When your car breaks down on the way to an important event that begins in 1 hour, and roadside assistance is not going to make it in time, who do you call?

Your best friend.

Your best friend is always there for you. They’ve got your back. No matter what they have going on, no matter how busy they are, if you need them, they’re there. No questions asked.

Why is this? Because there is a relationship. This isn’t some-one-sided arrangement where they’re at your beck and call—it’s a bond that has been built over the course of years.

When they forgot their wallet, you covered their meal. “No big deal, don’t worry about it,” you said. When their grandmother died, you were there to listen and be a shoulder to cry on. You helped them move, you gave them the pep talk after the last big breakup.

You invested in the relationship.

The point was never to exploit their friendship for the sole purpose of having someone you could call at any time, day or night, when your car broke down. You gave of yourself and asked for nothing in return. This is what built trust, loyalty, and commitment.

Good best-friend relationships aren’t about exploitation or favors. The same goes with a good marriage—it’s about giving of yourself and expecting nothing in return. Look at every healthy relationship and this is what you will find. You won’t find one person keeping tabs on what good deeds they did or what favors they’re owed back. It’s about giving.

If this is how healthy, personal relationships are built, why do brands and businesses treat their customers differently?

Imagine if every day, without fail, your best friend called you up and asked you for another favor. I’d wager you wouldn’t think of him as your best friend for long.

Why do so many companies try to exploit their customers, treat them like herds of cattle, and incessantly try to “sell” them on something?

I think there’s a better way.

Enter Relationship Marketing

What’s the best way to get a best friend? Be a best friend. You want to build loyalty? You want to grow your followers and have a lasting fan base? You want to build an audience that is eager to support you and buy your products? You have have to be loyal yourself. You have to be consistent. You have to provide value. You have to build relationships.

Treat your customers, your followers, your subscribers, and your audience like the people that they are. People have relationships. How do you build relationships? You invest. You give of yourself.

Provide value with no strings attached.

It’s super simple when you think of this in terms of personal relationships. If you want a best friend, you don’t post an ad that says, “Looking for friendly individual to do random favors on short notice.”

People notice generosity. People notice selflessness. Everyone today is out to get something from you. We’re all wary of it. It’s such a breath of fresh air to encounter someone who gives freely. They give away all their knowledge and everything they know and ask for nothing in return. People notice that.

When you give of yourself freely, people will trust you. You are making it clear that you have their best interest in mind. What you will find is that people will be begging for ways to compensate you. They’ve received so much value from you where you’ve asked for nothing in return, that they will be looking for any way to pay you back.

When you do finally put something up for sale or make available some product they can purchase, you’ll find that the response will be overwhelming. You’ll get emails from people saying they didn’t even need your product, but they bought it anyway because they’re so on board with what you’re doing.

How do I know this? I’ve been on both sides. I’ve given of myself freely, and I’ve seen people go out of their way to support and compensate me.

I’ve also been on the receiving end of value from people who gave freely and then gone out of my way to pay them back ten fold.

I want you to ask yourself the following:

  • What value am I providing?
  • Am I delivering value consistently?
  • How can I regularly provide more value?

The Long Game Mindset

The sales will come. The customers will come. This is not an overnight approach and it’s not a way to get quick money.

I’m talking about the kind of loyalty advertising can’t buy. I’m talking about the kind of revenue pushy salesmanship can’t generate.

Don’t worry about building a large audience.

100 people who are truly dedicated is better than 10,000 passive “followers” any day. Focus on building relationships with the audience you already have and they will support you in growing.