Dating and Brand Building Have Much in Common

I never dated before. Oh, I’ve had marriages and long-term relationships, but never dating.

But now I am consciously dating. Most weeks I go out on a date. Sometimes even more than one. But I am doing it way differently than I did in the past. No more meet, fall hard and commit. In food terms, I am now a browser instead of a gorger.

In general, it has been a fascinating journey. Rewarding at times. Always interesting. Most importantly, it has taught me huge amounts about myself as a person, and, most importantly, as a woman.

And, of course, it has made me a better branding Here’s what I have learned:

Take Time. I am not a hit-and-run dater. I don’t do coffee for 20 minutes and leave. I have learned that life stories take a while to unveil. Dating is not about elevator speeches. It is about slowly learning about someone and listening. It is about getting over that initial uncomfortableness and then getting real. So I spend a least an hour with someone in intense conversation. And while I don’t always walk away with a spark or interest, I always walk away feeling like I have meant someone who has enhanced my life.

Dating has made me realize how much better branding is if we spend the time to understand our customers, search for insights and develop meaningful strategies. How quickly do we come to a conclusion based on face value? How often do we never go below the surface? It is our responsibility to work with clients and show them the value of time spent upfront without making it an onerous process.

Practice Empathy. You don’t go into the dating world at my age (or maybe any age) without baggage. Mine could fill a trunk.

So many of the guys I meet have been hurt. Widowers who lost a beloved wife. Workaholic breadwinners surprised that their ex-wives stopped loving them. Men who no longer see themselves as attractive or sexy — only old.

I have experienced a vulnerability in many of the men that has honestly shocked me. I have never walked in the shoes of a man before. I truly didn’t know that it was so hard for some of them. I always thought us women had it way more harder.

So it has heightened my empathy for men and also my empathy for my clients and the customers they serve. Our clients lead stressful lives no matter if they own a business or work for someone else. Most rarely leave work at work. Many are worried about failure and the unknown. Our job is simply to help and support them.

Their customers face other challenges that deserve my empathy. Too many choices and unclear benefits. Constant invasive marketing even in the name of engagement. Products and services that are complicated or not explained clearly. Our job is to make it easy for them to buy and use what our clients offer. Our job is simply to help and support them. That’s how you build a brand.

Go Slow. I am being very honest with every guy I meet. No, I am not jumping into bed after a couple dates. No, I cannot promise anything more than becoming friends and seeing where it goes.

I am pretty proud of my restraint because it feels a little foreign to my nature. I don’t like drama, but I do like passion.

But I am putting passion — both emotionally and physically — on hold. I am savoring slowness. I’m going old-fashioned. I want to be wooed, and I want to woo.

And it makes me think about how often we, forget to take it slow and woo our customers. How we put out an offer and expect them to become a customer and even an evangelist without really building a relationship.

Brands can burst to the scene pretty fast in our viral world. But sustainable brands are built slowly and strategically through time, empathy, wooing and nurturing.

Brand building really is like dating. So maybe I actually have been dating all my life — just not with guys. Food for thought.

Andrew Folts