While it lasted, my first (and probably last) foray into a professional partnership was interesting and definitely exciting. My former partner and I hit the road around the Triangle to reconnect with her friends/colleagues, introduce our little agency to the world, and maybe drum up a little business along the way. From three pitches, we received three firm commitments – bringing our record to a perfect 4-0 since launch. Needless to say, we were a little excited. Our success was a testament to the power of combining relationship building with capabilities.

My former business partner was a superstar at networking. Where she “brought the heat” in that regard, I’d contribute on the sales and pitching side of the business. In fact, before each of our meetings, I’d remind her of our meeting mantra – which should be YOUR marketing mantra and in the back of your mind with every piece of content you create or communication you initiate:

“What do you need, and how can we help?”

This is a trick I learned from my very first job in marketing as an intern for Suissa Miller Advertising (waaaaay back in the 90s but that’s another story for another day), and it’s so powerful that it’s resonated with me and guided my business development approach for 20 years. Using this method is incredibly simple and so successful because it aligns and engages both sides in a transparent and mutually beneficial manner.

What do you need?
Let’s look at the first part of this classic one-two punch. As marketers, it’s tempting to fall into the trap of focusing on the story we want to tell. After all, marketing is “merely” telling the right story to the right person at the right time. In order to hit that mark, though, you have to understand who you’re communicating with, what their motivations are, and what their obstacles have been. The best way to understand that? Ask. Your audience appreciates your desire to understand their problems, you connect on a personal level, and you get the information you need to help them. Win, win, win.

How can we help?
As professionals, we’re all in business to be compensated for our time and expertise. There’s no use in pretending that’s not the case (and I find it personally disrespectful to be anything but transparent in this regard). Structuring your marketing and sales efforts to ask your audience how you can help them moves the conversation towards a transaction while respecting their need to control the terms of the relationship and prioritize the solutions they need.

With all of the free information and resources available to your clients and potential audience, it’s important to recognize that as a whole, clients are well-prepared and take a much more proactive role in engagements than previously. Instead of the losing proposition of competing on price, compete on value, solutions, and relationships. Respect their needs, their motivations, and their goals and your practice will be better for it. I know mine is.

So let me ask you – what do you need, and how can we help?