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Everything I Know About Building Business Relationships I Learned from My Teddy Bear
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Teddy bears don’t talk, nor do they form relationships with sentient beings. So how in the heck can they show us how to build business relationships or make a new connection?

Before I answer that question, let’s think about it.

Have you ever felt animosity toward a teddy bear? Likely not, because they’re so darn lovable. Would a teddy bear let you down in a time of need? Doubtful, because they’re dependable.

But have you ever, for even one second, hugged your teddy when you needed a friend? Guilty as charged – there are few who could resist a teddy’s warm, fuzzy charms!

So, in order to make new friends and strengthen ties with existing ones, you have to be like your favorite teddy bear at the core: you must be approachable, dependable, and willing to dish out warm fuzzy feelings whenever necessary! Think you can handle it?

Start the process by asking yourself the following questions:

Are You Approachable to Others?

It’s easy for cute and cuddly teddy bears to attract new friends, but it’s significantly more challenging for the rest of us. Approachability is the key to this puzzle!

How do you get that key in your hot little hand? Start with a genuine smile; it will get you far during in-person conversations. People won’t feel comfortable approaching you if your facial expression indicates you’ve just swallowed a bushel of lemons.

And when it comes to virtual interactions, at least make sure you’ve created a friendly “About Me” page if you choose to forgo the smile in your avatar or profile pictures. You probably won’t attract many new friends if all of the potentials are terrified to talk to you.

Also, you have to present yourself as a friendly resource in order to boost your approachability. Focus on the value you can provide to others. That means participating in discussions, offering quality ideas, and adding depth to conversations and debates. Acknowledge others’ ideas and they’ll become more comfortable talking to you!

Quick tip: In order to get the full “teddy bear” experience, you have to be genuine. If you aren’t genuine, then you’re not approachable…and that means you’ll have a heck of a time getting people to notice you.

Do you Make Yourself Available to Your Connections?

If I could select only one word to describe my teddy bear, it would be “dependable.” Want to know why? He was consistently there for me when I needed him the most. He never let me down. Plus, I always knew where to find him. Can your connections say the same things about you?

To apply the same concept to your relationship-building efforts, demonstrate your listening abilities on a regular basis. Make it clear that you’re interested in what your new friend is saying. Let them know that you’re dependable by reaching out when necessary and by helping solve issues that arise. Don’t let your connections down if you can help it!

Also, be clear about your contact preferences and point out where and when it’s appropriate for people to connect with you. Is Twitter your preferred outlet? Are you quicker to respond to emails? Express these things on your “About Me” page, have them printed on your business cards, and even verbally communicate them when you can. Your business (or personal) relationships should know how they can find you.

Quick tip: If you frequently use phrases like, “I’ve been too busy” or “I don’t have the time,” then you may be turning away your connections. Shuffle a few tasks and make time for them – or you’ll lose them.

Are You a Pro at Making Your Connections Feel Good? Do You Inspire Them?

Here’s where the warm fuzzy feelings come into play! Teddy bears won’t talk us down from tricky situations, per se, but they are quite good at improving our moods and boosting our spirits. So, how do we get to that point when building business relationships of our own?

For starters, give back to your audience by interacting with them on a meaningful level. Acknowledge particularly thoughtful comments on your blog, retweet or respond to relevant feedback on Twitter, and write content that motivates them to take action. I’m much more likely to maintain a relationship with someone if they continually inspire me. That’s what friends do.

Also, don’t be shy about crediting your connections if they assisted you in some way. For example, maybe one of them Tweeted something that got you thinking about a blog post topic, or perhaps several of them responded to a poll question you asked on your website. Give them a friendly shout-out via your preferred network and let them know you’re appreciative. This goes a long way!

Quick tip: Trim the “I” talk in your interactions – “you” is much better because it diverts the focus to your connection. Relationships are give and take, sure, but there’s only so much people will want to hear about your life before they wish to discuss their own! You could be turning people away without even realizing it.

Have you finished quizzing yourself and grading your responses? Good.

If you didn’t do as well as you’d like, take some time to reevaluate your current relationship-building strategies. What’s missing? What could you do better?

You may be lacking if:

  • You only interact with people to serve your own needs. This method isn’t relationship building – it’s sucking up for personal gain. Knock it off! No one likes a kiss-ass. Instead, start interacting with people because you actually have something to say. Write thoughtful responses to your peers’ blogs, help others solve problems by composing (or sharing) valuable content, and take an interest in what others are saying.
  • You’re always too busy to respond to emails and inquiries. I don’t need to tell you that relationships are about give and take…or do I? Intentionally or accidentally ignoring your connections is a good way to make them lose interest in you. If your life is that chaotic, then maybe it’s time to get organized or to hire an assistant to handle your smaller tasks. Otherwise, find the time to connect on your own!
  • You’re stuck in “self-promotion” mode. It’s totally fine to announce your new blog post or share a sale via social media or email, but only if you mix it in with engagement and with relevant content from others. To start building connections, you’ve got to engage with other people and share their articles in addition to your own. Here’s a solid starting point: try sharing another blogger’s post and then strike up a conversation with them on Twitter to express your thoughts. If you’re using instagram for business - step out of your industry zone a bit and meet new faces. Start commenting on Facebook updates. It’s all about those warm fuzzies, remember? Just keep it real and mean every word you say, otherwise you’ll sound fake.

And remember, unlike your teddy bear…

You can’t be a wallflower!

We live in an age of technology, so now even the most reclusive of introverts and the shyest of wallflowers can engage in relationship-building techniques. Work on your approachability, open your heart and mind to new friends, and then get out there and motivate like it’s your job.

That is your job, after all. Right?

What strategies do you use to when building business relationships? Are there any areas you struggle to keep up with? Did you also have a precious teddy bear to “hear” your hopes and dreams? I’d love to hear your feedback!

