by Matt Gottesman
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Every gimmick online has been used. Well, maybe not every gimmick, but marketers will always find ways to create new campaigns we never would have thought of.
However, there’s a growing trend: It’s called transparency.
The best marketers right now are the ones who tell it like it is, communicate directly with their audience in a genuine manner, open up about their backstory of their company and ask their customers for as much feedback as possible.
The strategy is simple—be honest.
Instead of inundating consumers with overwhelming politics, gossip and clickbait, there’s a very simple way to stand out: do the right thing.
Relationship marketing, transparency marketing, reputation marketing or influencer marketing—you can call it any one of these (PS—I just made up “transparency marketing”), but this is what companies are being built on. Concurrently, they are experiencing periods of hyper-growth and massive scale. Before we move on, here is a succinct relationship marketing definition: Marketing with the intention of creating life-long fans.
While there are many facets to relationship marketing, let’s focus on five recurring themes that make this type of marketing so efficient, as well as some things you’ll need to consider.
Community is everything
Or to be more precise: The right community is everything. When you’re part of a community online, it can grow your influence, market reach, email list, user base, social media reach and more. Your community is your advocate.
There are several types of communities you can be active in, but let’s focus on a community you form and manage or an existing one that you join.
You will need to join communities of like-minded individuals to share thoughts, ideas and collaborations. First, so you don’t feel alone in this world, and believe me, you’re not. Second, because this group will act as a peer mentor and you’ll learn to make key decisions in your own business based on the right feedback.
Additionally, join the communities your business serves. This shows you care about your customers and you want to gain as much valuable insight as possible. That, and they will become customers and advocates for your brand over time.
You can find these communities on platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook, or you can delve deeper into paid membership forums depending on your industry and experience.
Forming a community should start with your why. What is the purpose for forming your community and how will you get people to join it? Once you have a clear-cut understanding of what your community’s mission is, you’ll be able to relay that to other prospective members.
What does a good community looks like? In short, here’s a mini checklist:
Remember: Wrong networks won’t grow you. Either the members won’t connect with you, or you are around the wrong customers. These types of groups are not advocates; they can cost you time, and they may even exploit you for knowledge. Stay away.
Brand relevancy builds relationships
In order to be relevant, you’ve got to position yourself and your brand as a go-to person, product or service that greatly benefits a market’s needs, because taking care of anyone’s needs forms an instant relationship.
However that relationship has to be maintained. The general rules of society and relationships apply here: Keep an open dialogue with your audience; give them updates; provide valuable insights, tools and resources; give them great information and show gratitude.
In the digital world, you serve your niche by providing quality content, whether it was created by you or someone you’ve discovered, and by initiating feedback through questions and answers from forums, emails or comments. Yes, you must strive to stay relevant, but to do that you must benchmark your relevance.
The easiest ways to benchmark your brand relevancy against your relationships are:
1. Email Marketing – You probably use an automated email marketing system to send emails to your list of customers or subscribers. If you have relationship-driven content and links embedded into the messages, you’ll be able to compare the number of emails sent to the open rate and click-throughs. High open rates are good, but high click-through rates are better. This shows that your audience trusts you and is engaged enough to click.
2. Social Media – Whether it’s Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, take a look at the content that was shared or “liked” the most. Chances are that piece of information was highly relevant to your audience. Do two things:
a. Measure the percent of people who liked or commented in comparison to your total network.
b. Create more content similar to that.
3. Communicate – Ask your audience for feedback. They will tell you what they like and don’t like. Feedback comes in two forms:
a. From the critic – Critics are not your audience. You can tell because they don’t understand you and they might be negative. This is good because you can use that to benchmark whether or not you have the right following.
b. From the customer – Customers will give you feedback in the form of positive comments. “I liked this, but could really use this instead,” or, “Could you include more of (fill in here).” This type of feedback helps you decide where to focus your attention. HINT: It’s what great tech product marketers do.
So, what is the “return on investment” for building relationships?
Building relationships builds your list
The number of followers you have is irrelevant unless those followers are highly targeted and share a relationship with you. You build that relationship with your blog and website content, the community you’ve built and your ongoing engagement with that community on social media.
These relationships turn into your list and your list is your lifeline to communicating any and all information your audience looks to you for.
As my good friend Melany Berger, an influencer marketer and social media expert told me, “More and more brands are discovering the importance of social media influencers because people respond better to influencers as opposed to celebrity endorsements.”
A celebrity is not as impactful online as you would think because they are either out of reach from their audiences or never really built their relationships from day one based on a particular topic or subject.
Melany also noted to me that, “People trust influencers because influencers develop strong relationships with their following by being honest.”
In short, influencers are “real people” who have real relationships that they turned into a well-documented list. This list has value. Be protective of this list.
Social media is more powerful when it's social
There are two types of being social on social media: One is by building your following through your content and establishing relationships. The other is by having your online peers collaborate with you to hyper-grow your following.
The problem is many businesses believe that having social media will automatically build their brand awareness and create more customers or revenue. You and I know that is completely false.
Even if you were a really popular brand that just started using a new social media platform and 100,000 people suddenly followed you, you’d still not have the relationships required to earn revenue or customers.
As legendary Gary Vaynerchuk said, “I’d rather have 10,000 followers with 9,000 of them buying my products, than 100,000 followers with 2,000 buying my products.”
The true way to build is by being social, not necessarily by being popular.
The second way influence marketers grow their following is through collaboration, which will help hyper-grow your audience. Here’s what I mean:
- You represent a specific type of audience with product or service A. A complimentary influence marketer represents the same audience, but for product or service B. Concurrently, you also share the same values, goals, style, etc.
- When these two people get together and “share” each other with their individual networks, compounding the likes and follows. These will create more brand value as you grow your influence and your list.
If content is king, microcontent is heir to the throne
In the age of six-second videos and 140-character messages, microcontent is the best way to plant the seeds of your brand on social media while building your relationships with others.
Microcontent can also help build your bottom line, because when you leave a well-informed answer on a forum and your signature has your URL in it, people will find you.
When you post a branded picture on Instagram and overlay inspiring text, people who connect with the message will like it, click on your profile, follow you and click on the link to your website.
Microcontent constantly spreads your brand’s messaging throughout the digital universe without necessarily having to create much larger pieces of text and visuals.
For example, I run Hustle & Deal Flow™, which is dedicated to featuring companies (small businesses) and creators from around the world that you may have not heard of yet. It’s also about building your brand and business in a digitally connected world.
So, when I use my social media, such as Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn, here’s what they looks like:
I always keep it consistent with slick photos overlaid with text in strong fonts with quotes that are motivational with a bit of boldness. It comes down to finding your brand voice and then translating that voice into a cohesive aesthetic that resonates with your audience.
In conclusion—don’t be dishonest.
Relationship marketing, or influencer marketing, is a very big movement and something that is making businesses and brands much more valuable.
Being honest does actually increase your target audience, your sales, and your bottom line.
What do you know, telling the truth has its merits. Transparency is the new black.
Matt Gottesman is a global digital strategist and technology advisor for brands, startups and VC's, creator and editor-in-chief of Hustle & Deal Flow™, and is a consultant on New Media and go-to-market strategies for investments in digital marketing, technology, websites, mobile applications, eCommerce, social media and content. Matt helps businesses grow digitally by design.