During my first consulting session, the client asked me how I’ve built such a large following on Blacksburg Belle. The short answer was, “relationships.”
This past Thursday, I had 4,933 visits and 11,802 page views in one day, and Blacksburg Belle is not yet 3 months old. I’m proud of those numbers. But, I can’t take all the credit.
Yes, I write all the content, but there’s no way I would have been able to get my content in front of so many people in such a short amount of time on my own.
Consulting and Big Ideas
I took one of those ideas to start a blog series with other women in my niche and I ran with it. While collaborating with those women, I built relationships that have lasted long past the two week blog series. I’ve guest posted on some of their blogs, and I’ve been asked to be a permanent contributor to two of their blogs. If you’re anything like me, you’re super protective of your blog, so I consider it an honor to be asked to be a permanent contributor.
During the blog series, Etsy included the introduction to the series on the Etsy success reading list. This led to a spike in views, newsletter subscribers, and blog subscribers. This got my blog in front of a lot people in the handmade community.
So, basically, my consulting session with Srini led to the big idea of hosting a blog series which led to lots of press, long-lasting relationships, and many more opportunities.
Content vs. Relationships
I don’t want to only give you half the story. It’s not all about relationships.
If you want to build a loyal following on your blog in a short amount of time, you need to do two things: provide your readers with useful content and focus on relationships.
Great relationships can only do so much for you if don’t provide good content. The people you’ve built relationships with aren’t going to want to share your content if it isn’t any good. If I don’t think you’re blog post is going to help or benefit anyone, I’m not going to share it on Twitter or link to it on Facebook. If I send my readers and followers to crap, they’re going to stop trusting me.
On the other hand, if you have awesome content that solves your target market’s problems but you haven’t spent any time developing relationships, you’ll have a difficult time sharing it.
What Does This Have to Do with Marketing?
When you build authentic relationships with other people related to your niche, they’re more likely to support you. They’re more likely to retweet your tweets, send their followers to your latest products, and promote you on their blogs.
Basically, when you make solid connections with others, they’ll start to market your stuff for you. When you build a network of like-minded individuals, they’ll promote your stuff to their audiences. When you build strong connections with your customers and wow them with your products and services, they’ll refer new customers to you.
When other people market your products and services and refer others to you, you don’t have to work as hard to sell your stuff. Others do it for you.
How You Can Apply This to Your Business
First, you should transition from thinking about your customers and readers as dollar signs to thinking of them as individuals and people. When you shift your focus, you put people first and appreciate each customer. This will help you make each customer experience enjoyable which will lead to referrals and repeat customers.
Second, start connecting with others in and out of your creative niche. You should not start relationships out of greed, because it will be very transparent. Instead, start relationships with an open mindset—without expectations of what that person can do for you. There are many ways you can do this including:
1. Pick three blogs that you enjoy reading, and leave thoughtful comments on those blogs on a regular basis. When you do this a handful of times, the blogger will start to remember your name. She might visit your blog and leave a comment, she might reply to your comment, and you might start a relationship.
2. Email someone in your niche who inspires you just to let that person know that they inspire you. Don’t ask for anything and don’t expect anything.
3. Host a blog series to provide valuable information to your readers and to network with other people in your niche. Listen to my interview on BlogcastFM to hear exactly how I did it and the steps you can take if you want to try it.
4. Start an interview series on your blog, and interview people who are related to your niche. This is a great way to make connections while promoting others.
5. Guest post on other blogs. If you want to drive traffic to your blog and make connections with other bloggers, write quality guest posts.
6. Promote others without expecting anything in return. If you read an inspiring or thought-provoking blog post, retweet it or link to it on Facebook. If you purchase a handmade item and it exceeds your expectations, promote that artist on social media.
7. Pay for consulting. When you invest in your business, you’re more likely to take action, and it’s helpful to have an outsider look at your business. They can usually spot issues and areas that need improvement that you might have overlooked. Plus, you get a mentor who will support and encourage you.
8. Join a membership program. Many membership programs have relatively low monthly fees and high quality information and people who want to connect. For instance, I’m a member of The Creative Empire. Through this membership site, I’ve networked, I’ve made friends, and I get access to conference calls with industry leaders, monthly seminars, and information-packed forum posts. I can ask a specific question about my business, and get responses from others in the handmade community.
9. Go to conferences. I hate giving advice if I haven’t done it, but I feel like I can recommend this one, because I’m going to my first conference this weekend. Just the thought of meeting people I’ve interacted with online is energizing and motivating. Plus, someone I seriously respect, Laura Roeder, highly recommends going to conferences to meet people in person. She says that meeting in person enhances your connection and relationship. And, that makes sense.
10. Brainstorm other ways that you can collaborate with other people in and out of your niche. If you’re a photographer, you might approach someone who puts together ecourses for the handmade community about working together on a product photography ecourse. If you’re a mixed media artist, you could collaborate with a few other artists in your area to host an art show together. Think outside the box to come up with ways that you can collaborate with others in a way that will benefit all the parties involved.
What’s your top priority? What’s the most important thing in your life? I’d bet your answer has to do with relationships. Your family, your kids, your friends. Why? Because, the money and the stuff doesn’t matter without the relationships. Take this idea and use it in your business.
When it comes to your business, is your top priority relationships and people? Is it making your customers feel special and providing them with value? If it’s not, I’d bet that you’d see a lot more success if you made it your priority.
This post is part of a series of posts covering brilliant marketing tricks. Check out the introduction on heartmade and follow along with the other posts. If you missed yesterday’s post, you can find it on Handmadeology.