Larry Brauner

I’ve written about the problem of spam both offline and online at social networking sites in How Do You Like Your SPAM? and Why Do People SPAM?

With this article, I’m delivering on the promise I made last week to discuss marketing channels you can use to promote yourself or your business — without ever resorting to spam.

Legitimate promotion alternatives fall primarily into these basic categories:

  1. Advertising - Expect to pay — unless you prefer getting marginal results, running around town, lurking in parking lots and posing for security cameras, all while schlepping around stacks of flyers and carefully avoiding people you know. Online, free advertising attracts people without money and spammers, although you may get good results with Craigslist. Offline advertising includes newspapers, magazines, direct mail, radio, television, offline directory listings and billboards. Online advertising includes Pay Per Click, e-zines and online directory listings. I do not recommend using banner ads. Advertising ROI will depend on the net lifetime value of each acquisition or conversion and the cost of each acquisition.
  2. Press Releases - If your business is newsworthy, or if you can create a newsworthy event, then you may be able to get some free exposure. Your press release needs to be well written in a suitable format and distributed either offline, online or both.
  3. Speaking and Contributing Articles - It is an accepted practice to establish your reputation and generate leads by speaking at meetings or contributing articles to journals. Don’t expect to get paid anything until you become a recognized expert in your field.
  4. Strategic Alliances and Joint Ventures - A business or list owner promotes your offer to his or her clients or e-mail list based on an agreement through which you both stand to gain. It’s not uncommon to give a joint venture partner all the profit from an initial product offering in exchange for helping you to add new contacts to your list.
  5. E-Mailing Your List - You can send relevant commercial messages to subscribers who previously opted into your database. Try to avoid using purchased lists. If you must, be sure you know with certainty that the subscribers agreed to receive offers from third parties. Be genuinely helpful and careful not to abuse your list.
  6. Search Engine Optimization - You’ll need a web site, and unless you’re an SEO maven, you’ll have to pay for SEO services. There’s more to doing effective search engine optimization than most people realize. However, SEO will be worth the trouble if it gets you ranked high up in the free organic search engine results that most searchers look at and care about.
  7. Social Media - Social marketing is similar in philosophy to speaking and article contribution mentioned above. You share online videos and articles to educate, inform and entertain people, and to build a relationship with them. If they want your product or service, they’ll be inclined to buy it from you, since they know you, and you’ve earned their respect. Your blog on a social networking site, a blogging community such as Blogger.com, or you own hosting, are good places to share your content. For ideal results, create and post new original content on a regular basis. If your content is geared toward your target market, then you’ll attract qualified customers to you and your site.
  8. Business and Social Networking - Networking is meeting new people and developing relationships with them. You can network at your local Small Business Association, Chamber of Commerce or BNI. I can go to Network Plus, a group in my area founded by Ted Fattoross. Online social networking is more convenient. You network from your computer at any of thousands of social networking sites. My favorites are Ning and Facebook. You build relationships by asking questions and getting to know people. Keep in mind that spamming doesn’t work at all, and exchanging business cards is no more than a cordial first step in starting a relationship.

I like the web marketing channels: my e-mail list, search engine optimization, social marketing and business networking. I coordinate them to benefit from the synergies between them.

Now it’s your turn.

Which methods do you use? Which ones are you hoping to use in the future? What challenges do you foresee?

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed or by e-mail. Also, visit my About, Services, Media Buzz and Connect pages to learn about Building Your Audience and Brand on the Web.

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Larry Brauner

Or is it?

Your plate is very full. Don’t get me wrong. I understand. I really do.

You wonder how you could possibly fit blogging into your hectic schedule. You also wonder whether you have the wherewithal to adequately research and write articles week after week, something that you believe good bloggers ought to do.

Before addressing these issues, let’s take a step back and discuss a scenario that you’re familiar with if you engage in business networking at your local small business association, chamber of commerce or business networking group.

Business Networking Model

At a business networking meeting, you meet several people you feel you’d like to get to know.

Business Networking MeetingYou exchange business cards, and being a sharp networker, you resolve to get in touch with these new contacts as quickly as possible once you return to your office. You know very well that if you want to get something going, you’ll have to be the one to take the first step.

