Advertising is phony, cold-calling is an interruption, direct mail is bad for the environment, billboards are ignored, and newspapers are wilting. Is there anything that really works? Yes. The answer is YOU and simply building relationships.

Let’s get back to basics – Building relationships has been at the core of business since the first person traded food for a blanket.  It’s fundamental. Fortunately, social media is built on the basis of developing relationships so it’s pretty simple to apply to business. Let me break it down –

People need to know, like, and trust you before they buy anything.  Yes, you need to create awareness by getting your name out there but beyond that people need to get to know you and gain value from knowing you.  Building relationships takes time. It means actually caring, following-up, helping out, being honest, having a sense of humour, and being authentic.

If you want to boost your marketing efforts focus on the ways YOU can provide more value and make more meaningful connections with people. It’s that simple. It’s about being a valuable contributor. More importantly it’s about people and having good manners. Here are some specific examples and tools:

1. Be approachable by showing a genuine interest in others. Twitter is a good tool for learning about others and remarking or inquiring about things you read.  Start following people that interest you and  “reply” to somebody or retweet something they said. Sooner than later you will have new followers.  Rinse and repeat.

2. Always look for the best in people; a sincere compliment goes a long way.  This can be done anywhere and at anytime – Through a conversation, a hand written note, an email, a blog post, a tweet, or a facebook “like”.  Everybody craves recognition – We all seek to feel accepted and appreciated.  Another thing you can do is give recommendations on LinkedIn; the recipient will be encouraged to return the favour.

3. Give and ye shall receive. Sorry to rain on your parade, but customers don’t really care about your company news or staff events. Produce valuable blog posts with tips and advice that people will learn from.  If you don’t want to blog then consider putting on free training events or regular customer appreciation  initiatives.  Use webinars or newsletters or the company facilities to deliver the goods. Share useful articles over twitter or send an email article to a client on a topic that is of interest to them.  There’s lots of ways to give.

4. Encourage conversation and feedback. The best ideas your company has are likely to come from your customers. Think about it, most companies start off with a product or service but it quickly changes based on what their market wants.  Be open to feedback and encourage it through as many channels as possible.  If you’re worried about negative reviews then take comfort in the fact that 80% of online feedback is generally positive in nature.  If there are negative issues it gives you an opportunity to remedy them.

5. Do the right thing. Looking out for the best interests of your customers will keep them customers.  If you hate getting junk mail and fliers at home why would you want to do it to your customers?  Use good judgment and approach all initiatives with integrity.  Making misleading offers or using unfair pricing practices may help profits in the short run, but it’s not right.  Stay on the level.

I hope you enjoyed these tips and I look forward to hearing others thoughts and experiences.  Thanks for reading.