How to Build Connections Today

Click Click
From Henry Schimke’s Photo Stream

We can ignore everyone if we wanted to. We can turn off our ringers, filter our emails and unhook from all the social media venues.

But the reality is we don’t. We all pick how we want to be connected. But the one thing we don’t do is disconnect. And the second thing we do is pick certain ways we like to connect.

Some people you can ping with a Tweet and they will tweet back. Others work largely by email. Most text and will carry a conversation there privately.

The key is not communicating according to your preferences, but to think individually. You have to observe and connect personally the way your recipients like.

It goes along with the reality that mass anything does not work so well. In fact, once we detect you are not talking to us, but to everyone, we tune out.

Your best bet is to do the hard work of getting attention and engagement in a personal way one person at a time. Yes, it’s more work on your part. It may take away your perceived efficiency of using a certain approach. But was it that efficient anyways?

You are not going to win everyone. You are looking to connect and grow fertile relationships with those who really matter. And everyone does not matter.

Be human. Do the hard work of building human connections. In the months and years ahead, you will reap the benefits of people staying tuned in.

Crowding and the Demise of Facebook

downward trends mean you should change
When you see a downward trend, do you change or sit still and hope?

There’s a lot of news about the recent study of the demise of Facebook where it will lose 80% of its active membership. The research is based on the life cycle of epidemics and the inevitable fade.

While there is historical proof of such previous internet giants as MySpace and AOL going this way, it’s hard to predict human behavior and the internet accurately to say when and how things will happen.

But, I can see why it would happen. The novelty tends to wear off and there is a certain fatigue to seeing old news. It’s like a worn-out TV channel.

If you are trying to rely heavily on Facebook for your business, it is a warning to heed, lest you get caught in a changing world that will leave you without an audience, or at least a disengaged one.

Ultimately, it’s one more indicator to watch for and reinforce the strategy to build on your own platforms with your own content.

Imagine if Facebook does fade out and you lose all that valuable content and work you posted. You hitched your wagon to a platform you do not control or own. That’s a lot of hours that will fade into history.

That’s what happens to distribution channels. They will come and go because they require mass collective buy-in.

But your hub and central asset of thought leadership, content and business systems needs to remain yours.

Consider how you are set up and if you have built an audience and assets that stand on its own. We can’t anticipate every change by Google, Facebook or Twitter out there. But we can think strategically about how those who care about what we have to say or think connect and stay engaged.

We all have the option and access to build our own media and distribute it on the internet. It takes time, just like trust, credibility and engagement take time to naturally develop.

But I would rather build something robust and lasting as a body of work than watch the next rise and fall of mediums take place.

Go where the masses are, where it’s not crowded instead. #lastingwork

Go Where It’s Not Crowded

blending in color contrast
All the squares are the same color, but they blend in when they are in contrast to their environment.

You can keep insisting and playing in a place where you wait to get picked. The winner-take-all game is brutal. There’s a few spots, and while you think you are special, your competition blends you in. At least that is what happens when you are compared.

Our art teachers taught us how our eyes see things when there is color contrast. Like the picture above, you look different when you are compared even though gray is gray.

The irony is that you can create your own niches and avoid the comparison altogether, yet so many still play the old game.

You have that opportunity because you can put your message and image out there unimpeded by a filter, broker or mediator. You have direct access to the buyer.

So why blend in and lower your chances to be noticed or engaged?

You have your freedom. Now it’s time to use it and avoid the crowds. Of course this means you have to lead and take risk. But that possibility is there for everyone. Think about what you look like if you are unique.

Assume The Timing Is Later

You have to build momentum in your marketing and keep it going.

The people who show up at the grocery store are ready to buy something because they have a clear desire to buy food. That is the beauty of known needs that are immediate and consistent. You get people that are ready now.

But what about the timing of your stuff for people who can wait until later or who need a good understanding first? If your customer needs to be educated before they feel comfortable, then an immediate “Yes” is not going to be likely.

Furthermore, if there is not a crisis that makes your product or solution something that fits, then no amount of selling will overcome the status quo.

If you can imagine that much of your pipeline is unseen, then your marketing strategy might cater more towards unready buyers. These are the people that will likely do business with you when the timing is right. You can’t force it or increase pressure. That will only create mistrust. When a person is not ready, they are not going to feel great about being pushed.

Assume that most of your buyers will be entertaining a purchase later and want you to help them come to that decision at some point in the future. What do they want in the mean time?