Jill Tooley (@JillTooley) spends the majority of her time at Quality Logo Products, managing the content department and the company blog (and occasionally cursing out Wordpress when it misbehaves). She enjoys weaving her favorite things - like Dwight Schrute or Buddy the Elf - into content she writes, and she's usually always down for a hug.

22 Comments

  1. Giving a helping hand – an email with helpful suggestions when asked -works great! I’ve earned so many loyal fans/followers by simply helping them out on small stuff. Its all about being warm :) Love the analogy!

    • Jill Tooley says:

      That’s right, Jane! Sometimes, a bit of warmth and effort helps people a lot. :) I always try to think about the “golden rule” and treat people the way I’d prefer to be treated in that situation, and it works. We have to practice what we preach!

      Thanks for your comment! :)

  2. Hi Jill,

    Great points. I think Danny’s one of the best examples of be-available-consistently. And that’s one of the easiest things to test; just send an email to him (or to whomever you want to test), and see how long it takes for them to respond (and how do they respond).

    I always, always proofread my emails before sending them, to make sure they don’t sound like I wrote them in a hurry; it’s not much better to get an email after a long time than it is to get it fast but with a hundred grammar mistakes :)

    • Jill Tooley says:

      Thanks, Peter! I appreciate the comment!

      Danny is an EXCELLENT example of availability and friendliness! He replies when he says he will, and he’s honest and empathetic.

      And I agree with you on the proofreading. Sometimes my brain moves faster than my fingers and I end up with convoluted emails, but it’s nothing that a quick re-read can’t fix (most of the time). :)

  3. This is my first time here and i think this a great post to begin with.

    Nice relationship tips,especially the lesson from a teddy bear. Thanks for posting

  4. Discover Auctions says:

    Great post Jill. The Teddy Bear analogy fits Danny Iny to a tee. I agree with Peter’s comment. If you have never connected with Danny, do send that email. You will be surprised how fast you will get a response. Being approachable and making connections is key in any business. One of my strategies to make connections is being a member of commentluv. It is a great platform to meet new people, share ideas and content.

    • Jill Tooley says:

      Everyone else seems to agree that Danny is a teddy bear! ;) You couldn’t be more right. He has never left me hanging, even when he’s ridiculously swamped with other things. His enthusiasm and tact are what drew me to Firepole Marketing in the first place, and I sort of never left after that! It means a lot when bloggers/marketers are willing to go that extra mile to please their audience.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

      P.S. Gotta love CommentLuv! :)

  5. Dee Ankary says:

    Hi Jill,

    I love the idea of the teddy bear as a metaphor for what is great about relationship marketing. For me, acknowledging ideas and points of view, even while respectfully disagreeing, has been key.

    Listening, and more importantly, actually hearing your customer / team / audience is critical in the offline world. It’s doubly more important when interacting online.

    Great post.

    Dee

    • Jill Tooley says:

      Many thanks, Dee! I don’t mind respectful disagreements, because they’re typically backed up by evidence; it’s the mean-spirited people I don’t get along with. Many don’t understand how to respectfully convey their opinions, and that’s a shame! It means so much more when two disagreeing parties can come to a middle ground, rather than let the tension dangle, and that’s accomplished via good communication and problem-solving. I think blogging and relationship marketing should be about the relationships, not about starting silly fights online. Seems simple enough, right? ;)

      Part of me felt silly for using a teddy bear as an example of a good listener, but it made perfect sense the more I thought of it. If we don’t listen to our peers and customers, then we might as well throw in the towel right now!

  6. Great post, Jill!

    I tend to foster the best relationships by engaging with people who share personal tweets, posts, etc. I’ve struck up many conversations by replying to “Happy Monday, how’s everyone doing?” tweets and leaving comments on Instagram pictures. You never know what you’ll make a connection over!

    • Jill Tooley says:

      That’s a top-notch plan! I try to do the same as often as I can, because it feels good to interact with people who’ve expressed an interest in something I’ve done. Instagram is probably an excellent way to connect with peers because pictures are so much fun to comment on. :)

      Sounds like you’re on track, that’s for sure! Thanks for the comment, Mandy!

  7. amy swanson says:

    I love reading tips that make a connection with something totally off topic, like teddy bears and applying a business/networking principles to them. It makes remembering tips so much easier- next time I look at a teddy bear I’ll remember to call up those people I haven’t heard from in a few weeks just to check in. Great post and tips, Jill!

    • Jill Tooley says:

      Thanks, Amy! Who doesn’t love a good teddy bear? ;)

      Once we learn that CONNECTING involves listening as well as talking, then we’ll be much better off. And good call on the follow ups — let me know how it goes!

      I appreciate your feedback!

  8. Great tips Jill. We need to forego the ‘tit for tat’ mentality (sharing other blogger’s posts only if they share our, commenting on their posts only if they comment on ours etc) and adopt a selfless approach. Maybe the quote ” Do unto others that you want others to do unto you” is probably a good way to start behaving with others.

    • Jill Tooley says:

      Thanks, Kavita! Reciprocal blog comments are nice, but we don’t always need to get something in return. I love commenting on other blogs because it lets people know someone is listening…and that means a lot. Well, at least it does to me! :)

      I appreciate the comment, and keep living that golden rule!

  9. Steve Baines says:

    Gives new meaning to “he’s / she’s just like a big teddy bear” When I read this – I instantly thought of one of my friends who fits this description. I guess that makes me lucky and also gives me a good example to emulate.

    • Jill Tooley says:

      Good point, Steve! I have a few friends who fit this description as well, and they’re some of the sweetest, most selfless people I know. Definitely worth emulating! :)

      Thank you for your comment, and for the share. You rock!

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