm new ideas that make both parties successful.

Specifically, some of the best industry friends retailers can have are their manufacturer representatives. It bears mentioning that manufacturers want you to successfully sell as many of its products as possible — and they will help you do just that. Pick up the phone and contact your rep, talk to them one on one if you haven’t. Find out what they can do for you. You’d be surprised how much they can help you, so use your resources and see what’s available as a valued customer.

The same approach can be leveraged with your store’s existing social media fans/followers. Don’t let them just be a number in your Facebook fan or Twitter follower count, treat them like people and turn them into real-life friends of your business. Customer appreciation events are a good way to do this — just don’t make it all about the sale, make it an “open house” a “meet n greet” to “get to know” the store and staff. Of course you can inject some business into all of this — after all, at the end of the day we all want to increase sales — offer free workshops where your social media fans can participate with each other and your staff. As long as the event and focus is centered on your brand, this is a win — especially if all the memories associated with this event will be positive, friendly and worthwhile. Certainly there are benefits to bringing in customers to the store, however you bring them in — but as long as the agenda is one of “business development”” and not transparent product hustling, it should be a very positive brand experience overall.

We’re in an exceptionally unique industry, one that’s generally far less stuffy than any corporate environment. Perhaps because of that, there’s also a lot of commonality among many of industry folks — lifestyle, music, open-mindedness, etc. In addition to this being a great perk, it’s also a tremendous opportunity to grow your organization by developing partnerships that go way beyond just business.

Don’t be hesitant about escalating your social media relationships into ones in the real world. You’d be surprised how much professional marketing mileage you can get from personal relationships so try to pursue them all.

Brian Sofer is the digital marketing director for Pipedream Products. A marketer for over 20 years, Sofer has implemented effective integrated marketing strategies for a diverse range of clients in the adult, music, action sports and smoke industries.