If you want to get serious about building a great brand, you have to understand something.

Great business isn’t just about customers, it’s about relationships. And building something meaningful, influential, and unique starts with cultivating those relationships.

Provide value. Ask for nothing in return.

The other day, a good friend bought a new mattress and needed some help moving it. It was no problem for me to take an hour out of my day to help a buddy out. I didn’t do it with the expectation of being offered some cash or to receive an equal favour in return; there’s no debt to be paid.

This small deed — being available for something so small — is what you do in a friendship. It’s a relationship, and it’s important to me. This is the same attitude you need to have in your marketing.

Why should it be any different for the people who actually pay you money? For the people who follow your Instagram and share your Facebook posts? They are giving you their attention — the most valuable commodity in society today — and it’s something you do not want to lose.

Provide value. Ask for nothing in return.

 We are inundated with display ads everywhere we look. We've developed natural filters that allow us to subconsciously block out this kind of advertising.

We are inundated with display ads everywhere we look. We've developed natural filters that allow us to subconsciously block out this kind of advertising.

Perfectly timed pop-up ads, shouting your sales pitch on the radio, and baiting people into clicking product offers are turning people off. You no longer get to tell people what to do.

Consumers are better-informed than ever before. People will make their own decision how and when they want to. But provide real value to an audience, and now your consumers have a relationship with you. People appreciate that, and it’s why they’ve chosen to give you their attention in the first place.

Like the Jaws of Life, the Internet has pried the world apart. It has provided opportunity and transparency like history has never seen, and while it might seem scary, it’s an overwhelmingly positive thing.

While some may feel negatively about the idea that everybody becomes exposed by the Internet, the flipside of the same coin is that you have an opportunity to reveal yourself to people — to interact with your audience and build a real connection that wasn’t even possible a decade ago.

Talk to the market, engage in authentic dialogue, show genuine interest, and always, always respond. Be available and answer questions (yes, for free). Give advice in your field and share your knowledge — demonstrate that you have expertise. Start a vlog and show behind the scenes. Write an ebook and give it away. Create more ways for your audience to interact with you, to get to know you and fall in love with who you are and what you’re doing.

 A great way to build relationships with your customers is through social media.

A great way to build relationships with your customers is through social media.

“How does this improve my quarterly numbers?”

“How many people will this bring through the door?”

“Can’t I just buy billboards and banner ads?”

You’re asking the wrong questions. It’s time for a complete reset. Instead, ask:

“How does this improve brand loyalty?”

“How many people will share my brand with their network?”

“Does the market want to see this content?”

This isn’t advice for everyone; it’s advice for people who want to do something awesome. Truthfully, you might not be one of them. If you treat your business like a job and just want to make a living, you might be able to get by doing things the same old way. Maybe.

It’s a mindset shift to understand that not everything has to have an immediate monetary return, and if you’re not willing to upheave the status quo, and to invest more creative energy and more effort than ever before, that’s OK. Most people aren’t. But if you want to be different, and you want to build something really, really extraordinary, focus on relationships.

Provide value. Ask for nothing in return.