When I started learning about digital marketing it was through affiliate marketing and thin site SEO. I learned a lot about the technical side of getting rankings, traffic and highly converting advertisements. It wasn’t the best kind of SEO.
But none of what I did really required strong relationships.
In my struggle to grow into the mold here at Powered by Search, I’ve been experimenting with some aspects of digital marketing that I had never considered feasible: building and nurturing relationships.
Offline this is in my background–I’ve literally traveled the world learning about building relationships. As a recruiter I excelled at initiating relationships with everyone from students to executives. But applying those skills online is still new to me.
Here are some of the things I’ve tried and lessons I’ve learned. I’d love your feedback as I’m always trying to improve and I’m definitely still in the bronze league.
I Tried Cold Calling
I love the idea of HARO. The concept is that journalists reach out to experts when they need sources for their stories. I decided that this is great, but why not also expand this to students in the journalism departments of local universities.
So I got on the phone and started with this pitch: “I realize that journalism students might find it challenging to get in touch with expert sources, especially for interviews, and I’d love to have a chat with you about working together.”
Representing a fairly significant brand and offering my CEO and marketing manager as sources, I thought that journalism students would jump on the opportunity for an expert source in marketing to validate some of their stories.
My hit rate wasn’t extremely high.
I learned two lessons here.
The first is that cold calling or cold emailing is probably the easiest and quickest way to start new relationships online. The people who I did get through to are awesome.
The second was that if I’m going to pitch a project to someone who I don’t already have a relationship with, I have to make it easy. I shouldn’t have said, “our experts are available.” I should have had a simple project ready to go right away and asked for a simple piece of input from the students.
I Tried Asking for Something Simple
Jon Cooper from Point Blank SEO has been an awesome connection for Powered by Search, sitting down with Alex Rascanu, our marketing manager, for this great interview. He also publishes excellent content, a lot of which he produces in conjunction with other industry experts.
Fresh off of my previous lesson on relationships, I wanted to try doing something similar. I wanted to work with some industry experts to produce a valuable piece of content.
I came up with a single question that everyone in the office was curious about. I pushed it out to a subset of my favourite industry experts via email, trying to make the value proposition come across as fairly simple.
I’m hoping that the value proposition came across like this:
Hey! You’re someone whose opinion I respect and I was wondering what your thoughts are on this question… We’d like to share your answer and those of some other industry experts to create a great piece of content. We’d like to link to you and promote you as an expert in this piece as well!
I was excited when responses started coming back–people were excited as well and coming back with some great answers. I had definitely learned something from my last project. I’m still getting responses back and I’m following up.
But about half of the responses in their original form were unusable, and, worse, I feel as if I wasted some of their valuable time.
I messed up. When I followed up to be a bit more specific about what I wanted, I realized that I was asking people to do twice as much work–correcting their original answer.
From this experience I learned to make my outreach more specific. As simple as I thought it was, it was my fault that people were misinterpreting my question and responding in formats that I couldn’t publish. Instead of, “answer this one question,” I should have added, “and here are some examples of responses that I can publish.”
Next time I think I’ll also work with my current relationships to fine-tune the idea before it goes out. I’ve found that every time I sit down with friends the project becomes more awesome.
I Want to Try Asking for Advice
The CEO of Powered by Search, Dev Basu, dropped this piece of wisdom at the water cooler last week.
“Ask for leads and you’ll get advice. Ask for advice and you’ll get leads.”
Getting leads is in my purview as a member of a growing business, but my focus is on building new relationships.
It just so happens that a lot of the triumphs in the cold calling project and the SEO expert project have involved advice of some kind. The most success I’ve had is from asking for help–and I’ve benefited both in having new, budding relationships and also in having received excellent advice.
I’m doing a second round of reach outs today to make sure that there’s a very solid base for the expert SEO article I’m working on.
In so doing I’ll be taking some advice Anthony Pensabene gave me to heart:
I’m genuinely interested in all aspects of marketing and I feel that I have a lot to learn from anyone in the industry, but there’s a personal aspect to building relationships that I wasn’t really paying attention to. Some people have a personable exterior and are great to work with, some are focused on other areas and are a little sour even in their public personas.
I’d like to grow relationships with people, not just build links. I may as well focus on the people I could also see myself sitting down with for beer and ribs, sharing our current problems, successes and helping each other out.
I hope you’ve gained something from my experiences in the last couple of weeks, even if it’s only entertainment.