leverageThis will not be you typical post about how to utilize social networking communities like Stumble Upon and My Blog Log to generate traffic. These topic have been covered very well by outstanding bloggers like Jonathan, Dana, Bunk, Dean, and others. Instead, I’m going to talk about building powerful, profitable relationships through blogging.

This strategy is no secret. It’s a principle that successful business people have known for years – something so obvious, yet something I did not realize for years after going into business for myself.

When your own readers become aware of this concept, you yourself can become more profitable in blogging.

These are my own personal observations after promoting many businesses online, writing for numerous blogs, and keeping an eye on the Blogosphere.

How I’ve Generated Most of My Business and Income

In my business experience the most profitable business relationships have been forged through networking and referrals. Though I am well versed in SEO and have worked with several teams of SEO experts to put many sites on the front page of Google, I do not spend very much time at all on SEO for my own sites because I know that the most profitable relationships have come from networking and referrals.

Understanding the above point is critical to the rest of this post.

Instead of spending any more time explaining the value of relationship building, the remainder of this post will focus on how to build solid relationships with the right people through blogging.
Building a Powerful Network in the Blogoshpere.

Many people will tell you when you’re starting a business that you should join local networking groups, the Chamber of Commerce, etc. When joining a business networking group, you are expected to be loyal to those in the organization, referring potential clients to them that you may meet. Membership in these organizations is valuable, but can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars and they are limited to your local area. Furthermore, you have no control over WHO is in your business group.

Participating in the Blogoshere however is essentially free. There are no physical boundaries that limit who you can meet and connect with. You do not have to remain loyal to anyone when referring business – only to those who are helpful to you.

If you help the right people, you will ultimately help yourself.

The Currency of the Blogosphere

There is a currency in Blogoshpere. If you expect currency, you’ve got to be willing to spend currency. In business, you’ve got to spend to earn. Currency in the Blogosphere takes four forms:

1. Readership

Though this is anonymous. When you subscribe to a feed, the blogger does not know that YOU have subscribed unless you tell them. Oftentimes when you do tell them, they will in turn subscribe to your blog.

2. Comments

If you comment on my blog, I will be visiting your blog and leaving you a comment. When bloggers leave a comment – no matter how genuine, they hope and expect to get a comment in return on their blog. It’s nice to respond to the comment on your own blog, but the real currency is visiting their blog and leaving them a comment.

3. Links

If you’re a blogger, you probably check your stats every day if not multiple times a day. It makes your day when someone links to your post. If you link to a blog – particularly smaller and up and coming blogs, you can pretty much bet on the fact that they will take notice and you will be on their radar.

These three have been covered numerous times in numerous posts about better blogging. In my opinion, #4, purchases, is the most important if you’re looking to make important business connections through blogging and the one that supersedes all others.

You may be familiar with this quote from Pirates of the Caribbean:

Lord Cutler Beckett: No doubt you’ve discovered that loyalty is no longer the currency of the realm as your father believes.

Elizabeth Swann: Then what is?

Lord Cutler Beckett: I’m afraid currency is the currency of the realm.

4. Purchases

Not all bloggers also offer products and services, but most bloggers are entrepreneurs that have something to offer. If they don’t they may be running sponsor ads for things you need on their site and depend on helping those sponsors generate revenue so that they will renew their ad space.

When you give, you get. If you’re commenting on the Blogosphere you are probably getting comments on your blog. If you’re linking to blogs, you may be getting links in. But if you’re not patronizing other bloggers by going to them for the products and services they are selling then you are probably not getting the same in return.

Doing Business With Your Fellow Bloggers Means They’re More Likely to Do Business With You
The Blogosphere can be your world-wide networking group if you treat it as such. From my experience, bloggers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners are a very loyal, tight-knit group. Those who understand this, value relationships, and generate referrals for others form a higher level of this “club.”

I like to give business to other entrepreneurs and bloggers. You and I are part of a special group with similar passions, challenges, and goals that are very different from most of the 9-5 or offline world.