The fact that they found you online or started a dialogue means that they have some kind of initial interest. If you have a marketing system in place to continue to build a relationship and provide value, then this helps you have a flywheel effect. If you keep refining and feeding your prospective customers with value and helpful content, then the flywheel builds momentum.

If you are sporadic or half-committed, then your momentum will die, and it takes a lot of energy to build it back again. You also leave room for your competitors that are more persistent in providing value to position themselves in the mind of your buyer.

We all like immediate gratification, but the reality is that building a strategy around buying now is not effective when most people are making a decision later.

Assume your first contact with a prospective customer is an introduction. Do you have a nurturing strategy and system to continue the conversation without missing a beat? Is it personal, relevant and timely?

It may be the difference between steady increasing business and continual struggle.

It’s still within the first thirty days of the new year. How about fixing the problem and connecting with us to help?

Without Engagement You Have No Marketing

It’s easy for your customers to ignore you or block you out. Engagement means getting people to pay attention and want to hear from you.

Well, the New Year of marketing is under way. As the clock ticks, you have the opportunity to invest into assets that build a connection and will be working continually for you ongoing even after December 31, 2014. It can be a year of engagement and substance with the right strategies and systems.

When you are in a crowded marketplace, you get squeezed. There is so much noise, and buyers have the ability to tune you out. Ultimately, it is a winner-take-all game. The winners are the ones that truly get engagement from people who are paying attention and caring enough to interact with your content.

The big question to be asking yourself in your marketing strategies are:

Do people want to read my thought leadership?

Is my audience eagerly seeking new content from me?

Am I building assets or just doing one and done campaigns?

Engagement is hard, but it is the narrow path that leads to relationships and trust. It means you are acting human and putting heart and soul into helping people think through the problems they may or may not be able to articulate.

It also means being consistent and persistent. You don’t miss deadlines, and you become anticipated.

Ultimately, your ability to build engagement happens over time. It drives direct business as well as referrals. If you keep giving into the temptation to sell or skip deadlines, then you are hitting the reset button on your marketing. The lack of consistency lowers your positioning in the mind of the buyer.

This is why all of us can’t just start a publishing company. It’s rigorous and has a lot of demands on quality and deadlines to which few are able to commit. But once you have the flywheel going, it creates a steady pipeline of business.

If you are wanting that long-term strategy which keeps paying dividends, then let’s have a conversation.

Or noodle on what we are saying here and throughout our own persistent content. It will help you set the right direction for your business in the coming year.

The Marketing Reality of the New Year

Definitely party. Then think about focusing on what works.

Happy New Year from our team!

It is a privilege to connect and share our thoughts and strategies that we put heart and soul into day in and day out. Undoubtedly, you are hearing about reflections and resolutions as the turning of another new year comes to pass.

For us, we think there is one thing that would be the best strategy for your marketing that will work to win new customers. The problem is that it is not a get-rich-quick or backdoor scheme.

In fact, there are no tricks or gimmicks.

You see, the game has changed dramatically. The key question to be asking yourself is what is happening in your market right now. How does it compare to last year? Here are some safe guesses:

Your competitors all have websites.

Everyone is on social media

It’s very crowded and noisy out there.

Old ways of selling and marketing are not as effective.

Most of the channels that are popular have a double-edged sword. It’s great to get on and be part of the action, but it also drowns out your attempts to stand out. And if you try spamming or using unsolicited and inauthentic techniques in your marketing, people can tune you out pretty conveniently.

So with the upcoming year, what if you committed to this one surefire way to success? That way comes down to being real. Try to get human in your marketing, and tell your story with authenticity. Get rid of all the effort and activity that wastes attention and start building content assets that help people.

Being real means stop wasting your money and energy looking for that gimmick. If there was one, everyone would have found it and made it ineffective anyways.

Being real means being consistent and showing up with high quality content. Content that is thought out and helps people solve their problems are what buyers are looking for.

Being real means showing thought leadership in your industry. Share your knowledge and demonstrate your expertise so people know who to talk to when they are ready to move forward.

This is what it takes to grow your business and opportunities in a crowded marketplace. The tools you use or the social networks you are a part of are not novel. You have to create engagement, build trust and show consistency. This happens with hard work, organization and investment in the marketing assets that will continue to position you in the minds of strangers as the thought leader.

You may be thinking about many other commitments for the new year. We encourage this one thing to get you focused and put the spotlight on where the substance and reality of your industry is today.

