Speakers, presentations, panels, dinner conversation, Q&A sessions, more presentations and more speakers…coming out of an industry conference where you’re immersed in powerful content for days at a time, how do you truly summarize the learnings?

I just returned from Atlanta where I met with some of the brightest independent agencies in the country and visited The World of Coca-Cola (more on that later). The conference included many different perspectives – agency, client, consultant, journalist, technologist and more. We all had one objective in mind: growth. Whether we are selling “stuff,” solving problems or finding ways to become more efficient, every business is interested in strategic growth.

But here’s what I really found interesting; the message was the same no matter the situation or the parties involved – relationships matter no matter what.

We’ve all heard the stat that nine times out of 10, a prospect buys the person not the product. But what does that really mean? Here are just a few scenarios discussed at the conference where positive relationships prevail.


Scenerio 1: Agency to Agency

I’ll start with this one because it was the most obvious at this conference. Ironically we weren’t just talking about building relationships, we were there actually living it. AMIN is a network of 50+ independent marketing agencies from more than 30 countries. Many agencies join for the discount on resources, but stay for the incredible knowledge sharing through conferences like this and the invaluable connections made. These relationships ultimately move our clients’ marketing forward and lead to business growth for everyone.

The fact that instead of competing with each other, AMIN agencies see the greater good in teaming up is truly inspiring for any industry.


Scenario 2: Agency to Client

A good relationship between a marketing agency and the client is absolutely essential to long-term success. Both agencies and clients have been known to use a weighted score card when evaluating the relationship, and cultural fit is typically one of the categories. It’s not just capabilities and stellar work that matter, but the ability to form a positive working relationship. Not aligning culturally can be a deal breaker for some businesses.

Bruce Eames has experienced both the client side (formerly as U.S. Senior Manager for Bud Light Brand) and the agency side (now as the Director of Business and Brand Strategy at AMIN agency partner, Sullivan Hidgon & Sink). “If you’re not feeling, you’re not trying hard enough,” he said during his presentation. And the same rule applies for both sides.


Scenario 3: Marketer to Journalist

At dinner one night I had the opportunity to sit with Laura Petrecca, Bureau Chief and Editor of Special Projects at USA Today, and Sam DiGennaro, Founder and CEO at DGC. Throughout the conversation, it was evident that these two women are passionate about what they do.

The next day, they presented on a panel titled “Winning the Visibility Challenge with Media Relations.” Some tactical pieces of advice to consider are to use mini press releases, include copy directly in your email instead of an attachment and respect the journalist’s time. But ultimately, those with a standing relationship will prevail. When Sam is pitching a story, you know Laura will read her email even though her inbox is full. And when Laura is pressed for time on Super Bowl Sunday, you know who she can call to get a timely quote.

Sam and Laura are truly a living example of this scenario. They have taken their relationship from a successful business one, to an irreplaceable lifelong friendship.


Scenario 4: Internal Teams

There are multi-faceted internal relationships that need to be strong in order to survive in the business world. In this article, I’m focusing on one of the longest known struggles in business – sales and marketing.

For most companies, marketing’s job is to create leads and sales’ job is to close leads. To run smoothly both functions are needed, but first they need to have a common goal. I actually cringed when a new business manager in the room asked, “How can I go around my brand manager?” My advice: DON’T. Just don’t. Instead, focus on forming a relationship and creating an environment of open communication with your counterpart. Think of the long term-benefits as opposed to just the quick win.

It seems like a general rule of thumb for life, but success can be found in just having empathy for one another. A strong internal relationship will lead to company growth, and make everyone’s life easier along the way.


Forming a Connection like Coca-Cola

The conference ended and I had just hours before leaving the birth place of one of the world’s favorite soda brands. The trip to The World of Coca-Cola was more inspiring than I anticipated. For a brand with such a rich history, they decided to lead with an experience before even telling their story.

One of the first stops on the tour is the theater. The six-minute video shown is nothing more than a montage of life’s moments and memories set to music: a proposal in a hot air balloon, grandma’s surprise party, a soldier surprising his family and so many more micro-stories that connect with consumers on such a deep emotional level. This experience touched me as a consumer, an advertiser, a wife, a daughter. And eventually ended with me gladly opening my wallet in the gift shop.

Relationships permeate through all aspects of life – personal and professional. Marketing business is basically a people business, whether it takes place online or off. There are good relationships that we look forward to and bad relationships that we choose to tolerate. You choose which type of environment you’d like to foster.

Or as Don Draper would say, “I’d like to buy the world a Coke.”