One after another, business leaders and owners are contacting me and asking “how can I network online? I see what you’re doing and it’s impressive. I want to understand and how to network online and why my content marketing isn’t bringing me a steady stream of clients.”
For example, Tina contacted me last week and shared how she has been a content creating machine for over a year.
She was told that if she just created a blog and blogged a few times per week, did a video a week and posted on social media that her sales would start to grow. But it just isn’t happening. Sales are flat, traffic remains low to her site and engagement is non-existent.
What Tina doesn’t know is that she is being told how to do marketing in a mass marketing context and in a way that hasn’t worked well since before 2011.
The truth is that the internet is changing rapidly and those who are searching for us are more savvy and smart to manipulative ways of getting a sale. Yet, many supposed marketers, coaches and consultants are not getting the message.
Over the last year Tina’s traffic has not grown like she had hoped and worse yet the traffic she is getting is from those who just want her free stuff and have no intention of buying from her.
How can she change this and is there anything different she can do to get the results she really wants?
Let me share one reason I believe this happening to her.
She has forgotten, or maybe never learned, that business is about relationships.
Content is a means to relationship that is earned by demonstrating that we as content generators and businesses are competent and worthy.
Relationships are developed when our content is so good that our readers are not just attracted to us but they are inspired to go beyond reading to engaging and sharing.
In the age of increased search engine competition and social media noise, how are we to earn and gain an audience?
Did you know that according to WPVirtuso in an article published in November 2013 it was estimated that “172,800 blogs are added to the internet every day.”
I have seen some estimates recently that those numbers could be even higher in August 2015.
There is so much noise and competition for content to be seen and consumed that we are left to wonder and can we grow a business when mass marketing is as expensive as ever and content marketing is noisier than ever?
Back to the Basics of Business
I can remember in 1994 working for the New England Life and Investment Company long before there was an internet. I was in my mid 20’s and very teachable.
I was fortunate enough to be trained not to do mass marketing. Our audience wouldn’t accept it. So I had to do things the old fashioned way… one person at a time.
I would attend functions, events, dinners… you name it. I tried to make sure I was always seated with those who were known networkers and influencers. I have to tell you, I made a lot of money and some awards that year that 20 year veterans of the business had never won.
In my opinion the internet should no longer be a quick fix to the cash for business. Instead, it ought to be a tool that is used to attract, resonate with and help one person, with one problem/need/desire, with one solution.
That means it’s time to get back to the basics of learning how to network online.
Personally I don’t think we ever had it. For those of us who remember the 90’s and early 2000’s it seemed like a fairy tale. If you could afford a website or had the programming skills you could make a lot of easy money.
Google made it feel easy for several years.
And then the challenges came in 2005 and again with the rise in social media in 2009-2010… and then the noise came the complexity set in.
Simply stated, why network when we can just “advertise” and that’s exactly what most websites for business became. They were just online brochures.
Well, we all know those days are gone; right?
Networking is more than just blogging, posting on social media and hoping people share it… it’s about learning about your audience and including them.
How many of you can remember going to a chamber of commerce event, mixer, networking group, etc and feeling like you were just there to be sold?
The problem with networking is that people don’t understand that it’s not about selling. It’s about connecting and referring once relationships are established through competency.
Competency is the glue that holds all business relationships together. It doesn’t matter how much I like or trust someone if that someone begins costing me money, customers or reputation issues.
People hire and they fire based on competency.
Tina was Selling, Not Connecting
Tina was struggling because she wasn’t connecting the dots with her prospects (or readers). When looking at her site it was apparent she didn’t understand what the needs of her visitors really were. Her message was fundamentally off (Learn here more about how to message yourself relevantly and discover your audience).
She messaged how wonderful she is and how great her service is and how much she sold last year.
She had some nice stock photos but it is very impersonal along with a “Subscribe” button.
Here is the truth; if I don’t know you and I don’t clearly understand you then why would I subscribe to something?
Beyond that, networking again is not about selling. Selling from content other than sales pages is not advisable but yet that’s what many businesses are trying to do.
They stay too broad, they don’t resonate and then they expect their site visitors to buy from them.
I have one caution for you before I start talking about networking and a few strategies. You must know “What business you are “REALLY” in” if you’re going to be successful in networking. You cannot fudge this area of your business or it will get exposed and it will hurt your marketing and sales.
You must know:
- The tangible values your customers experience and how they feel about the experience(s).
- The “specific” problems each tangible value solves.
- Who you “specifically” solve each problem for.
- How your product or service is a solution to the problem
You must know your business and your audience.
In fact, I came across a fantastic article last week by Elaine Fogel titled “What Bugs Customers the Most About Your Service?”
Customer support is tied directly to a tangible value as it’s about “experience.” Want to find out really bugs a customer? Check out her article as it is extensive, researched and extremely informative.
Now that we have that behind us and your business is perfect and ready for networking. Let’s learn what this thing really is…
What about Networking…
Networking is an incredible way to meet a new audience online and rapidly grow your web presence, build your competency and reputation and earn a lot of new sales.
