We’re in the middle of a culture switch. For decades, marketers have pumped out their message to us. They relentlessly hunted us, knowing with enough exposure… they would find people who actually wanted what they were selling, and drive us to buy stuff. The thing about this shotgun approach is that eventually we were all going to run from it. This is what’s happening. People are training themselves to consume the content they want, while ignoring the advertising.
This is the part of the article where I rant about the infatuation businesses seem to have with traditional media. The lust for getting our ad in a newspaper… remember those? The exposure we would get from direct mail… in the recycle bin. The billboard people would notice… assuming people took their eye off the road for anything, other than eating and texting.
Oh, and there’s the Holy Grail… the TV commercial. The perfectly crafted message that mass amounts of people would see. You know, assuming they didn’t change the channel… get a snack… talk with their spouse… fast forward through… or even miss all together, because they download/watch their favorite TV shows online.
Side note: I do like traditional media for certain kinds of marketing… I just think it has lousy bang for buck at the time of writing this article.
The bottom line? Stop trying to rent people’s attention, and start working for it…
How the internet is actually like doing business in a small town
Doing business in a small town isn’t usually about getting your ad in the newspaper, or having a TV commercial. Small town business is all about doing business with people. People got to know, like and trust you. They believed in your expertise, and they wanted to do business with you. You knew who your customers were, and made meaningful connections with them. Word travelled fast. If you did a great job, people loved you & would tell others to do business with you… if you screwed up enough, people would talk about that too & it could put you out of business.
This is just like the internet, except for two key differences:
1) It’s much more far reaching than a small town. At any given time, you are just a few keystrokes and mouse clicks away from being praised or ripped apart. Think of this example. Imagine you’re a locksmith in a small town. You get word that Sue locked herself out of her house, but she hasn’t called you. You hear the reason for this is because she can’t afford to pay you. Knowing Sue for years, you go over to her house and help her get in, no charge. She feels great about you, and tells a bunch of her friends and family how great you are. In the long run, this provides you with much more in business than you lost by working for free. On the internet, Sue not only tells her family & close friends… but she tells her 150 Facebook friends too. That’s powerful stuff.
2) Making connections with people is different. The internet brings with it the power to connect you with massive amounts of people, and reaches much further than doing business in a small town would. Instead of getting to know Sue at your son’s soccer game, you got to know her because she commented on your blog. You got to know Frankie because you answered his question about home security on twitter. You got to know Jack because of his internet Q&As. This is the way relationships are now being built. The good news is that it’s much cheaper to get your business noticed this way. It does, however, require a lot of sweat equity.
Time to get to work!
What you really need to know, is that it’s time to stop selling stuff, and start building relationships. Start caring about your community and customers!
So, what work is required exactly? This can vary based on your business, so you really just need to learn how to embrace the internet as a whole. You should always keep your eyes out for tools your customers are embracing or are likely to embrace in the future. Saying that, it’s pretty safe to say these are good starting points:
1) Get on Social Media. Even if you start with just one site, that’s great. Try to think logically which social media site would best help you connect with your customers/community, and dive in. The most popular sites at the time of writing this article are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn & Pinterest. Once you choose a site, take the time to learn how to properly utilize it, engage with your community, and talk about things that might interest them. Remember, social media isn’t about pushing out marketing messages; it’s called SOCIAL NETWORKING for a reason.
2) Be a content creator. Creating great content is an excellent way to build credibility, and get noticed online. Starting a blog is one of the best ways to do this. In addition to starting a blog, you might consider making YouTube videos, starting a podcast, or even writing a book. Creating great content will allow you to create a large digital footprint, that people may find when they are seeking your expertise. When someone finds and sees value in your content, and you open the door for them to communicate with you, this helps you build relationships. Not only will these people appreciate you sharing your expertise, but they very well may become your next big customer or a source of future referrals.
3) Be a content consumer. Seek out experts in areas that interest you, and that hopefully are somewhat related to your own expertise. Not only is consuming content a great way to grow as a person, but you have an opportunity to get involved in discussions that might help you get noticed. If someone has created great content, and you engage with them and add something beneficial to the conversation… they might notice you. This may very well be the foundation for a meaningful business (and perhaps personal) relationship.
At the end of the day, the people who will win are the ones who really care. People who care about building relationships with other people. People who go out of their way, to make their customers feel like more than a number. People who want to make the internet better as a whole. People who aren’t so focused on their next sale, but who understand the long term value of repeat business and referrals. Just like business owners used to do in small towns, back in the day.
What do you think about the networking potential behind social media? Any additional thoughts to add? I would love to hear from you!