Thinking and acting for the long-term will pay dividends over time and keep you from having to reset your strategies every time the emotions get grounded by reality.

Happy New Year and be sure to take some action around this one simple commitment. Be real.

Showing Up Is Better Than Perfection In the Long Run

Consistency and continuous engagement builds trust more than obsessing over perfection every time.

One of the hardest things to do is click the “Send” or “Publish” button. It means you have to put yourself out there with what is ultimately incomplete work. What you decide to send is never perfect because anyone can come along and tell you a few things to improve. You can always make your design, content and ideas better.

And if you are not able to ship, then time mercilessly marches on. You miss a window to share an important thought at what could have been the perfect time.

Forbes magazine can’t afford to operate out of perfection. The New York Times has a daily deadline. They get their content as professional and clean as possible, but they also have to ship. They have a deadline that never ends – daily, weekly, monthly. 

Old articles fade in their value as the newest and freshest news becomes what matters to readers. These content companies understand that if they miss on something, which they do not necessarily strive to do, they have thousands of future articles and issues to continue to bring value. They don’t hold the schedule up for what could be better. They want to show up. And by showing up, they continue to build engagement and rapport.

Perfection doesn’t necessarily buy you more praise or help you avoid the criticisms of readers. Showing up with frequency has much more value than trying to get things just right.

You may have to live with the fact that the more you put yourself out there and the larger your audience, you are opening yourself up to critics. It’s part of the natural audience distribution of putting your work out there for people to consume and use. Now if the amount of criticism is extremely high, you may need to revisit your strategy. But having some criticism is a signal that people are paying attention enough to offer their feedback. This is better than having people who ignore you altogether.

Continuous Shipping

The way I like to think of what continuous shipping means is that you are growing something and building a body of work over time. You are not swinging for home runs every time. That is unrealistic. That’s not how artists, creatives or companies work.

You are increasing your probabilities of connecting by being consistent and showing up. People can depend on your timeliness and commitment to be of value. If you miss once in a while, you will have hundreds of times to continue honing your work. But you have to keep showing up and making that decision to ship with the tradeoff of lacking perfection.

In the long run, you will build trust this way. Your audience can depend on your consistency. You will free yourself from the anguish and elusiveness of waiting for perfection. But you will increase your credibility, permission and trust this way in the long run. So ship and keep growing. Make perfection something you do over time, not at every shipping point.

We Are Looking for the Timely Story

Think about where and when your customer is looking at your content.

Take a look at any store, and the layout changes for the holidays and the season to match what is on our minds. Albeit, Christmas seems to be creeping ever earlier, now even before Halloween!

Marketers capitalize on what is relevant. We don’t find bikinis appealing to buy in December or heavy wool mittens worthwhile in sweltering July heat. The story changes every season.

When it comes to your own story that is heard/read by customers and prospects, your message has to be consistent, persistent and relevant. The timing of what you are offering has to catch people where they are at in their mindsets. Gary Vaynerchuk said it aptly in his bestseller, Jab, Jab, Jab Right Hook:

No matter who you are or what kind of company or organization you work for, your number-one job is to tell your story to the consumer wherever they are, and preferably at the moment they are deciding to make a purchase. ~ Gary Vaynerchuk

You see, we tell ourselves a story when we buy something. That story starts long before we decide on making a purchase. It is going on in our heads:

On buying a gym membership … “I want to feel fit and get in shape so I can look great in a smaller dress size.”

Dining at a high end steakhouse … “I have worked hard all week and deserve a nice dinner out with class.”

Getting that new car … “I am all about fun and want to live freely.”

There are innumerable amounts of stories going on in our heads. The ones we choose to tell ourselves catalyze our decision to buy.

If you can match up to that story with the right timing and frequency, then you nurture an event that happens over time inside people. This is why your content has to frame that story and create engagement wherever people are at. This means ensuring you don’t skip on timing. You publish your message so people can expect it.

It also means people can read what you send or share on their mobile device or tablet. Make it hard and they can simply ignore you.

Having the right message at the right time in the buying cycle means staying tuned in and analyzing what readers are doing.

This all takes a great amount of attention and work, but the attention economy is not very forgiving. Consumers have control of what they read or engage with. Thus, storytelling is not just about the right story. It’s about all the mechanics and pieces for making the story easy and desirable to hear, read and watch.

Yes, you have to work hard and be tuned in. That’s just the reality of a changing world. But the storytelling will always be critical.

