This article is part of the 7 Deadly Sins of Relationship-Based Marketing series. In the series, we’ll chronicle different online behaviors and practices that can be ruining your business relationships. Some are subtle, and some not so much. If the success of your business relies on maintaining healthy relationships with current clients, prospects, or a network of referrers, it could be time you start repenting.
One sure-fire way to burn a relationship to the ground is to be a flake.
Thou shalt not flake
According to Merriam-Webster, to “flake out” is slang for, “to fall asleep,” or “to be overcome especially by exhaustion.”
In my world, “to flake” has another meaning; it means to cancel last minute, to disappear from a conversation (whatever the platform). To be “a flake” is tantamount to being an unreliable person with poor time-management skills. A phrase that was once used to explain falling asleep has come to have a different meaning—one which, ironically, is more closely aligned with playing ‘possum.
However you choose to view it, being “a flake” can have a damaging effect on your personal and business relationships.
Being busy isn’t an excuse
You’re busy—very, very busy. That just comes with the territory of running a successful business. It’s easy to over-commit. That lunch you planned with Tyler 3 weeks ago sounded like a great idea at the time, but now all you can think about is your growing list of to dos and how you could really use these next two hours to cross a few off. You’re likely thinking to yourself, “I’Il just shoot Tyler an email, let him know I’m super busy…he’ll understand.”
Technology has, unfortunately, made it easier for us to back out of our commitments. With the touch of a screen, we can cancel at the last minute without having to see the disappointment in someone’s face. They’ll get over it, right? No harm, no foul.
What does flaking do to your “value?”
Flakes are like little lies. They get easier with practice.
You can rationalize backing out of a commitment at the last minute. You can defend yourself for every lunch you cancel and every email you put off answering (and then never do).
But you can’t rationalize what your flaking says about you to your friends, or to the people you do business with. The text you send might say, “I’m super busy right now, so sorry! I’d love to get together another time…” but what that person is hearing, is “I don’t care enough about you to do the normal things that keep our relationship strong.”
Do they respond with, “It’s okay, we’ll catch up soon.” Of course, they do, because they’re polite.
But soon, they’ll begin to reserve their full honesty for someone they can fully trust and depend on. They’ll give the next person their friendship, business, referrals, leads on good employees—you get the idea.
And to those of you who think your flaky behavior is so thoroughly apologized for, just remember: Your apologies won’t convince people you’re not a flake. There is no GIF that can truly repair how the act of flaking frays a personal or business relationship.
Honoring your word means protecting your relationship
Trust is hard to earn, easy to lose, and almost impossible to fully regain. It’s always been critical to business relationships, and it’s no less critical to business transacted online. The Internet simply provides the means to damage trust faster.
This rule for relationship-based marketing is simple: Consider what you’re giving up for the sake of immediate convenience before you choose to blow someone off.
Here are four simple (and sometimes not so easy) guidelines:
- If you make plans with someone, honor that commitment. It doesn’t matter whether the commitment was set in person, over Skype, or via email. It’s your promise and their time. Neither deserves to be cheapened.
- Don’t over-commit. Why spare someone’s feelings now only to disappoint them later? An honest “no” now says you value your time and theirs. It says they’re worthy of your honesty.
- Technology is no excuse. Maybe you’ve enlisted outside help for managing your growing business. That’s probably a wise move—but it’s never an excuse for not following through in-person on a scheduled commitment.
- Don’t underestimate the “cost” of flaking. Believing that a cancellation—just this one time—doesn’t really hurt anybody can be a very expensive delusion, especially when relationships and trust are the core of your business. Every time you reach out to someone and ask them to get together, but then fail to follow through, you look bad. To them, and possibly to everyone they are connected to.
When you honor your commitments, you’re really saying that you respect someone else’s time and you believe they add value to your life.
Besides, how many potential customers do you really have to waste? It can be scary to think about.
Even so…think about it.
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