real relationships are tough going

building real relationships is a tough process. It starts from the moment you first meet, and leads to an amazing journey. We all want a real relationship when we feel trusted and we trust, we grow and we expand. As our relationships become more real we learn that they can only grow if we understand and support.


we all have nuances; character traits that make us a little bit different. These are unique windows into the very being of who we are, and each nugget helps us to understand each other in a stronger way. We can see how we react to certain moments, behave with different triggers, and engage with different emotions. Each part we understand better creates an opportunity for our relationships to grow.

this is one of the hardest things to do in relationships. We are so passionate about what we believe – about what we create – that we are often desperate to showcase our point of view. We all have stories to tell and we are often desperate to tell them whenever we can. So many relationships would become so much stronger if we were to stop and listen. Not just hear.

by truly listening to what people are saying, the words they use, their behaviours, habits, and even their body language we can understand a lot about how we should be building these relationships to last.

this of course does not mean we shouldn’t communicate ourselves. Understanding each other allows us to build real relationships where our core values are aligned.


support is the true measure of a relationship. When a relationship is built on a strong support structure it becomes very difficult to shake its foundations. By supporting each other we are showing that we are not self-centred and that or priorities are not solely focused on ourselves.

there are a number of ways by which we can show support. Listening is one of them. Talking and sharing is another important way, as well as being there when most needed, and not when not wanted. It is a careful balance of understanding when you need to be giving support, and when to stand back.

not all relationships are great all of the time, but for them to get stronger then we have to understand and support.

for some reason in a marketing environment the perception of how to build great relationships changes.

the personal journey filled with emotions and empathy seems to get lost. The focus instead is on what the business wants to sell and how to broadcast that in the loudest way – cutting through the noise.

at times this is necessary. This approach, though, makes it all that much harder. It’s like a series of one night stands, a superficial approach at building a long lasting relationship. Without offering understanding and support how can a business expect to create a brand affinity which leads to real relationships.

too often businesses focus on the tools that make marketing happen, expecting that these processes will build the emotion on which relationships are built on. These tools, however, are only the route with which to communicate, and however effective many of them might be in hosting conversation and reaching the right people this means little without engaging on the emotional level of that audience, triggering the understanding and support for a real relationship.

after all, a great dinner date or outing does not in itself make a real relationship unless worked on and moulded.

social media, email, websites, PPC, and so on are fantastic routes to market. Scalable, transparent (for the most part), and effective. Take away the desire to build a real relationship however and suddenly conversation are based only transactional motivations, and the market size is focused on the minority percentage who are active at that stage.

transactional messages means that at every touchpoint you are reinvesting into the same audience base in the hope that the passive are now active, whilst your previous actives may have now become passive themselves.

this leaky funnel can be optimised through real relationships, as transactions now become second nature to an emotive relationship which has – over time of course – been built on brand affinity, understanding and support.

we communicate in many ways. We are already hearing our customers through using tools such as surveys, market research, feedback forms, forums and communities, social media, focus groups, word of mouth and more. These platforms are increasingly showing us what it is our customers are saying.

communicating is all about analysing this information. Listening shows we have taken this information, thought about it, understood it, and developed ourselves because of it. We are not looking out for conversations just about us. To truly listen we understand our customers in the contexts of their own lives – not ours. How do we fit into their everyday, and therefore when do we not fit in, and what can we do about that.

the eagerness to build a real relationship begins the very people that make up our business. It’s the ethos that runs through them. This naturally morphs and influences the messages and creatives that flow through the numerous digital channels we use to build real relationships with.

this is reflected in all the micro moments that we have with customers. From the direct touchpoints to the more subtle ones, we can make sure that the focus is on building the relationship rather than the commoditisation of the channels we would use.

all real relationships take time and work. The high’s and lo’s, the things we get right and wrong. This emotional investment in understanding and support is what builds into a crescendo and harmony in the relationship, and what makes it real. A strong marketing communications strategy uses the digital channels to show how we understand and support; giving real relationships the best chance to grow.

Francis has extensive experience in working on complex digital marketing strategies for ecommerce, B2B, communities, and more encompassing all digital marketing channels.

Francis Mac Aonghus