Why business is all about human connections

Flickr user buddawiggi

(MoneyWatch) This may be hard for some of you to believe, but there was actually a time when "cut and paste" meant taking a pair of scissors, cutting something out, and pasting it onto a piece of paper. Now it just takes a few clicks and you can do it over and over again, just like that. Therein lies the problem.

I used to think that consumers and businesses have come to identify any sort of direct marketing as one form of spam or another. I used to think it was all pretty much ineffective.

Today, I decided that's not the case. If you can make a genuine connection with a human being, then a transaction is at least possible. But if you're employing copy-and-paste marketing, forget it.

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Here's what changed my mind.

Today I received an email solicitation from a PR firm through the contact page on my company website. It was just this ridiculously long block of text. I stopped counting at 1,000 words. It was clearly a copy-and-paste job. I have no idea what that PR firm wanted me to write about today, but I'm pretty sure this isn't it.

Then I received another email inviting me -- or so I thought -- to the 2012 Green Initiatives Conference. But the first line of the email said "Hi *first name*." What a turnoff. I clicked the "thumbs down" button and banished it to the junk-mail folder.

Half an hour later, my home office phone rang. It was from an 800 number -- surely a telemarketer -- but I picked it up anyway. That's the only way you've even got a chance of getting them to stop calling and take you off their call list (if it isn't a dreaded robo-call, that is).

Anyway, the telemarketer was polite and professional, addressed me by name, and said he was calling from an HR outsourcing firm called Trinet. I told him we had no current need so he thanked me for my time, said "have a great day," and hung up.

You know, I despise any kind of spam intrusion, but to my surprise I actually remember the name of the company, and should the need arise I will absolutely give them a shot. That's right, folks. Today was the day that a telemarketer connected with me.

The only real difference between these three real scenarios is the first two employed a copy-and-paste marketing approach, while the last one tried to connect with me as if I was a real person (which I'm pretty sure I am).

This sort of distinction extends into all areas of marketing, business, and beyond. The reason is simple. Whether your product or service is for consumers, small businesses, or large enterprises, you're always marketing to individual people. And what resonates with people is something that speaks to them, that appeals to a perceived need or makes some sort of emotional connection.

While we all have to come to terms with the cold, hard reality that there are zillions of entities vying for our attention and business, the one thing none of us can stand is the feeling that our time is being callously wasted by someone who doesn't know or care enough about his own job to do it right. Same goes for a company that treats us like we're nothing but a generated lead.

Look at it this way: We're all in the business of selling something. I don't care if you're a telemarketer, small business owner, salesperson, or CEO. In any business transaction, there's at least one person doing the pitching and another person being pitched to. And you know what? It all starts with a connection. Without that, there's never a transaction. Never.

So the next time you're tempted to copy and paste, just start typing instead. If it's a phone call, imagine the person on the other end of the line is right there in front of you. Try communicating like they're real people. At least then you'll have a chance of getting the deal done.

Image courtesy of Flickr user buddawiggi

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