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Monday, January 05, 2009

Trust, relationships, brand and integrity

You most likely appreciate that words have different meanings, depending on context. As well, the meanings can be twisted through your own interpretation and memories -- as well as your clients. (Images and videos are even more powerful emotionally and, likewise, can be doctored both deliberately by experience and perception -- consider how Middle East wars are fought these days as much on the television screen as on the battlefield.)

How, then, do you achieve marketing truth and genuine long-range success? I will go out on a limb and suggest some basic principals, enhanced by recent internal business developments and external memories.

People rarely change in deep, fundamental ways
This means your first impressions are often right, unless the other people you are working with have the ability to put on a good front. Not surprisingly great salespeople (and con artists) are really good at modifying their front to turn you on and to get you to buy stuff (or services) from them. They know how to win your trust. If they are ethical, they will earn it and you will continue with a mutually profitable relationship.

Once burned, twice shy, three times a victim
Most people and businesses deserve a second chance, but you are pushing things if you think this should go for a third round. Of course, in the second chance, you should use common sense -- trust requires you to retain an open mind, be honorable and open in your dealings, and so on, but you will obviously want to watch for warning signs and of course be wary of long-term obligations.

You will often hear only part of the story, and in really major cases, will never find the complete answer
Remember the Post 9-11 anthrax scare -- one which initially most of us thought was part of a planned and diabolical Al Quaeda plot? Turns out that the evidence points to the whole thing being an 'inside job' from a U.S. research scientist seeking an escape from obscurity. Unfortunately the authorities initially got the wrong person, and dragged him through the mud. Then they found a second suspect -- who committed suicide when investigators purportedly were about to lay charges. But the evidence against the second person is not entirely compelling -- there are real holes in the story, and the investigation and public glare could cause unintended consequences. The same sort of thing happens in business and marketing. We use our best understanding of what happens to learn and diagnose issues, but often we cannot completely solve the puzzle. All we can do is get a little closer to the truth.

You'll find your answers in many places, when the time is right and if you are ready to see what is around you
In a recent situation, I triangulated my own experiences, with feedback from colleagues and co-workers, in allowing someone a second chance at a relationship. (This included accepting full responsibilities for my failings in the first edition of the relationship.) Amazingly, as things progressed, people told me things that they had kept to themselves, warning me of risks and unexpected consequences. You should obviously be wary of multiple negative warning signs: If two or three people from different backgrounds and circumstances warn you away, you know there are issues -- and if people you highly trust (based on their own experiences) tell you to watch out, then of course you are likely to land in trouble.

Trust means not freezing up, nor does it mean letting yourself become a sucker
Here you have the big contradiction but truth in marketing and business. With all the sharks out there, you will inevitably be burned once or twice, or more, but if you don't take risks, if you fail to let go and allow your trust to express itself freely, you will never get very far in business or life. The answer of course is to combine your own strong personal focus with a diversity of relationships and revenue and investment sources. Then you can tolerate the occasional mistake, and usually turn it into a long-range opportunity. (A really good con artist, like Bernie Madoff, might get through all your screens described above, but the only people put into destitution were the dumb ones who put everything they owned in his hands -- and recommended their friends to do the same thing.)

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