Posted by: Beau Blackwell, Community Manager
Last week, I attended the BlogWorld Expo in Las Vegas. It’s a great event for learning about the latest advances in online marketing, and is filled with people who are serious and passionate about learning the best methods for achieving online success. Although only a small portion of the event and sessions are geared towards affiliate marketing, I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about writing, selling, expanding their sphere of influence, and who wants to make some great networking connections.
While there were a lot of nuts-and-bolts marketing tactics taught at the learning sessions at BlogWorld, there was a recurring theme that popped up in several presenters’ speeches and panels: the importance and power of cultivating relationships.
Without exception, building strong and mutually beneficial relationships with your customers (or potential customers), clients, partners, industry peers, or anyone you’d like to work with, can be the difference between success and failure.
Why You Need to Work on Relationship Building
For a lot of new affiliate marketers, when they first get started, they jump right in to things like writing articles, creating ads, building landing pages, etc. While this is of course very important and necessary, I believe that spending a significant portion of time trying to build relationships can have a far greater long-term impact on potential success.
I’ve met and spoken with quite a few of ClickBank’s top-performing vendors and affiliates, and nearly all of them have connections with other top people in the industry. Some have collaborated on creating a product, some recommend products to their customers from vendors they know and trust, and some form “mastermind” groups to develop strategies and offer each other assistance. Almost no one gets to the top alone, without having received significant help and advice from other people at some point.
Not only is the advice and help you can receive extremely important, but having strong relationships can create opportunities and open doors you didn’t even know existed. It’s the same as it is for job hunting- it’s often not what you know, but who you know. You could end up getting invited to be an exclusive partner for a project, getting tipped off to a fantastic product to promote, or being introduced to other potential partners in your space.
Relationships are About Giving
At BlogWorld, author and marketer Chris Brogan discussed how the only relationships that really work are ones where both parties benefit. This is an extremely important point, and one where I think many people who are trying to create relationships with important people in their space run into problems.
If you’re new to a space, whether it’s affiliate marketing or any other industry with some established experts, immediately begging for help and going straight to the most influential people with requests for personal assistance is probably a bad idea. Best case, you might have someone take pity on you and give you a stock answer they’ve given to a thousand other people and then forget you completely. Worst case, you become a memorable annoyance to them and they do their best to avoid you altogether. Their first impression of you may end up being negative, and it’s hard to overcome this later.
How to Introduce Yourself Without Being Annoying
Instead of immediately asking for help, first become an information sponge and soak up all the information you can about a topic, whether it’s in books or on forums, blogs, Twitter, podcasts, or wherever. If you dedicate a substantial amount of time to just learning about a topic, without trying to first take action, it’s pretty amazing how quickly you can get up to speed and start really participating in the conversation and even helping other people.
Once you feel like you at least understand the conversation and are starting to form an opinion on the topic, starting contributing before you start making requests of people. If you follow an influential blogger in your space, start leaving thoughtful comments on their posts. Give your opinion on the subject, or offer up something you’ve learned in your research that could help others understand the topic better.
As a blogger, I can tell you that there’s nothing more satisfying than receiving comments on a post that show that someone has really thought about what you’ve written and is engaged with your ideas. If your comment shows me you’re really here to participate, and aren’t just commenting to get a link to your site, I’m far more likely to want to know more about you and listen to what you have to say in the future. I’m also a lot more likely to respond if you do ask me a question or make a request of me in the future.
This holds true all the way up from small bloggers to the most influential people in Internet and affiliate marketing. Before you can expect to get anything out of a relationship with people in your industry, you first have to show them that you’re willing to be authentic (don’t pretend to be interested just to get their help) and to give back to the community they’re a part of.
This is especially the case if you want to engage with someone who’s already achieved some success and is too busy to give significant time to every newbie who comes along. You’re going to really have to stand out as someone who’s worth their limited time. A great way to do that is by helping the same people they’re trying to help, and ideally, actually helping them too.
While I certainly can’t guarantee that you’ll develop a great relationship with the person or people you want to work with even if you do everything “right,” your chances of getting respect and becoming an influential person in your space will be much higher. For example, many bloggers and affiliate marketers who are now successful in their own right started out by commenting frequently on blogs or forums in their space. Even if the person you’ve approached doesn’t end up engaging with you, you may find that other people will seek you out and want to work with you, creating opportunities you never knew existed.