When someone hires me for copywriting, books travel with me, or buys domains and hosting from me, I appreciate it and I want to return the favor. I keep my eyes and ears open for opportunities to send their way. Though there are tens or hundreds of others who are in the same line of business, I send suitable business to the people I have relationships with.

The Unwritten Rule of Good Business Networking

At a conference I attended a few weeks ago, a Director in the travel business I partner with named Terry Graham told a story that has really stuck with me and partially influenced this post.
For years he had patronized a particular small business dry cleaner. As business owners will, the two had talked about business. The dry cleaner owner knew that Terry operated a travel booking website that offers the same rates, same deals, and same functionality offered by the big corporate conglomerates.

One day when Terry went to pick up his dry cleaning, he noticed that the owner was on his laptop, ready to book a flight on a big-name competitor’s travel website. Terry asked the owner (who he had patronized for years) why he wasn’t booking travel through his site and told him, look – if you don’t, don’t expect me as a customer any more!

At first, I thought this was a little harsh! But then I realized that it made perfect sense. This principle of doing business with those that do business with you is an “unwritten rule” that higher level, successful business people understand. Why shouldn’t Terry take his dry cleaning to someone who does understand the unwritten rules of business engagement?

Imagine two professionals that are members of a country club and play golf together. One is a patent lawyer, the other a lasik eye surgeon. The lawyer has patronized the eye surgeon with business, but when the eye surgeon needs a patent lawyer – he goes to the phone book instead of going first to his network – that’s just bad business.

It doesn’t matter if the service eye surgery or dry cleaning, patent law, or booking travel. It’s just good business to support those within your circle.

Leveraging Your Purchasing Power

If a blogger introduces you to a book on their site that you’re interested buying and offers an Amazon affiliate link, buy it through them instead of open up a new browser window going straight to Amazon. If you’re not ready to buy just yet, bookmark the post. Leave a comment thanking them for recommending it and tell others that you bought it through their link. It might encourage others to do the same since human nature tends to operate with somewhat of a herd mentality.

In this situation, you’re not spending any money you wouldn’t have spent otherwise. Instead, you’re putting power behind your spending by choosing to generate revenue for someone who is now more likely to send business your way.

A couple bucks makes a minuscule dent in Amazon’s profits, but to the blogger who was insightful enough to recommend this book, those few dollars represent not only profit, but a boost in self confidence in their ability to make a living online. We should all hope for that for each other.

You’ll get the same price whether you go directly through Amazon or click the affiliate link. The difference is that Amazon will do nothing for you in return but the appreciative blogger will likely want to repay you by sending “currency” your way.

Search Your Blog Network First

Whether its graphic design, or business cards, or hosting, or travel, or financial services, or copywriting, or SEO, or marketing services, I would venture to guess that you have someone in your blog circle that offers this. If not, those within your circle probably have a paid ad on their site for a company that does. When you send business in the direction of a blogger’s advertisers, it gives that advertiser more incentive to continue renewing their ad space.

When I need a service, I turn to my blogging sphere first. Google is for when I don’t have contacts in a particular niche. When I needed to subcontract some writing jobs, I turned to the Blogosphere, sending thousands of dollars worth of business to other freelance writing bloggers.

When one of my clients tells me they need a serious blog networking strategy, I’m calling Jonathan. When of my clients tells me they need a custom blog design, I’m calling Nate. When Erin gets her messenger bags online to sell, I’m buying one. Why? Because they are contacts that have been good to me in the Blogosphere and have sent “currency” my way in some form or another.

How to Connect with Influential Bloggers and Business Owners

If you want to connect with influential bloggers or business owners:

  1. Leave plenty of comments
  2. Patronize their services.
  3. Buy their ad space. In my experience, when you buy ad space from someone, they are very likely to link to you naturally. Content providers want to take care of their advertisers.
  4. Hire them for coaching or mentoring where they will need to get to know you and your business in order to do the job.

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