Did you start your business to have a "one-night stand"? Did you launch your company, found a startup, or join an organization just to make more money? If so, stop reading this column now.

I'm about to share the four ways to create truly meaningful relationships with your customers that will take your startup to the next level. Having "one-night stands" with customers may have worked for some startups before, but in this hyper-competitive age of technology, I've seen firsthand how customer churn can kill a company. 

Entrepreneurs know that the success of their companies is dependent on customers. Without paying customers, your startup will never get off the ground.

To help find these customers, businesses have traditionally relied on marketing to generate a bunch of new leads at the top of the funnel to find qualified prospects for sales. But what resulted from generating all these leads was that marketers became bad dates only looking for one-night stands!

Marketers would never greet a prospect at the metaphorical door, on their own terms. Instead, they opted to honk the car horn incessantly in the driveway (i.e., blasting out emails) hoping maybe the prospect would come out (replying to said email).

Think about it: a sales development representative (SDR) or account executive (AE) is constantly calling a prospect while marketing sends email blasts, and maybe immediately, maybe tomorrow, or maybe a year from now, that prospect will hopefully say, "Okay, let's talk."

These leads would shuffle through a buyer's journey (or courtship if you will) to hopefully become paying customers. Who wants to be courted like that? There's no flowers or candy, no meaningful conversations, and no foundational activities for establishing a relationship.

And in reality, this is no way to build your business. According to Forrester Research, less than 1% of B2B leads will ever become paying customers. That means if your company's marketing team is focused on lead generation, you could be wasting up to 99% of your marketing dollars trying to engage with people who will never have a relationship with your company.

Here are 4 ways to build customer relationships instead of having "one-night stands". 

1. Focus on engagement, not leads

People who still think leads are the be-all and end-all KPI for marketing are starting to drive me a little nuts. Kind of like that obnoxious guy or girl at the bar.

In our modern, tech-savvy world, why would you continue to count new leads as a success metric for your company? It's like if you were dating and you counted getting tons of phone numbers as a successful night. If you followed up on all of those phone numbers, how many great dates would you get? It sounds like a waste of time and a recipe for heartbreak.

You have the capabilities to find that right person for you, and your company, then try to have a conversation. Both marketing and sales should share the common goal of trying to engaging prospects instead of generating leads. The world is a much better place when sales and marketing are aligned on goals.

2. Drive conversations vs. conversions

Let's say you're tracking conversion rates as a success metric. Most digital marketing professionals still are. You love driving people to your website so you can cheer when a form is completed. Yeah! Score! A conversion!

Then what happens? You try to engage this person with a follow-up phone call, drop them into a drip campaign or add them to a nurturing email. Do you ever hear from them again? If not, that sounds a lot like a one-night stand.

 3. Generate revenue instead of registration numbers

Like flowers and candy, content marketing is a great way to start off a date. Your prospect gets to hear from thought leaders about the problems in your industry and how your business is a solution. Your marketing team plans regular webinars and invites anybody and everybody to register and attend.

Big registration numbers are exciting, but what does this actually do for revenue? That's what sales and your executive team care about. Sure, you got the prospect's attention with your webinar, but what happens next to turn that prospect into a sales opportunity is what truly matters.

When I was Head of Marketing at Pardot (now Salesforce), I recall how we saw 33% higher win rate when someone attended a product webinar after the opportunity was created. Now that's the kind information that can shape your marketing programs. It's all about knowing what is working to drive new revenue and more new customers.

4. Plan great dates

The way you design activities to engage your potential customers should be like planning a date -- personalized based on who that person is instead of using the same old pickup lines. The content and activities should align with not only the account's stage of the buyer's journey but also to the individual buyer personas.

Your prospective customers deserve special "dates." You can't expect someone to open the email you just blasted to thousands of people and actually respond. That's not marketing. It's just "spray and pray." Instead, show the love to your prospects and customers by designing personalized marketing experiences.

Think about it this way: you should not bring thousands of frogs to your door, "kissing" each one with a form completion. Focus on defining what your perfect partner's qualities would be. Those are the customers that will help your startup to grow and your company to flourish.

Published on: Nov 1, 2017