We are living in an age where everyone is vying for attention. People are bombarded with names and companies and products every day through Facebook, Twitter, the internet, t.v, radio, the list goes on and on.

Sure, you gotta start somewhere. But if the plan is to pass out a t-shirt, I think you’re going to be disappointed when people aren’t coming out of the woodwork to volunteer some time, make a contribution or do whatever it is you think they should be doing. If your goal is to start a real program or have real conversations or have a real relationship with your target group, here are my four quick tips:

1. Start small. Relationships take time. A lot of time. Picture yourself as the rock about to be thrown into the lake. It starts small, and maybe the first 100 times you try, nothing happens. That doesn’t mean your audience isn’t listening or they don’t care. It just means you haven’t talked to the right people yet. Keep talking. Once you’re made those first few connections, they’ll start talking to their friends. Get the picture? That little rock that was just thrown is half way across the lake creating a beautiful ripple effect.

2. Be realistic about time. If your staff is already over committed then maybe its time to look at existing duties and re-prioritize.  Or maybe re-evaluate job descriptions and responsibilities.  If you are unable to cross anything off their list, maybe its time to bring in some extra help. If you can’t do either, then be prepared for what’s happening now to remain exactly the same. Honestly, it’s that simple. There are only so many hours in the day.  To want change, you need to make change.  It just doesn’t happen by talking about it.

3. Figure out where your audience is hanging out. Go there. Listen to the conversation. Join the conversation. Ask questions. What can you help your audience with? What are some of their fondest memories of your organization? Where are they now? Make connections.

4. If you’re wanting to start a relationship with your target market, whoever that may be…look at who is sitting around your table. Look at the people who are going to be ambassadors for your company. Are they people who you’d want to hang out with? Do they have emotional intelligence? I know the saying “different strokes for different folks”, but trust me, having the right people around the table is critical to the success of any good relationship.

Anyone can pass out a t-shirt. The key is getting them to keep wearing it.

What other pieces of advice would you give to someone wanting to start building relationships with their target market??