So imagine you’re out somewhere, all dolled up in your Sunday-go-to-meeting best, and suddenly, you see them — the person that fits right into your daydreams of riding off into the sunset and “Til death do us part”. You want them — bad.

So what do you do?

A. You put on your big girl panties, walk over there, and introduce yourself, pay them a compliment, and start up a conversation.

B. You pay someone to follow them around, tracking the minutest statistics about their day, their busying habits, their demographics, what they like and don’t like, who their friends are, and then and only then carefully craft a message that you know will appeal to them and also shows you at your very best?

You’re not stupid — unless you’re an incredible creeper, it’s the first one.

Why? Aside from avoiding being a huge creeper, it’s because you know a really important truth about life: you can’t hack a relationship.But funny enough, all that seems to fly out the window when it comes to running an online business.

People study and study, use metric after metric, A/B test after A/B test, and of course, those all important “secret hacks” to poke and prod away at their target market, desperately trying to find that magical combination of words, freebees, posts, and events that will break open the cash pinatas.

#Protip: People are not cash pinatas (and it really pisses them off to be treated as such).

Again, you’re not stupid — you already know this. After all, you hate those fucking pop ups opt in things as much as anyone else. But somehow when distance and money (aka the Internet) gets added into the mix, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that when it comes down to it, you’re trying to build a relationship between you and another person. See above re: you can’t hack a relationship.

But, but but…

Yes. I know. I really do — its a business, not a hobby, and you need to make money. And yes, metrics can be incredibly useful to a point.

But here’s the thing: your business relies on real, live people, not little Tamagotchi/Sim/homo economicus mashups. Not numbers. Not Twitter followers. Not statistics. Actual people, who, unlike Tamagotchi/Sim/homo economicus mashups, respond to things that are appealing to humans, like authenticity, respect, and creativity. People who are tired of being bombarded with the same bullshit 24/7/365 and are desperate for something different.

And the coolest part?

When you stop stressing yourself to hell and gone over the numbers and focus on the relationships, the numbers respond too. It’s like when you’re single and after months of chasing after people, you finally stop caring and start being confident in yourself, and then suddenly everyone’s interested. When you actually have the cojones to build a relationship instead of just chasing the numbers, your business benefits too.

So what’s it going to be — people or numbers?