Marketing Lessons to Learn from How to Win Friends and Influence People

“Marketing is the ongoing process of engagement whereby strangers are nurtured into advocates.” –Trey Pennington

The sales model has dramatically changed over the past century—gone are the pre-Amazon days when customers were at the mercies of limited services within set proximities. Additionally, what used to be the norm of frequenting your local corner store and shooting the breeze with the owner has become a rarity. Now, with hundreds of different options and dozens of ways to access them, the consumer holds the power to choose what best suits them, and can do so without talking to a soul.

Businesses have slowly been discovering a way to bring back the art of human connection in the information age, namely through the building of a brand influence, defined by Webster as “the power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways.” But with increasingly widespread use of the word in the media world, the term “influence” can once again lose the aspect of true human interaction that is crucial to generating behavior change. It’s time to revitalize the definition of “influence” and how to harness its power by looking to the expert: Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, which was published in 1936 and still just as relevant in 2019. We’re taking brand marketing back to the basic tenets of making a good friend.

The Foundation: “Make the other person feel important—and do it sincerely.”

Carnegie outlines several principles that are key to becoming a winsome, trustworthy, and amicable person. In one way or another, they all point back to making the other person feel important. Charles Schwab says, “‘I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among my people the greatest asset I possess, and the way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement.’” (Carnegie, 1936, p. 23). Carnegie eloquently explains that the most undersatisfied human craving is the desire to feel important, appreciated, and great, and that “the rare individual who honestly satisfies this heart hunger will hold people in the palm of his or her hand” (Carnegie, 1936, p. 18). Think about it this way: if you knew your business could cater to the deepest desire of the human heart, wouldn’t you capitalize on it?

5 principles to nurture genuine customer relationships through marketing:

Principle 1: “Become genuinely interested in other people.” (Funnel to Flywheel)

The beauty of the inbound model (also known as the flywheel model) over the sales funnel is a shift in the marketing and sales process toward a more human approach, one that is infinitely more effective at communicating a genuine desire to be helpful. Trust is built when a customer is convinced that their best interests are at heart, rather than those of the business. Whereas the funnel focuses on the customer’s behavior as it relates to the business’s motives—awareness, consideration, decision—the flywheel model describes the process in more relational terms: tactics that attract, engage, and delight, leading to more than just a purchase decision.

Principle 2: “Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.” (Inspiring vs. Selling)

In the same way that a power-hungry person often thwarts their chances of earning trust, companies that come off as aggressive in their attempt to sell will squash the potential to build a relationship before it even begins. As Carnegie puts it, “[salespeople] don’t realize that neither you nor I want to buy anything. If we did, we would go out and buy it. But both of us are eternally interested in solving our problems; And if salespeople can show us how their services or merchandise will help us solve our problems, they won’t need to sell us. We’ll buy. And customers like to feel that they are buying—not being sold to,” (Carnegie, 1936, p. 65). Customers don’t want to be told what they want— they want to be enticed to desire and purchase it on their own. If brands can elevate their products or services from commodities that simply make money into specific offerings that add value to people’s life, they will generate a feeling of empowerment rather than coercion.

Principle 3: “Arouse in the other person an eager want.” (Brand Advocates)

Relationships created through an authentic marketing approach serve as the momentum of the flywheel to attract more opportunities to engage through word of mouth—meaning the people we like to call “brand advocates.” When you genuinely believe in the heart of someone (or something) with whom you have built a relationship, there is a natural desire to tell others about this good you have found. You can most likely think of a time you advocated for a close friend. It works the very same with building loyal brand advocates who are nurtured through intentional engagement, such as personalized emails, exclusive surveys, and loyalty reward programs (and if you’re wondering how to identify those people, start here).

And we all know that no relationship was ever built through one-sided conversation, so…

Principle 4: “Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.” (Social Media)

One of the easiest ways for a brand to start two-way conversations with their customers is through a well-crafted social media presence. It’s not enough to simply have an account and create content—the content must be educational, inspiring, and especially, curious. What do we mean by that? Well, it is no secret that people love to talk about themselves. Take advantage of that fact by asking thoughtful questions and opening up space for comments. Leverage your most loyal brand advocates to test new ideas, such as new products, packaging, or logos, and listen closely to their feedback. Additionally, sometimes change is unnecessary, so why fix what isn’t broken? Rather than talking all about how great your products and ideas are, frame your content in terms of the other person’s interests—showcase how your products fit into their lifestyle.

Principle 5: “Give honest and sincere appreciation.” (Follow Up)

Leaving communications at a standard “thank you,” as opposed to finding ways to show sincere appreciation, could be the difference between a satisfied customer and a repeat customer. When you remember that the end goal is not selling a product, but rather, building a relationship with customers, it becomes clear that efforts cannot stop at the purchase step. Find ways to follow up with customers you know have decided to buy your products, ask for feedback, and give them a reason to choose your brand again. You may just find you have made a new friend.

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