WE are all aware of the acronyms of B2B or B2C as defining our business and marketing strategies.  They are important to identify your target customer, the way in which you communicate your brand and your offering.

To define what sort of business we are – to ourselves and to others.  They define the target market and the route to that market.  But this is only half the story – the other acronym worthy of consideration is H2H (Human to Human) or P2P (Person to Person). Cultivating strong relationships can be the difference between success and failure.

My business certainly focuses on human to human or in another way, people to people.

Much of marketing is conducted in an impersonal way – digital and traditional methods have relied on brand recognition to drive customer acquisition, in succeeding without talking or meeting the end customer. In effect a pure B2 or B2C experience. There is no doubt this works for many, just as many start this way and then move onto a more personal level – B2B2H2H.  In a very busy world most of us appreciate any time savings we can gain – even to the extent that some car manufacturers are for the first time offering to sell new cars on line! Whether this impersonal way of selling will work for them remains to be seen, I think we need to watch for other car manufacturers doing the same to gauge the success of this particular B2C strategy.

SO is there’ one best way’ as Deming tells us?  Of course not. Marketing with the end game of customer acquisition has to meet the needs of the company product or service in its promotions.  It must use the best means possible to access the market it seeks to engage through the various means at its disposal.

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 I know for my company H2H will always be the way forward, our flyers underpin the personality not the other way around.

The advantages of H2H should not be understated. Adoption of this approach by companies in attending and participating in exhibitions realises the opportunity for valuable interface. Telemarketing can work too, driving warm leads to the sales force, developing the sales pipeline through relationships based on more than a piece of paper or digital interaction.  Account management, one to many events, one to one clinics, visits to market and those in your supply chain are further examples of good H2H strategies.

There is a rationale for H2H improvements in employee relationships.  Companies that do not show or demonstrate a personal interest in their employee’s miss a good opportunity to raise morale, motivation and interaction.  Emotional intelligence is a powerful tool that can successfully employed with employees and customers alike.  Coaching techniques is of course a good example of one to one relationships used as an executive development tool.  I recently attended a course on multiple brain techniques (mBIT) which encourages wise decision making through personal insight gained from encouragement and understanding, another H2H technique.

Companies that have an international customer base can use all or any of the above approaches with their chosen market whether they are in market or within their country of location.  Missions and delegations are so important to get right, they underpin the very ethos of relationships. Meeting face to face is important as a foundation for trade, either then or in the future.  This is the very opposite of the approach many companies adopt now, the impersonal to the personal as outlined above.  This approach really depends on getting the details and arrangements right.  You must be prepared, have done your research, understand the cultures, the constraints and identified the opportunities.

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First impressions are important, your reputation and prospects depend on getting everything right first time.  Making sure you arrive on time may be important to you but if you are in Italy for example) you may need to wait to see your contact.  You should know how to receive a business card in China, how to drink vodka in Russia (I kid you not!), how in some cultures men hold hands etc. etc.  You should be aware of religious requirements, of legal requirements, of methods of business, what the dietary issues may be, of levels of language ability (of both parties), of accommodation requirements, customs constraints on taking your goods abroad temporarily and most importantly mutual expectations.  It is not straightforward but as an important meeting it needs forethought and planning to make sure the relationship can develop and not wither on the vine. Be prepared to learn how to communicate in a different way, be open to the insight you can gain through truly listening to your contact and, above all make sure you respect their way of doing business.