Engagement begins with cultivation.

It feels like you’re on a first date where any smile you offer is interpreted as “let’s move in together.” 

That’s not a good feeling, right?  It makes you want to sit stonefaced lest anything you do or say cause the other person to believe you’re both head over heels in love.

The same result occurs when individuals or organization take even the slightest interest we show them as an invitation to unleash their full marketing cavalcade.  Cases in point:

  • I took a group of people to see a local musical production.  One week later my dinner hours are besieged by telemarketers asking me to donate money to the theatre.
  • I thanked someone (whom I have never met and do not know at all) for leaving an informative comment on my blog.  The next day I receive his company’s e-newsletter to which he had subscribed me without my permission.
Have we gotten this desperate?  Are we really at the point where we just flailingly grasp any hand that starts to go up in the air, grab on to it, and drag the person into a full-blown relationship on our terms with little consideration for the damage it might do to our reputation, to the long-term potential of what we might have been able to create with that person? 

This has to stop.  So for the next week or so, I am putting on the brakes.  The light is red.  We're going back to driver’s ed to revisit the fundamentals of relationship management so that we can be licensed once again to get out on the roadway.  We’re going to revisit the critical questions that move a person from a joiner to a true member, from passive to active, from ignoring to interested, from on the sidelines to in the game. 

We’re going to focus on cultivation.

Each day (yep, daily short posts in this series) we’ll look at one of the key questions we need those individuals we want to engage to answer for us.  And we'll consider how to use the answers to better cultivate individuals' energy, interest, and attention in mutually beneficial ways.

These questions are not difficult.  They don't need to be asked and answered in the order I present them. The systems you use to track the responses need not be expensive.  But the questions must be asked, the answers must be tracked, and the insight gained must be integrated into all of your efforts.  It's common sense, but it's not commonly or consistently applied. 

Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat. 

I hope you’ll enjoy this deep dive into the process of cultivation.  I hope you’ll offer your reactions and additional ideas in the comments.  I hope you’ll share these posts with other colleagues at work and in your network.

But most importantly, I hope you’ll actually use the information to quit annoying the hell out of people who right now are one unsolicited email or phone call away from breaking up with you before the true relationship has even begun.

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