Keeping Perspective on Social Media

Social media is a great channel for increasing your chances of connecting. But keep it in perspective

We find ourselves educating our customers on social media many times. It has a lot of meaning and promises for different people. But ultimately, it is a channel of distribution. It is an important place to broadcast your message and participate where it makes sense.

But you have to remember a few things that are true:

It’s not your content

What you post belongs to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+. You are using their platform. They own it. Violate a policy for example and see what happens to your account and your content.

You don’t own those systems. But the more you participate and are encouraged to post helps them out a great deal. It’s their system.

Your messages rely on luck

People are not watching their Facebook feeds or Twitter stream all the time. When they tune in, the timing of your messages is important.

What happens if you had a world-class thought or post but it was six hours ago? Oh well, you were missed by a portion of people. Maybe next time.

Timing, pertinence and relevance continues to shift. We don’t like to read a week old newspaper. It’s irrelevant. We read what is fresh.

It’s a give and take

If all you do is take, then you won’t get attention. Social media is about how much you give. This can come from insights, participation and helping others. It does take investment and the return is not easily measurable. Actually, such business expectations can become frustrated.

Social media is a place of chance and opportunity if you work it with the right touches, frequency and timing.

The long haul matters

If you are looking for a quick sale, then I’m not so sure social media will meet your expectations. It takes time to build a relationship, an audience and trust. You have to respect the channels and earn it through consistency over time.

Ultimately, your own content that you own on your own assets is the hub that creates more intimacy with strangers. Keeping channels of interaction open on social media is a great way to increase the odds of attracting more fans.

It’s hard for someone who is looking for the gimmick or shortcut to get this. But that’s because their lens of what social media is has been contaminated. They are not seeing that it is a value adding place, not a high pressure sales place.

Keep figuring out how provide thought leadership and value and remember the advantages and limitations of social media systems. The better strategies emerge as a result over time.

Living Content in the Email Inbox

If your content is in someone’s email inbox, it may be referenced over time.

All content is not equal. Some of it may be a hot flash where timing is extremely important. If you don’t post the right tweet at the right time to the right people it is buried in the stream forever. Some content may persist a bit longer like a news article on a popular site.

For the long-term strategy the biggest asset you can have over time is your online content that is optimized and indexed by Google for its authority and relevance. It can be strategically used in different ways to get leads and make sales.

But one often overlooked distribution channel for content is the email inbox. While many pundits like to speak of the demise of email, it is still the killer app. We work and live out of our email because it’s convenient, personal and a unifying platform. Everyone has an email address and knows how to use it without extra training or commitment.

Just look over any business person’s shoulder, and you will find their email program open throughout the work day. It’s why you can send an email, and it is read or replied to quickly. It’s efficient and easy.

But the use of email has layers to it that are important for effective and strategic marketing efforts. It has to do with how people interact with their email.

The Inbox as a Hard Drive

Most people are not efficient with their emails. They have hundreds and even thousands of emails in their inbox. Some are better at organizing email than others, but the continual barrage of communications does make it hard to keep up. Few maintain a zeroinbox.

Regardless of how people deal with their inbox, they do save their emails. It is why there are storage limits on Outlook servers and Gmail quotas.

The saving of those emails allows people to open up past emails. This happens in a variety of situations. Their minds might remember a resourceful article, and they search for it and reread it.

They may want to share something that has helped them previously with someone else and simply forward it.

It is effectively a hard drive that stores a lot of valuable information relevant to a person’s work. They draw on it when issues, problems or circumstances become relevant. This is where timing becomes so important. The email inbox is an incubator of great content.

Timing In the Sales Process

With some of the systems we implement for our content marketing customers, we can see when a subscriber is getting ready to take action. They have digital body language that accelerates around content. They are reading, researching and deciding on a course of action. More often than not, this happens weeks or months later than when there was an idea proposed or a sales proposal sent.

This is the majority of people and why it is so important to have marketing systems in place to nurture leads. The vast majority of buyers are not ready. The timing is not right. A lot of things have to line up such as clarity of information, buy-in from others, and overall emotional readiness.

When your customer becomes ready, they read past content and review your content system online. Timing is critical in this process.

So, your content engine sets you up. What you share gets saved and becomes a part of people’s archives and library that they tap into as a personally collected piece of information.

Just as strangers might find your optimized content assets online, recipients of your content save and reference past information in their inbox as part of their pool of resources to address the problems they face.

This is why it is critical to have an overall strategy that focuses on the picture of how people buy. The email inbox is a critical part of how they connect with you over time.