Humans are social beings and almost every aspect of life that we consider important is founded on relationships. The internet has created an entirely new relationship dynamic, which when nurtured with care and attention, can lead to some of the most effective marketing strategies of today.
Making connections is best done personally. Put a name and a face to your brand and company. Even if this doesnt directly generate links, itll make doing so much easier in the future. Even if you dont have a bricks and mortar shop, networking in your local area can bring many referrals for years to come.
Businesses have connections other than consumers: suppliers, service providers, industry-related businesses and a whole host of others, and there are many ways to turn these natural contacts into a solid online relationship strategy.
Take part in local events. Be seen and get acquainted with your local community. Attend charity events, festivals, functions at your town hall, school fetes; anywhere you can think of. Be active and stay active.
Know your area. Introduce yourself to other businesses in your locality. Do some shopping. Chat with store owners; chat with customers, get to know their habits and their wants.
Attend conferences and leading industry events. Talk to anyone and everyone. Hang around after the talks to meet and mingle with the speakers.
Support government-funded events or projects. Show people that you care about what happens in your area. This will not only help you gain good working relationships with local authorities, but also endear to the local community.
Learn peoples names. This seemingly obvious touch can make all the difference.
2. Social Media
Building connections is the essence of social media, and never has the reach potential of businesses been so great.
- Follow industry or niche thought leaders. Where else can you get the best industry advice, trade secrets, insights or news 24/7?
- Join groups and communities and be active
- Interact with their social updates. It shows your interest as well as your expertise. Don't be shy. The more you interact, the more visible you will be on their network. In turn, their followers can potentially be your followers.
- If its of value; share it or like/favourite/+1 it.
- Invite people for a Google Hangout. Its as close to a face-to-face meeting as youll get online. Invite both thought-leaders and novices; often, this brings much needed perspective. People who routinely socialise with those of their own abilities are liable to miss glaring issues or ideas that others are in a better position to highlight.
- Take the initiative. Organise webinars, online conferences, lectures, interviews, or open-forum discussions. Write up the notes and publish them for the wider community to see. You can be assured that if you give proper accreditation, all those who participated will be glad to share them with their own community.
- LinkedIn is a relationship-builders dream. Everyone on LinkedIn is there for the same reason: to promote themselves to the business arena and to build relationships that can do something for them. According to statistics, 85% of B2B marketers dubbed LinkedIn as the most effective social networking platform in content delivery and 61% of professional networking that social media users do are in LinkedIn. Take advantage of this openness to connecting.
- Ensure your G+ account is completed in its entirety. Join groups - not just industry-relevant groups but also ones that are personally appealing to you. Be sociable.
3. Social Media is Your New Customer Service Avenue
Respond quickly. Treat social like a telephone. A quick response is essential. Act too late, and the question is left hanging for all to see.
Show your love. Social media can be both extremely personal and impersonal. A personal touch on a feed that can be viewed by the masses is a very nice thing.
Image Src: Coxandforkum.com
Interaction and reaching out to other websites is a staple of online marketing. It's also an excellent way to build relationships with others, and massively broadening your reach.
- Know your niches websites. Become an active member of the popular websites within your niche.
- Visit their blog. Show your interest and get to know them better. Not only may you gain valuable insights, but you may also help boost their sites' traffic. And the more traffic your contacts' sites gain, the more valuable your blog partners will be.
- Comment on posts and answer questions. It's your chance to offer your opinions, insights or knowledge about relevant topics. Show the readers what you know and possibly earn a following from their audience. Use your own name when commenting, and link back to your website. Always use the same name. Dont be afraid to include a link to some of your own work if it adds value to the post
- Offer them a post on a relevant topic. Share what you know by writing articles, creating how-to videos and publishing white papers. Ensure your written work is shareable. Know how to write a viral title, enticing snippet text, and scannable content. Captivating images are also vital.
- Use Google Alerts and Mentions.net to alert you to discussions taking place, and questions being asked around the web. Jump straight to it whenever the opportunity arises and be the first to provide a great answer.
- Link to your contacts/thought leaders in your own articles. Seek out amazing content and quotes from your connections and link to them. Theyll sure appreciate it and might well return the favour.
- Invite great writers to participate on your own blog. Outreach should not just be about adding content to other peoples sites. Pick authors whose work you genuinely enjoy reading, and reach out. What a compliment it is to be asked.
The more your consumers realise how much you know, the more trust you. Despite what Matt Cutts said about guest blogging, it is still one of the most efficient ways to share your knowledge and show your expertise in your niche. As long as you're doing it to build relationships and not spammy links, you'll be alright.
5. Ask for Opinions
Asking somebodys opinion is a special thing to do. There are numerous ways to do this:
- Ask! By far the best way is to ask, one-on-one. Whether its in-person, by e-mail or on social, or by telephone. Simply, ask. Youll often discover things that have been right under your nose all along.
- Customer surveys. Feedback from customers, at specific points of their online journey, is among the most valuable data you can collect. Quantitative data from Analytics can only show you so much. Its the qualitative data where the moneys at. Know:
- Why a user failed to/completed their purchase
- What appealed and what didnt about certain products
- Entry/exit behaviours. Because they can be really different
A great tool for creating surveys is Qualaroo. Its a code that you can embed in your web pages that analyses visitor behaviour and delivers targeted surveys.
- Ask questions of industry-relevant people. Asking competitors; or referring to them on your own blog, increases trust in your brand. It shows youre more interested in helping people, and the bigger picture, than you are in personal gain. Using this technique will serve you very well in the long run.
Fostering trust and loyalty around your brand
Cultivating a good image - a.k.a. brand building " is another method that is so quickly made and broken online. Consumers are more inclined to become and stay loyal to a brand when they can easily associate with them and they believe the company shares their ethics, beliefs and opinions.
Nurture connections. Care for all your relationships. Brands that earn people's loyalty not only gain repeat business but also their active support. This means voluntary recommendations to their family and friends, which is likely to convert into potential customers. After all,
The Bottom Line
Word of mouth, building a leading brand, having near-infinite potential growth, establishing yourself as an authority, and providing first-class customer service " are these not the traits of a hugely successful business? Relationships are at the very core, and the internet is the greatest tool weve ever had for achieving all these and more.
Richard Eaves is a Digital Marketing Specialist who oversees 300+ campaigns for Smart Traffic, an SEO company based in the UK providing services that drive site traffic, increase sales, boost enquiries and leads to help clients across various industries around the world.