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June 20, 2011

Marketing: Beware of social media backfire

In 1986, I was a long-haired, bearded 22-year-old with a lousy job that paid irregularly. I was also engaged and preoccupied with becoming responsible, not to mention passing muster with my soon-to-be father-in-law. That meant, among other things, securing life insurance to take care of my bride if some tragedy were to befall her prince.

It was about then that an insurance agent named David was referred to me. At 27 or 28, David was a lot older. I remember being mystified as to why he would waste his time patiently explaining to a young kid with few prospects the difference between whole life and term. I didn’t know anything about the insurance business. Based on the puny premiums I’d be paying, I knew David wasn’t going to retire on such clients as me.

Fast-forward 25 years. David is still my insurance agent. The insurance portfolio he helped meand many others like mebuild over the years has become somewhat sizable. Over the past two decades he and I have played basketball together, our wives have volunteered together, and our daughters attended school and took ballet classes together. David and I once found ourselves whittling away the hours sharing driving duties in a 26-foot truck filled with props for a ballet performance.

Although my relationship with David is unique, our story is not. For all human history, business has been based on relationships. Buyers and sellers have followed a similar pattern of nurturing family and community ties as they traded. Commerce has always been based on proximity and goodwill.

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