People often think of connections as a social thing - how we connect with followers and attract likes, how we link to connections we have met and worked with.
And while this is absolutely true and vital, it is not the full picture. Not even close.
Any effective marketing strategy will incorporate a plan and a policy for social media, of course, as it should. But, without a 360-degree consideration of how we build an audience, how we connect at every step, and how we sustain online relationships - a purely social approach will come up short.
Create ‘a vision’ of the value you provide
Repeat visitors to your site are not just looking for tips, services or products from you. They are looking for more than that: they are seeking a vision, a sense of how they can solve the challenges or opportunities they face.
How do you really help them? What makes you different, or better than others? Will you make it easier for them to achieve their goals?
Creating a meaningful vision in this way is not easy. But you are a leader, right? This is what you spend all of your time honing and perfecting. Assuming you are attracting the right connections - your prospects and customers - then we can assume they are looking for something to show them the way forward. That is why they are searching right now. And, that is why this matters.
Get it right and your vision can become someone else’s road map for their future – a future with your company in it.
Connection works best with permission
Developing an opt-in strategy is a vital component for building connections with your audience. Without earning the permission to reach out to folk you are totally dependent on your content being found through third party platforms like search engines, social platforms or referrals from other sites.
By acquiring permission - whether through a newsletter subscription, blog opt-in or eBook download - you earn the right to reach out to your contacts with relevant, timely communications (assuming you’re creating remarkable content), building trust, authority and relationships over time.
The vital importance of well-managed email marketing
That is why email is still such an important tool. Email is the distribution device that sits at the heart of inbound marketing and marketing automation; delivering your messages in a proprietary format that can be measured and analysed to the nth degree. It tells you what contacts have done with your message, and what they have not.
When managed well, email provides the means of nurturing online relationships, drawing contacts through appropriate buying cycles based on their specific behaviour.
Email is in your control. Combined with your workflow tools, your lists and segmentation and lead scoring, it is the primary ‘connector’ at the heart of your communications after the ‘awareness stage’.
It is so much more than the means of delivering your email newsletter or your ‘marketing offers’. Make no mistake – email is not dead, far, far from it.
Leverage the value in your marketing mix to make better connections
To stand half a chance of connecting meaningfully with the people who matter, there are a number of things we need to consider carefully before we reach out and make connections.
Careful persona development is a pre-requisite before your content creation can hit the mark. If you haven’t defined what specifically drives your ideal customer, nor understood their aspirations and concerns, and then devised a content pipeline that responds accordingly, it will be difficult to make meaningful connections with them.
If you’ve not defined and developed your core proposition, brand essence, personality and values, as well as reasons-to-believe; however you draw people in, will they truly understand your value and see the importance of connecting with you?
Establishing your key differentiators and communicating them efficiently and effectively across the entirety of your online reach is a consideration that requires your full attention. In a world overwhelmed by the sheer volume of content on offer, how you set yourself apart matters more than ever. Why else would we connect with you?
Carrying out keyword research is just as important as it ever was. Just because you don’t know the results of actual visits to your site from those keywords does not mean there is any the less value in knowing what people are searching for. Creating content around long-tail phrases that your prime personas are searching for will lead to more connections with people looking for what you do.
The critical importance of a blog on your site cannot be overstated. And a blog anywhere else is a deeply flawed approach, in my opinion. A blog creates unique and potentially evergreen content that will keep on drawing people to you. It creates new pages on your site each time you post, making you more visible to search engines. And, it provides one of the easiest ways for people to connect with you - and for them to share your content.
One of the best ways of earning currency to afford promoting your own content in the social spaces is embracing a content curation approach. Along with responding to and sharing your contacts posts, content curation sets you up as an editor in your space. Promoting third-party (non-compete) content selected on merit, positions you as useful and interesting, rather than the person who never stops talking about themselves. Don’t be that person.
It doesn’t matter what industry you are in
Connections are made between people who share interests. They are not automatically given but rather, they are earned and then maintained, or lost again.
Connections made between people in the shop fitters shelving industry are just as valuable to the people who work in that space as connections between people in the sustainable energy space. Unless of course you have an eco-energy shop shelf solution, in which case you’ll need a hybrid approach.
There is no such thing as a boring industry when it comes to connections. It's all about establishing relationships between people around common ground.
Make sure you have an opinion and express it
To wrap up, I just want to mention the importance of having an opinion. As I mentioned, the world is too full of content for there to be space for bland, vanilla content.
In order to stand out and reach and make more connections you need to have an opinion, to make a stand and argue your position. Anything else risks sinking from view, and ultimately missing any opportunity to connect.
Think of the Internet as being like quicksand. Spread your bold views far and wide and make sure they have the substance and structure to stand up, and you’ll bridge the gap and make those connections every day, and not disappear in the desert.