13 tips to growing business relationships

Today I had 3 clients give me a call about growing their business and they were looking for the BIG secret (dammit I hate the way society has interpreted that book) about how to make successful partnerships. Here is my advice:

  1. Be human.
  2. Love people (even if you have to pretend a little. *caution you are only allowed to do this for a little bit. See below for more on this topic).
  3. Look up people (businesses) you think are cool.
  4. Reach out with an email, a phone call, or my favourite a letter (you know with stamps and everything). Don’t be afraid if they say no, what do you have to lose? You don’t know them now anyway? Just makes room in your schedule to meet with other way cooler people.
  5. Stop being so damn stiff.
  6. Read as much about their stories before you meet them as you can. It is time well spent learning fun facts. It is also usually seen as someone really doing their homework.
  7. Have a meeting at an ice cream parlour, a bar, over some wine, at an art gallery, take them on a hike (aka be different. Show them part of your world or get to know their world a bit). My favourite meetings have been on the canal with some hot chocolate and beaver tails. And no this not some crazy younger generation thing. Last year I met with someone who I did work with on the canal and he was 56 years old and willing to try anything. Remember life and work can be fun if we choose to make it so. I mean all you have to do is ask (what’s the fear, they say no). Throw out the invite or ask them for an invite to a fun spot they love. Most of the clients I know are thrilled to get their butts out of the office.
  8. Listen to their stories.
  9. Ask questions.
  10. Tell a little bit of your story.
  11. Decide whether or not you want to spend more time working on something, anything with them or if you want to jump ship. Then proceed to go or no.
  12. Go away and brainstorm some cool projects and then throw them their way, see if they are interested.
  13. If they seem like good people then nurture that relationship and you just might find yourself beginning to love people, your work, and yourself a bit more.

My strategy all along in life (and it only keeps getting more and more engrained) is that I work with people who I love, who make me laugh, who I have a good time with. You know the saying ‘life is too damn short….well just don’t hang out with people you don’t get along with.

Of course sometimes this can be easier said than done because to be able to know the people you get along with you normally have to know yourself a little bit. If you follow along on here you will have probably figured out I don’t think too many people really do know themselves all that well. In fact I think part of us gets lost everyday when we aren’t doing the things we love. So maybe that is step 1. figure out who the hell you are and what you like first. Really think about it. What are some of your hobbies? When are the happiest, like really really happy? What are you doing? Who are you with? Inside or outside? Crowded or small group? What is something you could talk about all day long without ever knowing the time?

Back to my point, find the people that make you smile and harness all their energy. I have found so much power in reaching out and listening to their stories every day. Good or bad listen to what they have to say and you will learn lots, about them and about yourself. Who knows you follow this sage (hardy-hard) advice and you might just find some new friends along the way to building an amazing business.

ps. The biggest fear I hear all the time about reaching out is “well what if they don’t like me?” Well that is fine. Isn’t it? I mean if they don’t like you then you get to move on. Remember be yourself. I mean if you try to be funny, outgoing, and edgy but really you like being reserved and pretty calm then what is the point of putting on the fake personality? If they don’t like who you genuinely are then working together would probably only be a huge pain anyway.

Now get outta here and go reach out to someone you think is cool (this isn’t high school anymore, even though sometimes it might feel like it, you can talk to anyone. The playground is HUGE).

The ever elusive viral video and the penguin.

So about 4 or 5 times a month I have a different business email me to ask if I would be willing to work to help them produce a viral video. I’m always excited to be contacted because of my creative design, my brainstorming skills, and my desire to work on the abstract and the abnormal. I always find it a huge compliment when people come knocking but I do have a few things to say about this so-called viral video phenomenon.

As a follow up to the viral video requests I usually send a message filled with all kinds of questions about their business, their message, their personality, their customers, and their expectations. This is the exact point where most of these conversations fall apart. Businesses know they want VIRAL and they know they want to make a video but what they rarely seem to know is their message. What is it that they will try to convey to their customers? I love asking 1 question in particular: What is the personality that you would like to show? A business almost never has an answer to this one. If you think about a business as it’s own entity then shouldn’t it have it’s own personality?

Here is my response to those that aren’t certain a personality is necessary but still want a viral video. I usually send them a copy of this video (mostly because I think it is funny and quite cute, wait can professional ass kickers say cute? Well I said it so get over it):

Then I ask them if I should make a video with a penguin in it because it has nearly 5.5 million views, pretty viral if you ask me, then we could just stick their website at the end (hmm…maybe I’m a bit too crass, what do you think?)

Yes video can be important and yes reaching out to potential millions if not billions of people on the web is an exciting thing but it takes a bit of time and a bit of planning. It also take a lot of getting to know what your message could look like? Then once you know your message how do you visually want to show it? 2 very important questions that will take time but should be fun creating if done properly.

So how do you hone your message? Your personality? I have a few easy tips from other projects I have had the pleasure of working on and some recent advice from an awesome guy I just had the pleasure of chatting with (thanks Drew Dudley).

1. Look at your current content and take all the individual words and images out leaving them by themselves on sticky notes. Then move them around and ask members of your team to pick only their top 3 words and/or images as it relates to the business. This should tell you something about your business and it’s personality.

2. Look at a competing brand/business and look at their messaging and images (are they doing some good work, some bad work, is it similar?). Now do the same thing as activity 1 only with their words and images. Do those words fit your business? Your brand? Your personality? Now ask yourself one VERY important question, how are you different? Why would a consumer want to pick you over them?

3. Ask. Throw out all the words and images you have and start all over. Ask both colleagues and consumers for 1 whole week to just describe your business over and over and over (you can do this in a million different ways-seek creative help if need be to do this in a fun and engaging way). Let those who work in your service and those who USE your service describe you. Believe me this will be an eye-opener for sure. Let it be honest and let it be anonymous (that’s usually where having someone like me come in can be helpful. I don’t work for the business and I can group lots of answers together so people tend to talk a whole lot more freely around me.)

4. Play! Brainstorm all kinds of ideas, play with words, do some colouring, redesign with some mock ups, let loose (again, something adults have become crappy at but an area where I can help most excel. Tends to be the number 1 reason most hire me). This means creating both time and space to do this.

5. Watch. Find some of the funniest and most impactful videos that you can on the internet and look for the cues that really got you hooked. How would those work with your message? With your personality?

6. Plan. Find a bit of time to go over various concepts and put together some storyboards (this by no means has to be a professionally drawn concept but rather a rough outline of how the whole production would flow). Ask yourself what could each part of the video look like? Do all the scenes lead to a strong message? A strong personality?

7. Finally this is a step I just heard about yesterday thanks to Drew. What about thinking about an Anti-Commercial. What would that look like? What kind of language would you use? What kind of corny nostalgic material would you put in it? Who would you get for a cameo? What if you wanted no one on the planet to buy your goods or services, what would that look like? I bet there is some hilarity in there that might just spark a few good ideas.

8. Ok now you are all done and you have shot your video, wonderful! Now what’s the plan for getting it to the masses?

These are some of the tips and a hint at just some of the process I would use to help you design any kind of video you like. So the next time you hit that send button to any company about making a viral video you better be prepared to share your message (a good company can help you craft this) and your personality (one last hint, if they don’t ask you about your personality then chances are that company probably isn’t the right one to work with). Also a good company will be able to gather stories and help you define your personality.

I guess in the end I can ask this: What is your penguin that you would like to show the world?