Is your business a giver, or a taker? Obviously, your business has to take at least a little something or else you won’t be in business very long. But is your company perceived as helpful? Or are you viewed as piranhas looking to devour every cent you can from the market?

If you’re viewed as piranhas, you won’t be successful for very long; it’s not a very repeatable way to conduct business. But there’s also some nuance here – you might not be seen as out-and-out bad guys, but you also might not be perceived as caring about your customers’ fate.

In other words, are you more focused on your own needs than your customers’ needs?

While the wheel is turning in terms of how businesses interact with their potential customers, the majority of companies remain extremely focused on making the sale. That’s obviously vitally important, but if you lead with what is going to line your pocket you are not going to be very successful. Your brand’s success is an outcome, not the sole purpose of conducting business.

People and companies today want to do business with companies they know, like and trust. You must have a strong relationship in order to gain and keep someone’s business. You need a relationship that is seen as mutually beneficial.

Truth: Your marketing department’s job is to build a relationship with potential customers. It is not to tell the world how awesome your company is. You’re paying them to make customers want to buy from you.

This is easy to say but not always easy to do. And, certainly, a lot of companies never get the distinction right. These companies might realize some near term sales wins, but they’ll always be playing catch-up.

The Buyer’s Journey begins with you inviting potential customers into your space by offering them something – consider it a gift, something that shows how much you care, that demonstrates some small amount of sacrifice on your part. When you’re operating online, this gift is almost always some type of content (not a single blog post, but maybe a series of posts, or the content hub that offers thoughtful articles and other content). Consider it an olive branch that demonstrates your empathy for their situation. Forget going for the sale right now; they’re not going to sign a contract today anyway, right?

They key is to understand how reciprocity works. It’s about the give-and-take between you and your customers – they already know that you want to sell them something, you don’t have to be all up in their business about it. However, most customers today want to know that you don’t just want to sell them something; you want them to succeed. They want to know they have a partner that is committed beyond just the initial sale. If that isn’t you, then they can certainly find it somewhere else in the global marketplace.

When your brand demonstrates it’s trying to help them live their lives or run their business, they become interested in having that relationship.

In today’s customer-driven marketplace, you must give your potential customers something of value. Something that’s good for them, something they want, something so good they’d actually pay for it. This is how you build good will; ultimately, some of those prospects are going to return your good deed. It doesn’t mean they’ll automatically buy from you, but it does make them far more likely to do so.