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Small Business Advice: Relationships Are the Key to Success

Business is about relationships. Relationships are about people. So it should be obvious that people do business with people, not businesses.

Yet I’m always surprised how many small business owners miss this. Somewhere in all their efforts to develop their business plan and marketing strategy they seem to forget that it’s about the people.

Maybe it’s using terms like target audience or niche market that somehow dehumanizes their thoughts, I’m unsure. Or perhaps it’s the way we think about business in general as being a cold, cut-throat world where business owners are always trying to gain an upper hand on the competition. I know it’s hard to see people when we’re thinking like that.

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Small Business Advice: Are Your Customers Morons?

I was thinking this morning about what makes a great relationship.

According to James from Audio Mecca, it’s necessary to accept “that the other fellow is not a moron.”

I keep saying again and again that conversation leads to relationship and relationship leads to business. No matter whether we’re talking about clients and customers, referrals and affiliates, partnerships or friends – it all begins with building relationships.

That’s why I find James’ comment so interesting. It’s true! We need to believe that the people we get into conversations with, and ultimately building relationships with, are not idiots. Don’t they have a point? Aren’t their comments, perceptions and ideas important in some way?

If they’re not, why are we in the conversation with them in the first place?

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Word of Mouth Marketing: Can It Get You In Trouble?

You know I love word of mouth marketing. I find it to be one of the purest, simplest and most rewarding ways of getting my business known.

But did you know that word of mouth marketing can be illegal?

According to Andy Sernovitz there’s a new bill (pdf) being introduced in the U.K. which will make some marketing practices illegal. The bill is meant to stop false and misleading marketing practices. Of course, word of mouth marketing could easily fit into that category if marketers were deceptive about their campaigns.

So what makes word of mouth marketing illegal?

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Social Media Advice: You Are What You Share

I get asked all the time why a business owner should be blogging or engaged in social media.

The answer I give almost always revolves around creating relationships. If you’ve been reading a while, you know one of my favorite statements is people don’t do business with businesses, they do business with people. So relationships become key to business success.

Before the internet, before social media, much of the business world seemed to focus on producing and selling. You’d produce a product or create a service and do everything you could to get people to buy. In other words, marketing was about peddling what you had.

Today, however, [Read more…]

A Key To Great Social Media Relationships

one2one-sm.gifRemember the days when the internet was like listening to news radio? You’d search the dial for news and interesting topics.

Then came talk radio. Now people could call in and add their two cents to the topic discussed by the host. I often think of social media as being like talk radio.

For instance, now people can interact with the ‘hosts’ of blogs; engaging in interesting, lively and informative conversations. Or they can meet each other in Facebook or on StumbleUpon. Yet it goes further than that. Now, rather than just commenting on topics, social sharing and networking sites allow users to have control over what content gets seen – which stories get pushed to the top. It’s really an amazing time. [Read more…]

In Business, Make It About The Relationship First

biz-relationship.jpgA couple of days back I was speaking with a client of mine. She’s a life coach who wants to know better how to use the web (and soon her blog) to increase her marketing reach and, ultimately, her business.

We spent the better part of an hour talking about how a blog, when used well, can become a hub for creating buzz about her business. But as we talked, I could sense there was something I wasn’t communicating clearly enough for her to understand.

She was focusing on how her blog would get her in front of so many more people than her static website and how those people would “just convert to clients.”

Of course it doesn’t just work like that. People don’t just become clients for no reason. And just because we’re blogging doesn’t mean our business will grow.

So I asked her to describe how she’d write a blog post to me. She said she’d simply write about what she does, how she helps people and what problems she can solve. She knew from our previous conversations that she wanted to use her blog to build conversation with her readers. And she was clear that she needed to followup with her commenters.

It all sounds pretty good, right? But something was missing for me. Then I asked her what the point of having the conversation in the comment box with her readers. She told me to convert them to clients. So I asked her, “do you see your readers and commenters as prospects?” Her answer was, “Certainly!”

So I asked her, “What about you, your family, your life…are you planning to share any of that through your blog?”

“Why would I,” she responded? “I don’t want them to focus on my life, I want them to do business with me.”

Ah, now my fog was lifted. I knew what she meant – that she wants to use her blog to draw perspective clients that she can then interact with and convert them into clients. But she was unknowingly leaving something out…the relationship.

Sure, there’s lots of ways to market your business using your blog. How I use mine is to build relationships with people. I don’t see you, someone reading my blog, as a reader (though I’ve used the term) nor a prospect. Rather, I see you as a person; someone who has some interest in what I have to say. Hence, I have interest in getting to know who you are. That’s fertile soil for a relationship.

So I share with my client how I’ve found relationships to be the key to growing my business successfully over the years. I’ve learned that when I let the relationship lead the way, the business end of things takes care of itself. I’m not talking about relationships over business. I’m talking about the relationship part of business leading the way.

That’s one way I’ve found conversational blogging to be so powerful. The comment box creates a space for us to have a conversation. Over time, that conversation can lead to a relationship. Some of those relationships can be acquaintances, some friendships, and some business relationships. And each on different levels that grow organically.

When I shared all this with my client (we went over our hour), she got it. Not only did she get it, she was invigorated by the potential to touch people. And while she wasn’t, yet, completely clear how to ‘lead with the relationship,’ she had a sense of how it worked.

So how has blogging helped you create conversations that have led to relationships? What type of relationships have you built? And how have those relationships benefitted your business?

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