Let’s think about it for just a second…
Is it easier to get someone to read 10.4 pieces of content before they are willing to buy from you (2015 B2B Web Usability Report) or is it easier to get a referral from someone who has an audience that you’ve actually benefited and networked with?
There have been a few articles of late that I’ve really been impressed with when it comes to networking with established bloggers. Some refer to these bloggers as “influencers.”
Here is a few you might consider reading:
- The Right And Wrong Ways To Do Influencer Marketing – by Adrienne Smith
- Influencer Marketing: 11 Memorable Ways To Gain An Influencer’s Attention – by Ana Hoffman
How to Network Online in a Practical Sense?
Here are just a few ideas or strategies:
- Include them in your blog like I just did above with Adrienne and Ana. Not only do they appreciate the mentions and potential traffic but also the potential sales. Yes, I am referring to them and perhaps what you need is what they have to offer?
- Tag them in social media to let them know.
- Reciprocate – if someone leaves a comment on your blog be sure to leave one on theirs. Here is a great article by Sherman Smith where he talks about the power of reciprocity in blogging: Is Your Online Marketing Plan Building Strong Reciprocity?
- Create a video for them like Donna Merrill did for me a few months ago out of nowhere. That was REALLY special and way cool!!!!!!
- Send someone who re-tweeted your article a short, private video thanking them. It’s personal and memorable. I’ve done this several times and it’s powerful.
- Engage with bloggers on their websites through comments that add to the conversation and provide real value.
Another idea is roundups. A roundup is an article that shares some insightful blog articles, podcasts or videos. Here are a few examples:
- 7 Great Blog Posts August 2015 – Donna Merrill
- Weekly Skinny – Ana Hoffman has a fantastic regular resource
What are the Benefits of Networking Online?
I’m going to use my own experience here… in one year my start-up blog went from knowing no one to having a ton of blogging friends who refer traffic to me daily in one way or another. Through their blogs, social media shares and even in their emails.
The relationships I’ve developed have earned me tens of thousands of dollars in new clients, thousands of qualified site visitors every month and an award for best small business blog in 2015 by fitsmallbusiness.com.
In addition they have become a part of my community of friends who support me and I them.
When I wrote my first article for SEMrush.com (check out my author page for the articles) in January 2015 they showed up in force with nearly 100 comments – I think that’s still a record on their site to this day?
It earned me another article with them, 2 webinars and the first person to do a podcast with them. I have gotten to know their team personally and through our adventures I have earned thousands of dollars in new business as well as an opportunity to work with InstantTraining.com (we will be recording training videos on 9/8/1). They have notable marketing trainers I’m familiar such as Mark Schaefer and Neal Schaffer.
Here is the point… there is no way I could have ever achieved what I achieved in just one year without their support and friendship.
From going from unknown to endless opportunities was no accident. It was intentional and I worked hard to connect with influencers and offer them real value in addition to the best content I could research and come up with.
Here is the thing… you can to if you’re willing to put in the time to get really clear on your business, connect with the right people who have access to your audience but serve them in a different way and then genuinely and authentically promote them when it’s appropriate.
I have so many people to be thankful for over the last year, so much so that I can’t list them all here but many of you know who you are.
Just to mention a few: Adrienne Smith, Ryan Biddulph, Donna Merrill, Sylviane Nuccio, Andrew Warner, Lisa Sicard, Sherman Smith, Deborah Tutnauer, Sue Anne Dunlivie, Adam Connell, and SEMrush.com (Michael Sticker, Kathleen Garvin, Peter Starr Northrop, and Tara Clapper).
And there are so many more that if I forgot you or didn’t mention you my deepest apologies.
Networking is the Difference Maker
Some of you are so busy chasing strategies and sales that you are missing an incredible resource of opportunities that only networking can provide you.
It’s true in the offline world and it’s just as true in the online world.
It’s a learned skill and one that you ought to seriously consider if you want to get ahead in the game of online marketing for your business.
Technology is not going to slow down but the reality is that as complex as digital marketing can feel in the end the reality is you have to learn your business and in turn strip the complexity in order to get the simplicity.
Networking can do for you what no other online tool can and while you’re doing it guess what is happening… you’re organically doing search engine optimization (SEO) and social media marketing as well as earning referred traffic by those who are in your direct audience.
So what’s stopping you from networking?
- Is it fear of the unknown?
- Is a concern over the time commitment?
- Is it a lack of knowledge or understanding on how the internet works?
- Is it a fear of how you will be received?
Are you like Tina?
Have you been creating content for a while but you are not getting the results that you ought to be getting?
If my story means anything; it’s that if I can do it you can do it as well!!!
Today I’ve just introduced you to some concepts and by no means are they exhaustive. Every business is different and so are the needs of each audience.
If you want to learn more about networking and online marketing; if you need to discover your message to get really clear on your business so that you can market and network more efficiently and profitably than ever before than I want to encourage you to schedule a free consultation with me.
Click here to access my calendar and get up to one hour free with me. I guarantee I will give you one idea that you can use immediately and there is no pressure, obligation or commitment on your part.
If you want to learn more please visit the “Begin Here” page to learn how I can help your business learn how to network and become more profitable.
Do you have a question, comment or idea you would like to share? Please, engage with me in the comments below and talk about it!!!