18 June 2010

Blogging - the failsafe technique for creating business relationships

NOTE: You can watch my 10 minute video on how to use podcasting for growing business or finding a job here: http://bit.ly/podintro1

The key to any successful business, or career, is building useful (and productive) relationships. Unfortunately, building these relationships is no walk in the park, and takes time and dedication. You can attend networking events, ask for introductions, cold call, or any number of other strategies for meeting people.

All of these relationship and networking techniques have merit, but each person has to find the ones that fit best with our own personalities and needs. Building relationships in the entertainment industry might require different strategies than in petro-chemicals. Whole forests have been consumed to print books to offer advice.

To that end, I would like to add yet one more relationship building technique, tailored to the internet age, which I have slowly developed over the years. It is based on one simple idea: people like to know people who do something nice for them.

Admittedly, my strategy for building relationships requires considerable effort, but then there are no short-cuts when it comes to building productive, lasting, friendships. What I can say is that following these techniques will almost guarantee success in building the business relationships you need.

Blogging for friends

My strategy for building relationships start off with a blog. You have to create a blog focused around whatever industry, or field, in which you want to build relationships. If you want to get to know bankers, then start a blog about finance and banking. If you want to get to know people working in the consumer software space, create a blog about the software industry and consumer software trends.

There are lots of free blogging sites, and your blog articles don’t have to be lengthy treatise. The whole point of a blog is to give you a reason for contacting people. You can also expand to do podcasts, which is something I do quite a lot.

Make a list of topics

Create a list of potential blog topics for the next month. You can easily find topics by just browsing through articles on IT or engineering web sites. You can even watch the topics being discussed on LinkedIn groups, or social communities, to get ideas. For each idea, identify one or two articles that you can use as links for more information in a post.

Interview prospective customers

Find some good people to interview for the blog article you decide to write about. Simply write a message to several people you see on software engineering LinkedIn groups, who you think could be good customers (or useful contacts) and ask if they would allow you to interview them for a few minutes for a blog article you are writing.

Look at the people starting, and participating, in discussions on LinkedIn. These people are almost always willing to chat. Look at their profiles to see which ones might be particularly useful to have a relationship with. It’s absolutely fine if more than one person responds to your interview request. You can always quote more than one person in an article. Make sure the person you are going to interview sends you their direct e-mail address so you can communicate easier outside of LinkedIn. This is critical for being able to write them a recommendation later on.

All you have to do is schedule some time to talk with your new contact (i.e. the person who agrees to be interviewed) on the phone, and have a discussion with them around the subject you are writing your article on. Ask them for their thoughts and ideas. Do not start telling them how you think everything should be done. Keep the interview relatively short (15 or 20 minutes at most). It is fine to introduce yourself, mentioning that you work for a company that helps with software engineering projects, but DO NOT make a sales pitch. This interview is all about asking the contact for their ideas.

Make sure you write down what your guest says. Don’t forget to ask them for permission to quote them in your article.

Write the blog post

Once the interview is over, write the blog article. Keep it short and on point. Use quotes from the people you interviewed, and put their names in the article. Place a hyper-link on the name (of the person you are quoting) to their LinkedIn profile. You can also add some small text at the very bottom of the article saying how readers can get more information from the people you interviewed by going to their web site (i.e. and include the link to their business web site).

You should have a signature at the bottom of every post that has a link to your personal LinkedIn profile and Twitter feed.

Get approval for article

Send the text of your article to the people you are quoting for approval before you post it. Just send them an e-mail with a copy of the text, and ask them to confirm that what you are saying accurately reflects the discussion you had.

Post and promote

Once you get approval for the article, post it on the your blog and start promoting it. You should Tweet the article and place it on your Facebook page (if you don’t already have a Twitter or Facebook page, create them). In fact, you can setup an automatic feed that will Tweet and Facebook every article you post.

Post the link to the article (and a 2 sentence description) in the News section of all the LinkedIn groups you identify as being related to IT and software development.

You can keep re-Tweeting and re-posting the News links to the same articles. This keeps you articles in people’s minds. For example, once you have 5 or 6 blog posts, you can have someone keep cycling through the articles re-posting links to a different one on Twitter and LinkedIn groups every day. Today you would post the link to the article you wrote a month ago. Tomorrow you post the link to the second article you wrote, the day after that you post the link to the third article, and so on.

If you get really ambitious you can write an Internet press release for every article you write and post them to Help a Reporter Out or Pitchrate (which are free).

Give thanks

As soon as you post a new blog article, send an e-mail to the people you interviewed for the story, thanking them for their help. Send them the link to the story, and tell them they are welcome to use the link if they wish.

Make a recommendation

Write a LinkedIn recommendation for the people you interviewed for the blog article. Just write 2 or 3 sentences saying that you were impressed with how helpful the individual was in writing your blog article (include a shortened link to the article in your recommendation), and that this person’s deep knowledge on the subject was invaluable.

In order to accept your invitation, the recipient will first have to agree to connect with you on LinkedIn. It is virtually guaranteed that anyone you write a recommendation for will link with you.

Meet for coffee

At this stage, you now have built a relationship with the people you interviewed, and they have very positive feelings towards you. You can now leverage that goodwill to develop the relationship, ask for help, or whatever. Ask if you could take them out for a coffee. Ask for introductions to people you see in their contact list on LinkedIn.

Make your friends rich

One of the absolute best ways you can solidify your relationships is to actually make your friends rich by bringing them business. As your contacts grow, you should really think about ways to introduce the people you know to one another. If you know a small software firm that specializes in accounting software for oil companies, then introduce the IT manager of an oil company to him. If you are able to help a small company find new business, you have an amazingly good chance of helping out in fulfilling the contract by taking on work they can’t handle.

Podcasting is even better!

You can get even better results by turning interviews into podcasts. By recording your conversations (with permission), and posting the audio files to your blog, you can build a more intimate connection with both the person you speak with and your audience.

It is cheap and easy to record conversations these days. I use Skype and a free add-on utility (MP3 Skype Recorder) that automatically creates an MP3 file recording for my conversations.

You can check out my own podcast shows to get an idea of how I use this tool for both growing my career and finding business.

Entrepreneurs Northwest
Tales from the job search trenches
Practical Software
Linked:Seattle Radio

I even have a show on economics which is strictly as a hobby.

The Optimistic Bear

I am eager to make a presentation of the value of podcasting for networking to any group that might be interested. I can speak in person to groups in the greater Puget Sound area and can give webinars to groups further afield. Just e-mail podcasting@surkan.com if you would like to inquire about having me speak.

4 comments:

  1. Hello Mr.Micheal:

    Greetings!

    First of all, my thanks for the great idea shared. Its amazing.

    What you wrote is absolutely true, growth of a person and business has incredible dependably on the contacts they have.

    You could be a good model for those in marketing and sales.

    All my best wishes.

    Thanks and regards
    Basil Babu
    Managing Partner
    Talinoz IT Systems
    www.talinoz.com
    Email : basil@talinoz.com

    LinkedIn : http://www.linkedin.com/in/basilbabu

    ReplyDelete
  2. Michael, thank you for commenting on my discussion thread on Linked:Seattle. This is very helpful!

    Okay, now I need to do it!!!!

    Isaac
    thesignsalesman.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for sharing - I agree it's nice to share your knowledge and best practices with others. I believe it helping others succeed and in return you are creating good relationships that always lead to success.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Michael, thanks for sharing this with us... It's totally a helpful information for people wanting to narrow blogging to a specific target. I liked the "make your friends rich" part!
    Take care

    ReplyDelete