If you have been in business any number of years, then you undoubtedly have an extensive personal network. Many times our networks are developed over years at such an unnoticeable pace that we can find ourselves quite shocked when we sit and construct a listing of our personal contacts. If you have ever built a business "from scratch," then you know your initial list of personal contacts becomes immediately and inextricably important to your new business's success. In many ways, the same is true of your internet marketing efforts for your company.
Just as you would sit with a paper and pen and write down the names, addresses and phone numbers of everyone you can possibly think of that you know on the face of the earth, you will take a similar approach with internet marketing. Here is a suggested set of steps to take to prepare to expand your internet marketing efforts by utilizing your personal network.
Write out or enter into a database all of the pertinent information on your contacts.
Name, address, phone numbers, secretary's name, spouse's name, email address and website address.
Make a short list of how you know your contacts. For instance, group A may be all of your immediate family members, group B may be all of your closest friends, group C may be all of the contacts on your list who attend your church, group D may be all of your old friends from college, and so on. You get the idea.
You will put your groups in a sequence of importance or rank. In some circles of professionals, this is called your "circle of influence." Everyone on your contact list is in your circle of influence; and inside that circle of influence there are additional circles which have to do with intimacy, trust, power and reliability.
The different "circles" inside of your circle of influence will each be asked to help you with a different project to help promote your internet marketing.
Other things you can do in your personal network to help pump up your internet marketing include:
Write an opinion piece or a blog on one of your sites to promote one of your friend's pet projects in return for a one time use of their email list.
Create a PowerPoint® presentation that features your services and website or links that your friend can post as a document on his or her website.Want to learn more? Take an online course in Internet Marketing Basics.
Offer to do a webinar for your friend on a topic they desperately need covered for their client's interests, but for which they are not equipped to prepare.
Make sure your entire personal network is entered into your email marketing site so that they are always up-to-date on your company's latest information/sales. Your personal network is the group that is most likely to give a referral when they know of someone in need of your products.
Enter everyone in your circle of influence into your company's database; preferably a system such as ACT! or comparable software that can help you keep track of the many details related to each person.
Of course this list and approach is not exhaustive. You will need to think about the uniqueness of your list of contacts. What interests do they have that sets them apart from others you come across on the internet? What can you give them that is of great value to them because they need it and it is difficult for them to get at the moment, and which in your giving will either directly help to generate traffic to your site or will help to increase business or referrals? Find a quiet place to relax and think about it. You will find that you can come up with some creative ideas after all.
Newsletters & Your Warm Market
Your company's warm market will stay warm depending upon your direct actions with them. Each client needs and wants to feel wanted and appreciated by you. After all, they went to work to earn the money they are spending with you or your company and they want to know they are not taken for granted and that they are thought of as personally special. This does not have to be a fawning; it can be just communicating that their project is unique and interesting.
A company newsletter that is well written can help to communicate this to your clients in any number of ways. The important thing to remember about a newsletter is that it helps to keep your prospective client part of your warm market rather than the client of a passing interest [and passing by your business].
One of the most obvious advantages of creating a newsletter to your warm market is that you can insert links, sites, coupons and notices of sales coming up in your company. Clients who are truly interested prospects will find all of these details interesting and it will help to keep them involved in the content of the newsletter.
Pulling the Face-to-Face Client Into Your Site
A quick way to pull your clients in your store into your new website is to inform them that if they visit your site and register for your free newsletter, they will receive a bonus free sample [of one of your least expensive and most popular products]. Yes, you are baiting them into the site. But you are also encouraging them to sign into your email marketing system for future contact and future purchases
Another way to pull your current clients into your newsletter and your website is to tell them in your next face-to-face encounter that you have special discounts available only through your website [or newsletter]. Further, if they go out to your site and sign up for your free newsletter, then they will qualify for additional monthly discounts and coupons. Always make sure your newsletter includes discount coupons; they build loyalty and a quick tolerance of your incoming email, especially if they are regular customers.
In a less obvious way, the client who follows your directions and signs up for your newsletter is also coming into agreement with you about their continued interest in your company and its products. In a very passive way they are coming into a commitment to make future purchases although it may never be said by you or the client. It is always a good sign to see your clients make an email commitment.
How the Newsletter Serves Your Internet Marketing
The newsletter is a great bridge between the client and your internet site. At its best, you will have a manual list to which you send the newsletter via regular mail and an email marketing list which goes out via electronic design and your email marketing.
