The Only Person in the Room.

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This photo from Libby Williams makes me smile. I’m pretty certain this young man is feeling heard.

We’re crazy big Steve Knox fans at Brains on Fire.

He spoke at our FIRE Session in 2010 and many of us fell madly in love with his smart way of looking at the world and his take on Word of Mouth Marketing.

Steve also has a way of connecting with people that makes you feel as if you are the only person in the room.

Really. It’s a talent I study and admire. And it’s one I think as marketers we need to study and emulate.

The other day I got to spend about 20 minutes on the phone with Steve as he drove to a catch flight. Somewhere along the way I asked him, “What is the one thing that really bothers you about CMO’s these days? What are they missing? What are they glossing over?

He quickly replied.

“One word. Relationship.

“I passionately, passionately believe that the world of marketing is moving to a relationship-based world and most CMOs don’t know what that means. We have been trained in marketing to think about the relationship with the consumer at arms length, to think about it almost in a non-human way. The new world of marketing is so much more about true relationships with consumers, which means there must be dialogue, there must be conversation.

Historically there have been two conversations that have taken place. There’s been a business to consumer conversation which we call advertising and a business to business conversation which is a business talking to other businesses. But the new world has unveiled two other conversations, a consumer to business conversation where the consumer is talking back to us, and a consumer to consumer conversation which is what we call social.

The consumer to business conversation is the one we are ill-prepared for… “

Steve and I went on to talk a bit and he made the point that so many marketers of large corporations use the excuse that they have 10 million customers. And it’s not possible to have a relationship with 10 million people. He feels you have to start with the ones you want to have a conversation with and the ones that want to talk with you. We both agreed you just have to start somewhere and be open to what evolves.

After we said our goodbyes, I sat still for a bit thinking about my frustrations with articulating the value of meaningful relationships to marketers.

Most marketers are still looking for volume.

I get it. That’s how they’re being measured. And while keeping track of metrics and growing the numbers of people you connect with is a piece of the puzzle, it’s not the entire picture. I believe you have to go back to what the natural born “people-people” get intuitively:

You have to make each person you engage with — both online and offline — feel as if they are the most important person in the room.

So. How can you create an environment that rewards and celebrates real and meaningful relationships? What other marketing lessons have you learned from observing people who understand relationships?

Has an organization you love ever made you feel like you are the only person in the room?

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