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All marketers are trying to predict the next game-changer.

It could be an emerging social network, a revolutionary inbound marketing platform, or a new way for businesses to leverage gamification in their campaigns.

But I don't think the next big thing in marketing will have anything to do with technology – it's about going back to the basics.

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Bucking the trend

A couple of years ago, I worked with a client who wanted help attracting top talent to fuel his company's growth. As I got to know him, I found that he had not updated his website in nine years, he had no social media presence and he had created no educational content.

I couldn't help but wonder how a software company could lock up clients for more than 10 years and defend against what seemed to be an unending number of competitors without using any of these seemingly important tools?

The president of the company told me the secret to its growth was spending time and money building relationships the old-fashioned way. He would set up an initial meeting introducing his products and services, as most companies would do, but then the relationship would progress through activities that moved prospects to become friends and then clients.

The company's ability to build lasting relationships worked so well that it was able to tie up contracts, get through rough patches and eliminate some of the most aggressive competitors with stronger marketing efforts.

The company found commonalities and connected with clients on a one-to-one level with a variety of approaches that can be used by almost anyone to grow their business. It used these five tactics to build strong bonds with prospects and client:

Athletic memberships

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Spending money on memberships to squash clubs, tennis courts and golf-and-country clubs is a good investment, since a lot of influential people have memberships at these facilities. You'll often have the opportunity to be part of a team, which will only help increase your chances of building those lasting connections. The key is to ensure you have a person who can confidently represent your organization and can strike up conversation easily.

Dinner and theatre

For a more intimate evening, take prospects or clients and their spouses out for dinner and a show. Dinner and theatre is a tactic that builds stronger bonds between families and opens the door to follow up activities.

Concerts

Similar to theatre but a little more informal, a concert provides a fun atmosphere and the opportunity to have a conversation before the show or in-between sets.

Sporting events

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Most small businesses cannot afford box seats for an entire season for a major sporting event but an alternative is to purchase a few games a year from a company that has one. These relaxed gatherings allow everyone in the box a chance to walk around and converse in a private area.

Wine and scotch tastings

For those with distinguished pallets, going to your local winery or liquor store and signing up for classes is an elegant way to spend an evening and lends itself very well to having great conversation.

There's nothing special about these tactics. What is special is the bonds formed by taking people out of their business environments and getting them to relax and communicate without an agenda.

In co-ordination with your inbound marketing efforts, try adding one or two of these tactics to the mix for high-profile clients.

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