On an upstart company, you may try a manual list with an old fashioned newsletter. Even so, your newsletter can be used to drive clients to your site by inserting any number of links, articles of interest and website references.
The best tool you can use in a newsletter is a product or giveaway that is advertised or promoted within the newsletter, but can only be received by visiting the site or ordering online. The idea with the newsletter is to take a traditional format that hits the traditional prospects in your marketing list, to give them an invitation to the site and to make their visit highly rewarding.
However, the key is not to be so defensive or protective as it is to be smart and to know who to use and help, and who is better left in the supplier/buyer category. What you want to do first out is to deepen the relationship so that you can find out what factors will make a tightened business relationship mutually beneficial. B2B relationships will not help you to expand your business or your internet marketing efforts unless you can determine two things: 1) What is going to keep this person loyal to me; and 2) What is going to keep their mouth shut?
The inevitable answer to both questions is the same: Whatever you have that they need and that they see as a priceless asset for their increased business success. When you can identify what it is that you offer that your B2B partner will be hard pressed to find elsewhere, then you have found what will keep them loyal and their mouth shut.
In the best B2B relationships that you will use to build your marketing efforts and your business, you will find that your closest business circle of people, whom you have known the most number of years, will likely yield the best results. These are people with whom you have had relationship for many, many years. For example, one of my best B2B relationships is a childhood friend that I spent many summer days with back in those years. I have known her more than 35 years, and yet today we appear to have very little in common other than our history. She is an accountant and I am a writer. But because of our long relationship and the fact that we have a B2B relationship [she is our accountant], we are able to find mutually beneficial ways in which we can build each other's business. I do a fair amount of grant writing, which requires the applicant's financials. She encounters all types of business people who need a variety of business materials written for them. We refer each other and we have links to the other posted on both of our sites.
The search engines and their crawlers draw the lines between every link you post on your site. So, when your B2B relationship is posted as a professional that your company recommends its clients to, then the engines will also double list you with their name and them with your company's name. The likelihood of this increases even more so if you write a blurb about the professional using their full name and their company name and link. So, for instance, when my accounting friend was listed on our company site, she gained a Google listing and link. When she posted us on her site, we gained a listing and link in Google.
Now, unless you know the person or their business for many, many years, it is very risky to your business and your reputation to post on your site that your company refers their clients to your B2B. When you do this, you are tying your reputations together and they are forever inextricable from one another in the minds of your clients. If your B2B fails your client in any way small or large, then you will likely lose the client.
If chosen well, B2B relationships can be powerful internet marketers and expanders for your business. Some of your B2B relationships will not be used as in the example above and you will be more relaxed about the relationship and its potential negative impact on your company. For example, several of my B2B relationships who have helped tremendously in my internet marketing and presence on the web are B2Bs in which I have only a social or religious common ground. Yes, we do business with one another, but on a day-to-day basis we have little to talk about other than our common club or common religious beliefs.
In some ways, these B2B relationships can be easier on your soul. For example, if you belong to the same community group or church as one of your B2Bs, then you may find more security in the fact that the other person will not want to risk their community reputation in their immediate circle of friends in order to mistreat you, bad mouth you or be socially abusive to you. In many instances, the community ties can be a strong deterrent to lying or jealous maneuvers because in time the community knows the person's character and if they begin to lie or distort your character behind your back, then the B2B is more likely to suffer from such behavior than they are to successfully inflict pain on you or hurt your company.
In other ways, choosing which B2B relationships to use to help grow your internet marketing and expand your business is much like choosing a marriage partner. You will do well if you choose these with as much discrimination as you chose your spouse. In many ways you are making a business marriage of sorts. You are giving up some of your power in exchange for a large dose of the other person's power and they are doing the same. Both parties should have a sense that they will gain quite a lot from the relationship, but that they could ultimately be hurt badly if things go south.
Just as your best spouse is the one who meets most of your needs and is a joy to be around, your best B2B will be someone who helps to fill in a lot of your company's "needs list" and who is excited about what you will do for their business as well. If they are not excited about your B2B relationship in the internet world, then do not try to push it regardless of how long you have known them or how good of friends you happen to be. Like a good marriage, the B2B relationship requires a good amount of enthusiasm on BOTH sides of the equation.