In the past, because relationships and influences used to be so hidden from view, we had few options but to go directly to the person we were hoping to influence - whether to sell them something, convince them of a course of action, get support, etc. Interestingly enough, except for people who are primed and ready to be influenced that tactic doesn't work all that well.
So this is where advertising has traditionally come in - something that gets in front of people, makes them aware, and warms them up. But it also annoys most people because it gets in the way of something else they are trying to do. Social media is so effective because it allows people to get exposure and 'warm up' to ideas, products, or you through a trusted source - their existing connections. As an individual that is much more natural and much less forced. People are also much less likely to throw up barriers and a defenses against information when it comes from a trusted source and it is in a context that makes sense.
All of this suggests to me that if you are trying to get someone to try something, change their minds, or think differently.... going direct may not be the most effective way to do it, although that seems counter-intuitive. Instead, find the company your targets keep. Start with the people in your targets circle who are receptive to your message. Surround and envelop that target with company that is supportive of your goals. It's called triangulation and it works pretty well, especially if you are looking to build long-term, trusted relationships. If you are looking for a quick transaction, it's probably not a good method for you because it does takes investment and thought.
I've been having the network conversation with more and more organizations - urging them to think about all of the influencers that surround their core target. No person or organization exists in a vacuum. The more that they get your message from different parties that they trust, the more likely they will be proactively interested in your message. I believe that this dynamic will make corporate partnerships even more of a strategic differentiator than they are today. It will also force companies to re-assess how cooperative they are in their markets and with competitors because any tactics seen as negative will reverberate and break down a web of trust around their targets.
Why does trust matter so much in today's business relationships? Well, Chris Brogan & Julien Smith can tell you but here's my perspective:
- The speed of information flow is increasing very rapidly which is causing decision cycle times to decrease rapidly. In an environment where people do not have the time to ponder and weigh options, they rely more and more on the trust they have in various information sources.
- High-trust relationships reduce pressures - whether that is performance pressure or margin pressure or time pressure. Trust relationships typically have a high degree of empathy and forgiveness which keeps the parties loyal to a relationship even when things go wrong - and it reduces negative confrontations.
Who are you trying to convince of something? Have you thought of your relationships with all of the parties in your targets network of influence?