Unfortunately most people simply won’t follow up. They’ll hope that you’ll be sufficiently impressed with them and their business card, brochure or website to pick up the phone and call them to get the ball rolling.

You’re not as impressed as they would like, but you do understand business networking and human nature, so you take the initiative and give them a ring.

Your phone converation goes well. You ask enough questions to build rapport and to identify at least one business problem they have for which you should be able to provide a solution.

You sense that it’s too early in the relationship to try and sell them your idea. Instead you’ll maintain contact with them to build mutual trust and respect in accordance with the First Law of building relationships: Nobody cares what you say until they know that you care.

At this point what do the textbooks tell you to do?

They say that you should call periodically and look for newspaper and magazine clippings to send — along with a personal note of course.

Suppose that you have a hundred good contacts, and suppose also that you want to mail and speak to each one about every two months. That’s about eleven calls and the same number of news clippings per week or about two of each per day.

Even if you’re a sociable person, that’s going to be a hard schedule to stick with over a long period of time. You would have to be a master networker to make such a scheme work for you.

Blog Marketing to the Rescue

Fortunately blog marketing comes to your aid.

You invite your contacts to visit your blog, and ask permission to register them as a subscriber.

If they accept, you’ll be able to keep them in the loop with a reasonable amount of effort. Even if you write only one blog post per week, they’ll still hear from you every week. They have the option to comment on your articles and start a conversation within your blog’s community.

They can get to know you really well, and this will help as much or more than sending them clippings every couple of months. They may even give you cues to let you know when they’re ready to do business. You’ll be able to pick up the phone and tell them your idea, and they’ll be favorably pre-disposed to accept it.

All this is wonderful, but there’s even more.

Put Your SEO Training to Work

Many people will find you through the search engines if you’ve done good keyword research, and if you’ve paid enough attention to ongoing search engine optimization.

Make it easy for your visitors to subscribe, and those who like you will.

The search engines will be working on your behalf even when you’re sleeping or on vacation. They work 365/7 and never complain.

Save Time and Effort

If you are very busy, or you’re not sure how to research and write articles, you can rely on the tried and true clipping method. However, you’ll clip online articles instead of newspapaper or magazine stories.

You’ll frame these online articles for your readers in your post, just as you would have done using a short personal note accompanying newspaper clip. You’ll also provide a link to the site where they can read the entire story.

This approach saves you time and effort, and you can still write original content for your blog as frequently as you wish.

In Conclusion

Add to this rationale the Top Reasons Why I Blog, an earlier post, and your decision “to blog, or not to blog” will most likely be affirmative.

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed or by e-mail. Also, visit my About, Services, Media Buzz and Connect pages to learn about me and my social media and web marketing services.

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Larry Brauner

Blogging and Personal Branding

Personal blogs and business blogs often factor into the marketing mix of both large and small businesses.

Blogging is interactive and enables direct communication with the customer or end user, a subtle form of business networking.

Blogging as a form of networking is not as direct as attending a meeting of a chamber of commerce or a small business association — nor does it replace online social networking at social networking sites. However, it builds credibility while refining and reinforcing the blogger’s personal or corporate brand image.

Search Engine Optimization

As I stated in Top Reasons Why I Blog, “Blogging endears me to the search engines.”

Search engines love to deliver fresh content to their clientele, and that’s what blogs are all about. Each blog post creates new content for search engines such as Google to sink their teeth into.

Search engines send visitors. Some of those visitors become readers and bond with the blogger and his or her company or cause.

Make Money Blogging

This bond presents opportunities.

For example, when bloggers are looking directly to monetize their blogs, as is very often the case in the world of blogs, their readers are often redirected to another site or to a sales page to purchase an endorsed product or service.

This transition is easy once a trusting relationship has been created between blogger and reader.

To learn how to make money blogging, my previous post, Blogs and Blogging for Fun and Profit, is a good place to start.

We’ll continue to explore the relationship between blogging and search engine marketing.

Be sure to visit the Blog Marketing and SEO Training page.

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