It's All About Relationships

Or Why Trust is Such An Important Building Block for Your Career

By Published on .

Brian Ruddock
Brian Ruddock

Shortly after graduation, I accepted a three month internship at Yahoo. I knew that this was an opportunity to learn and not necessarily a ticket to a full-time job. I was therefore a man on a mission. I soaked up everything I could, worked my tail off, and tried to make myself as useful as possible. Just as importantly, though, I made it a point to bond with my supervisor. We held whiteboard sessions during work, grabbed an occasional drink after and spoke regularly.

One day my supervisor approached me, patted me on the back and, though this was a tentative market, presented me with a formal offer.

Relationships matter. This is my motto, both in professional America broadly, and the advertising industry specifically.

As a marketing professional, managing both internal and external relationships will be crucial to your success. At several key junctures, relationships have bettered my career.

Chances are you will have some sort of interaction with a client or third party, be it an ad agency, publisher, or advertiser. You will depend on this party to benefit your firm and to hit your individual performance goal. It is vital to build long term, trusting relationships with them.

In a business of asymmetric information, this isn't as easy as it sounds. Whether you're a buyer or seller, you will have information that the other side doesn't. If ever tempted to exploit this for your own short term advantage, do not do so.

Years ago, my employer at the time pushed my team to pitch a certain product to as many clients as possible. Doing so could have earned me a solid bump in my quarterly bonus. However, based on my clients' needs, I knew it wouldn't work well for them. I told them as much. Three months later, even without buying the offering, their quarterly spend increased significantly. When I did try to pitch them on something, they knew I had their best interest in mind. Trust was established.

Being transparent with clients isn't always this rewarding, especially when mistakes are made. You're dealing with a ton of information flowing between multiple contacts, and things sometimes go wrong. Your options are usually to stall, obfuscate the facts and make excuses, or take responsibility. Choose the last and rip the Band-Aid right off. No one will be happy to hear you say "I messed up," but in the long term, the relationship will flourish.

Success with clients, of course, isn't the result of just one person. Advertising is more football than basketball: Kevin Durant can drain a long three pointer on his own, but Aaron Rodgers needs linemen to block, running backs to draw defenders into the box, and receivers to get open for him to complete a pass. The same is true in advertising. You will not succeed without the help of others, and you will not unleash their true potential without good relationships.

Throughout my day-to-day, I rely on colleagues in other departments to do my job well. I can't put together a good media plan without a straight conversation with my sales rep. My campaigns won't go live unless our operations team properly traffics the ads and our legal team approves the contracts. I can't get the most competitive rates for my clients without our pricing manager providing the go-ahead.

Whatever your job is , you'll have similar dependencies. Put these folks in a position to succeed. Don't mark any tasks as "urgent" unless absolutely necessary, and button up your emails before sending them. Make your colleagues' jobs as easy as possible. When something goes wrong, assume responsibility.

One of the best salespeople I've ever worked with was truly committed to taking care of his team. After a particularly lucrative quarter, he struck up a conversation with me about sports. Among other things, I shared that my favorite athlete was then-Cleveland Indians shortstop Jhonny Peralta. In less than a week I found a brand new Peralta jersey sitting in my cube. I was astonished.

That rep was, and continues to be, one of the most successful at the company. Little wonder why.

About the Author
Brian Ruddock is a New York-based account manager for LinkedIn's North America Marketing Solutions business. He provides strategic recommendations and daily support for a number of enterprise technology and telecommunications accounts, including IBM and Verizon. Prior to LinkedIn, Brian worked for an agency-focused Search Engine Marketing (SEM) team at Yahoo. Brian graduated from the University of Richmond in 2008 with a BA in Political Science.
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