More on Blended

(this continues the original post, scroll down below the irrelevant ketchup interruption. Whenever I post about ketchup or bananas, feel free to assume it’s irrelevant.)

When I was in college in Mass. years ago, we did a project with a low-level mafia kingpin (can you be both low-level and a kingpin? He was.) In gratitude for something or other, he offered my friend and me five-digit license plates.

“Why would we want a five digit license plate?” we asked. After all, it’s not like a plate that says GR8TGUY or something. It was just numbers. 43287, for example.

“It’s a prestige thing.”

He was right. Over the years, you always saw these plates on certain kinds of cars, driven by certain kinds of guys.

And the cars were another signal. Cadillacs meant one thing, little Cellicas meant another. So how do I explain the fact that just a few years later, I was hanging out with David Filo, multi-billionaire co-founder of Yahoo!, who was driving a Celica or some similarly non-descript econocar.

The people in first class are flying with frequent flyer miles, while the Senator is back in coach. The salesperson is busy pitching the president of the company in a meeting, while her purchasing agent, the little guy in the back, is the one with all the influence…

When the Internet caught on, the thing it changed the most was leverage. It gave speed and power and influence to people without a lot of other trappings. Blogs takes it even further… bloggers are entire media conglomerates in their pajamas.

So, when all the cues are gone, the way we make decisions about who to work with, what to buy and who to believe and trust comes down to this: it’s in the interactions.

It’s not the surface flash, the five digit license plate, the brand of car, the cut of the suit or the seat at the table. It’s in how we follow through. It’s in the actions we take and the way we listen. It’s in keeping our promises and doing exactly what we say we’re going to do.

Our prospects, though, are scared. They can’t afford to spend time or money with every single person that walks in. So the challenge is to be cheap and easy. If it’s cheap and easy (or quick) to interact with you once, people are more likely to do it. If the first interaction goes well, you get a second shot. You build a relationship, not a sale.

No, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Far more important today, though, is this: you don’t get a third chance to make a second impression. And it’s the second impression that builds your brand.