Cultivating Business Relationships Is Not Like Cultivating Turnips

Cultivating Business RelationshipsThe very first law in advertising is to avoid the concrete promise and cultivate the delightfully vague.” ~ Bill Cosby

You know what drives me crazy? Home-based businesses that try to advertise and market like a big corporate monster. From the 1980’s.

One of the biggest benefits of being small is agility and the personal touch. It’s an asset. You can develop deep relationships on a personal level. Shallow cultivation works great for turnips, but not for business relationships.

I’m constantly surprised by the number of home-based entrepreneurs that still think that marketing and advertising is some sort of trick. Like 3-card Monty — you just need to learn the moves.

I actually had one guy tell me “I’m trying to get some bloggers to talk about our stuff. You know, making relationships, and all that.”

Making relationships. Like with an Easy-Bake oven.

Ben McConnell, co-author of two of my favorite books “Citizen Marketers,” and “Creating Customer Evangelists,” summed it nicely in his post “The myth of ‘cultivating bloggers’:”

Cultivating bloggers like traditional media is an old-school view of people as message receptacles. But involving customers in a strategic communications plan is a better form of message management, especially if it’s not about pitching them.

As a home-based entrepreneur, you have the ability to evangelize your wares right to the individual, rather than the nebulous masses. It’s no longer advertising, in the way Cosby explained it in the opening quote. From Paul McEnany’s article for Madison Avenue Journal and reposted on his site:

So maybe it’s time we just stop calling what we do advertising. What it is now is much too personal to be so shorted with that brand of commercial artistry. When before we were segmented and massified at the same time, today we are increasingly individualized, personalized, and magnified. 10 years ago I wasn’t much more than a 25-34 year-old male with a paycheck, but today, I stand before you proudly as me and only me.

When it comes to cultivating business relationships, don’t try to be big and don’t be shallow. Embrace your agility and your depth.

Be authentic. Be specific. Be transparent. Build real relationships and get excited about sharing your unique offerings to the world.

There’s never been a better time to be small.


  1. Oh, how true this is! Couldn’t agree more. I may visit at most 30 websites per day, each one visited due to some type of personal connection.


  2. It’s the same with networking (the people-kind of networking, not the TCP/IP-and-stuff-kind ;)): you should talk with people you think you’ll like and build a *personal* relationship with them. Still, so many people go looking for potential clients, do their pitch and hope that somebody will listen and buy something from them.

    Especially when you’re a small business you have the chance to target people on a personal level, and that’s what business seems to be about these days. Even big companies like small business these days. A client of mine is still pretty small (but nice ;)), but she had clients like one of the biggest banks of my country (the Rabobank) and other big business.

    Or, in the words of Seth Godin: small is the new big.

  3. Shane – I’m the same way. The sites I visit most tend to create a connection.

    Peter – Being small does make it easier. Less to manage 🙂

    Paul – There’s some great info in your article. I believe entrepreneurs have an advantage here. We can begin making that connection and demonstrating that authenticity from the get-go.

    Martijn – That’s true. Even with my big corporate clients, my interactions are with individual people. Our projects impact them, so I like to get to know them — one on one.

  4. Again I am tickled by the language you use to create memorable images – “Shallow cultivation works great for turnips, but not for business relationships.” And who wants to settle for being a turnip?

    What I find most intriguing about this post, Tony, is how to leverage being small as an asset by bringing in the personal touch. We can’t hear that often enough!

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