Any company is capable of providing top-notch services or selling excellent products. But if the organization isn’t adept at connecting with people, it can’t really achieve long-term or sustainable success. In a world where people are your most important asset and their availability is slim, this is more important now than ever before.
The ability to build strong, positive relationships makes it possible for hiring managers to source and retain top talent, for salespeople to close deals with clients, and for firms to negotiate mutually beneficial arrangements with vendors and suppliers. A client who has a strong relationship with one particular company, for example, will be more inclined to call on that firm first for its business needs. Similarly, employees who feel connected to (and valued by) their colleagues and managers will be less likely to want to move to other organizations.
Clearly, connections are valuable. But how are they created? And once they are created, how are they sustained? The answer to both of those questions is the same: through the personal touch.
These days we are all surrounded by so much information that we are practically drowning in it. Social media feeds, television and radio ads, e-mail, blog posts, weather apps, podcasts, newspapers, phone calls . . . and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Because the vast majority of the information out there is mass communication aimed at broad segments of the population, on the rare occasion that someone receives a genuinely personal piece of communication, he or she really notices it. Think about all the spam and advertisements that land in our inbox—and that you routinely ignore without giving them any thought. But your eyes instantly zoom in on any personal e-mail that comes your way.
Most of the communication out there is delivered electronically. Thanks to technological innovations that make digital media both easy to produce and inexpensive to disseminate, many companies use it as the primary means to reach large audiences. But for the most part, digital communication has limited effectiveness, especially when compared with printed (physical) media.
Now think about what happens when you come across analog communication that is (or least seems to be) designed just for you. When is the last time you received a truly personal, physical piece of communication—say, a birthday card or a handwritten letter? I’m guessing you felt at least a frisson of excitement when you spotted it in your mailbox. Communication that’s personal is a rare treat indeed—and putting it in a physical form that someone can hold in his or her hand increases its impact by at least an order of magnitude.
Content marketing via print magazines is one great way to add a personal touch to a business-oriented relationship. The analog format draws attention in a crowded media field and is more memorable and has more staying power than digital formats. And selecting content that holds particular relevance and interest to a client enables a company to demonstrate how much it values that client—and to increase its own value as a supplier of a useful resource: personalized information.
Simply sharing specific informative content with a targeted audience isn’t the same as custom marketing, though. Not only must that content be relevant (someone who produces the cables for suspension bridge, for example, isn’t likely to be very interested in the latest news about the publishing industry), but to have maximum impact it must also carry personal weight. It must demonstrate to its audience not “I thought you might find this interesting,” but “I did my homework about your business and your field, and I think this particular piece of information will help you be even more successful.” These efforts create connections that in turn form the foundations of enduring, strong relationships.
Any organization that wants to thrive (or, depending on what the competition looks like, maybe even just survive) needs to make relationship building a high priority. Content marketing is only one of the many tools for doing this, and although they all differ in many ways they have one feature in common: a personal touch. For a long time, we’ve all gone along with the idea that “business” and “personal” are mutually exclusive. But times change, and today that assumption doesn’t always hold water. The time has come to revise the old saying “It’s not personal—it’s business” into something that more accurately fits the practices of today’s successful organizations: “It’s personal and it’s business.”