When it comes to business, we're ever so much more comfortable with the rational aspect of everything. It's business, it's not personal ... but at my company, Swiss Re, our leaders are strongly focusing on emotional commitment. In my role as Head of Community Management I'm thrilled about this - and glad to nudge it all in the right - the social - direction .
It's easier to just talk "business" - and yes - in the long run every client relationship has to be not just meaningful, but profitable. So yes, there must be the cool and collected side of strategy, of plans, of spreadsheets, of metrics, of numbers. All of that is the polar opposite of emotional. Across corporate worlds, we're a pretty damn smart bunch. My company is often even referred to as "the knowledge company" - across the company we excel when it comes to the analytical side of our brains.
I keep observing the same thing across industries - they focus their marketing activities on showcasing just how smart they are, on the smart products, innovations, solutions ... but when you think about it - everyone knows about that already - the smarts is basically expected to be built into the package. The analytical side is the basics, something that obviously goes with it - it frankly is neither surprising nor exciting - so why do we still constantly focus on it? Why is it front and center of everything companies say and do? I'll tell you why - because it's safe, because it's not personal. We dress in plans, we wear our numbers - we do ever so much to ensure that the human side of us has little to no chance of making a showing.
Social, today, has become the norm - the world of connectivity is here and here to stay (well unless a solar storm knocks us out). Sometimes I still see experts/analysts/leaders shy away from social. But where I used to be understanding back then, today I'm clearly point out that "oh it's all new and I'm not comfortable with it" just doesn't cut it anymore. Marketers should make use of every channel out there, they should be wherever their customers/clients are - whether that's retail or B2B - they're all real people at the other end. So analyzing a market or customer is one thing - the other part is at least as important - to commit emotional to that client. In a nutshell, this is how I see it:
I KNOW - the rational commitment (left brain)
I CARE - the emotional commitment (right brain)
Isn't that what everyone wants? I want to care, I want that others care. It is all about forming relationships, and they don't happen through numbers, they happen through giving time, through caring, honestly, authentically. That's how we'll really get to know our clients, that's how we really reach them, that's how we really make a difference for them and for us.
If the "WHY we should care" is clear (and it certainly is for me) - then what about the HOW? We're busy. Whether we physically meet clients or have them on the phone - it all takes time. Time to prepare the strategy, the talking points, the negotiations - a meeting isn't one hour, isn't one dinner - there's always pre and post ... but just to make that clear again - all of that is left brain activity. The HOW is in between, the HOW is always, the HOW is social connectivity.
"Social" allows us to engage our clients wherever we can, whenever we can - and the more personal, the better, the stronger. No need to take business activities to social media - but use it as part of your emotional commitment to your clients - make it part of your relationship management. If you had a good meeting, look up your client - use the momentum and send him an invite to connect on LinkedIn (you've probably done that already). Then find and follow them on their Twitter account if they have one (it shows that you're interested in their views) ... and then take the leap and send them a friendship request on Facebook (it shows that you care, that you like them, that you're interested in forming a stronger relationship beyond the numbers). Without any additional tools, social media seemlessly merges with social business. Be where your relationships be strengthened - and soon you'll know when the son lost the first tooth, you see that the sister just got married, you realize that your client looks just like his grandfather who turned eighty-five, you'll find that you like the same things, you'll congratulate them on a great holiday moment, you'll like a picture and a comment here and there ... over time, you'll have more things in common, more things to talk about. Over time, your business meetings will change, your conversations will deepen, your connections will strengthen. No doubt you think you're already emotionally committed (you do, right?) - but I guarantee that you ain't seen nothing yet.
Every company claims that they want "passionate employees" ... that also means enabling them with tools, trainings and the freedom to be out there. We want people to be as emotionally committed, as motivated and empowered, as is possible. And a lot more is possible! We want people to CARE about their client, their job, their team, the company. I do, pure and simple. Mine isn't a job, it is a passion, it is something I genuinely care about. My clients are Swiss Re employees .... and guess what, of course many of them are friends of mine on Facebook! I've never been more connected with my company, never been more passionate about it and that is, to a large degree, thanks to the emergence and immense possibilities of social networks.
Emotional commitment ... do I have it? Do I care? Is the Pope catholic?! Life's short (and our time spent at work and/or working is a big chunk of that) - make it count. Make a difference, matter, care!
PS: In case you're wondering about the picture - it's a snapshot taken from images on my personal Facebook account - and it gives you an instant glimpse of how much better you'd get to know people by connecting with them there.