The relationship between businesses and customers is a love story for the ages. However, whether it ends in happily-ever-after or crying-into-your-Ben-&-Jerry’s rests squarely on the shoulders of the pursuer (that’s you).

You know how it goes when a relationship is new—you’re a little too into them, and you may come on a little too strong. They start to pull away, so you push harder. They decide they need to “take a break,” and you sit, glued to your phone, waiting for a text, a snap, anything. Desperate? Maybe. Effective? Almost never.

As advertisers, it’s important that we understand when our audience needs a little space. A hard sell is never the way to wind up in a romantic tryst, and it’s almost never the way to build a respectful, mutually beneficial relationship with your consumer.

So how do you loosen the grip when you really want to hang on tighter?

Relax.

We get it. When it comes to your business, it’s hard to let go. That “keep calm and carry on” nonsense is just that, nonsense. “Calm” is an impossible goal when sales are down, satisfaction is low, and you aren’t sure about your next move. So first, take a breath and take a step back. If the world isn’t ending right this minute (and it usually isn’t), there’s no need to panic. Focus on your biggest issue and brainstorm ways to address it. Reach out to your network (that would be us) for ideas and solutions. Understand your customers are smart enough to smell desperation.

Recognize the humanity.

In your customers, that is. Nobody wants to be treated like an object. Instead, see your customers as individuals with unique wants, needs, and desires. No, you don’t have to cater to each one—in fact, it’s usually impossible to do so—but respect that they are all different with their own stories and motivations. Find the common threads between them and use those to create broader appeals, but understand that, like snowflakes, no two are going to be exactly alike.

Give them space.

Part of treating your customers like people is respecting their boundaries. Make sure they’re getting what they want from you, but ensure they always have the option to let you know when you’re moving too fast. Make unsubscribing from emails simple, but ask why. If they don’t want to give you a contact number, don’t require it, but find a better way to get your message in front of them. Don’t flood them with a barrage of information—give them what’s relevant to their lives and their needs.

Don’t just advertise—inform.

We aren’t living in the days of Mad Men anymore. Advertising has infiltrated our lives to the point that it’s everywhere we look, and it’s going to take more than a slick magazine ad to grab attention. At the same time, being disruptive (in a negative way) is annoying to consumers and probably garners more side-eyes than conversions. Today’s advertisers are integrating their product or service offerings seamlessly into consumer’s everyday lives. Out of soap? Scan the barcode on your body wash when you hop out of the shower, and you get a handful of delivery options and prices, ranging from next Tuesday to the next hour. Texting a friend to make dinner arrangements? A helpful assistant will recommend a nearby eatery, arrange an Uber, and send a coupon that’s automatically applied to the bill.

The bottom line is this: every good relationship needs a healthy dose of respect. And even taking some time apart can be beneficial—and can make the sparks fly when you come back together. Remember that your customers are people, give them the space they need, and let the relationship grow organically. And should you need a helping hand, give us a call. You may make up. You may break up. But we’ll help to ensure they won’t be “the one that got away.”