How about relationships before revenue?

Relationships Before Revenue

I’ve worked a lot of different places, and had a lot of different bosses, and observed a lot of different senior management teams (and been friends with quite a few), and most of them focus on revenue (and/or growth) first and foremost. This is logical: in order to pay people (and get paid themselves), that needs to be there. The simple problem upfront? When you focus a bit too much on revenue, you often lose a chance to build real relationships — and those might turn into bigger, badder, and broader revenue in about a year or two.

Let’s start with someone smarter/more famous than I, that being Gwyneth Paltrow. Here’s a quote from her in a profile of her in Fast Company, that I read on a delayed flight from Las Vegas to DFW on Friday:

Looking back, Paltrow sees that part of the reason the email list grew was that she focused on the content before she ever thought about how Goop might make money. “I was doing something from a very real, very honest place,” she says of those early newsletters, her hands clasped lightly. “There wasn’t anything commercial about it. So when we decided to foray into commerciality, there was something to trust.”


Now here’s something from a recent article on Forbes:

Pressure from the C-suite to deliver immediate results can derail a perfectly good content strategy. By focusing on short-term wins, you fail to see the bigger picture.

For example, two years ago, I wrote a few articles on parenting, helping others, and other topics unrelated to content marketing. These articles didn’t drive an impressive number of leads, but that wasn’t the point. Part of authentic brand building is giving your audience a backstage pass to your company and the faces behind it. And as a result of these articles, we recently signed one of our largest clients.

Yep again.

We live in a tight business climate, for sure — I am sure many top leaders are worried about another 2008 and what that would mean — and as a result, there is a lot of focus on success now, now, now. The problem is, that attitude is absolutely terrible for marketing, branding, sales, and a handful of other spaces in your business. In order to get people to want to know you, trust you, advocate for you, and everything else that you should be trying to move towards — well, for those things to happen, time is often a crucial factor.

From that same article on Forbes:

When we initially executed our content marketing campaign, we didn’t see a huge ROI. However, we understood that content marketing is a commitment to brand building that would not only help drive sales conversions, but also differentiate us as an industry leader.

In the past year, we’ve increased our conversion rate by more than 151 percent and experienced other benefits, including PR opportunities from others sourcing our content, brand advocates, and referral partners.

There are very few “quick revenue hits” in the world right now, and if you spend your time simply chasing those, you’ll miss out on a lot of other things.

Let me throw a personal example out here. I work for a company in the luxury travel industry called Virtuoso. Every year, we host this massive industry trade show/networking event/supernova in Las Vegas called Virtuoso Travel Week. People within the industry — B2B — understand what it is and its value, but the end travelers of the world might not. So, I wrote an article about that. It was shared a lot and people commented on it and all that. That’s good! But … it’s not immediate revenue or ROI. So in a way, that’s bad!

But no, it’s good. That’s an article that lives out in the world, and if people want to understand what Virtuoso is, or what its biggest event is… well, now they can. I did the same thing at the end of the week, when I analyzed an actual travel sale (booking) made at the event.

These articles have limited revenue potential or immediate cash infusion/ROI, but they help the brand … and they help people understand what it is we’re trying to do, and how that happens at a granular level at events and between real people.

Point being: if you want to really chase revenue, it needs to start with a relationship with the people you expect to eventually pay you. Remember The Stranger’s Dilemma? It’s a very real thing, and it factors in deeply to how we think about brands, content, sales, and a handful of other business functions.

By the way, I once used the phrase “relationships before revenue, baby!” to a co-worker and he looked at me like I had six heads. So I think I might be in the minority here.

Ted Bauer