I recently read the book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith. Goldsmith is an executive coach and the book identifies twenty obstacles that successful people may face when they want to take their careers “to the next level.” As I was reviewing the literature on developing brand ambassadorship programs and building brand loyalty in communities, I was reminded of many of the admonitions from the book. It seems that building strong relationships in a community requires overcoming many of the same obstacles that Goldsmith’s executive clients must overcome to advance their careers.
An Excessive Need to be Me
Goldsmith identifies “an excessive need to be me” as one of the most difficult flaws to overcome. As people we have certain notions of ourselves that we cling to, resisting change, because think we’re being true to ourselves. Goldsmith points out that it’s not about us, its about what other people think of us. Similarly, Christopher Barger points out that one of the first hurdles that brands and potential brand ambassadors both need to do is to “get over themselves.” Brand managers need to realize that regardless of how mighty and powerful their brand is that they can’t build a strong relationship with potential brand ambassadors by attempting to coerce them into doing their bidding. Likewise, brand ambassadors need to realize that even if they’ve successfully built “large” communities that brand managers are used to dealing with much larger communities; consequently, brand ambassadors also need to bring a sense of humility to the table.
Making Destructive Comments
Making destructive comments, even if true, will not engender trust between two parties trying to build a relationship. Brand ambassadors need to be careful not to label the brand/brand manager as “stupid”, “shout” at the brand, or organize a group of vigilantes against the brand. Brands should be given the opportunity to fix mistakes without the brand manager and/or community “piling on”. Also, just because a brand manager disagrees with the brand ambassador over the best course of action to be taken, does not mean that the brand manager should be labeled as “not getting it” or “stupid”. Goldsmith counsels that destructive comments can be avoided by first asking yourself “Is it worth it?” and “Will this comment benefit anyone?” If the answer to either question is “no”, it is better to say (and post) nothing.
According to Goldsmith, “not listening” is a key flaw that sends messages to others that you’re rude and that you don’t care about them. Likewise, Barger and many others point out that failing to pay attention to what potential brand ambassadors write about and making inappropriate pitches to them does not communicate that you are “listening” to them. Brand managers also need to sincerely listen to criticism from brand ambassadors and take action when appropriate.
Failing to Express Gratitude
The easiest failure to overcome as identified by Goldsmith is the failure to express gratitude. He emphasizes how easy it is to say “thank you”, but how often people neglect to do this. Barger emphasizes that brand managers need to follow up meetings with potential brand ambassadors by reaching out to them and thanking them for their time and contributions. As he states “thank you goes a long way” (in building trust relationships).
It appears that the skills needed to build strong relationships with brand ambassadors and in brand communities overlap with many of the general skills needed to build face-to-face human relationships. What other examples of common relationship blunders have you experienced while attempting to develop brand ambassador or community relationships? How could these have been avoided?