The Key to Creating More Remarkable Connections

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So the first pillar for IMSP is relationships, right? You’ve got to create rock-solid relationships with your audience if you want to build a solid, sustainable business.

We’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is, this can be one of the most fun parts of running your business.

The bad news is . . . you’re probably gonna have to get naked.

No, no, not literally naked. (If that’s your business model, I’m not sure how much advice we’ll be able to give you.)

But for most village businesses (those are the kind of small-niche, profitable, enjoyable businesses that create fanatically loyal customer followings), the audience wants someone to relate to. Conversations have two sides, and you’ve got to bring something authentic to your end of the equation. Which can get scary.

Authenticity, blah, blah, blah

How many times have we heard “be more authentic in your content and all riches/fame/success will be yours?”

There are a few problems with this.

First, it tends to lead dangerously to a lot of blathering about yourself that no one wants to hear.

Trust me, I’d love to waffle on about my favorite techniques for dyeing my hair pink, or share Flickr pictures of my kid’s most recent watercolor paintings.

(He’s four. I think he is a genius. But it’s possible you may not.)

That’s what interests me. But it probably holds very minimal interest to you.

The second problem is that it’s scary to put your “real self” out there. Not only will your mother-in-law, your ex, and your fifth-grade English teacher get to see what you’ve got to say, but so will any number of random strangers. Some of whom we can only characterize as “loons.”

You don’t have to share it all

Decide now what you will and won’t share. Some bloggers share stories about their personal lives (particularly in media like Twitter, which are essentially pure conversation), and some don’t. If you do, make sure you’ve set reasonable boundaries for yourself.

“Authenticity” doesn’t mean you don’t have boundaries.

For more guidelines and suggestions on this, check out this post I wrote for Copyblogger in 2008:

Feel Great Naked: Confidence Boosters for Getting Personal

You want to share personal details consciously and with care, not just spew out whatever comes to mind.

They don’t want to read it all

Putting your own personality into your marketing is a great idea. It creates an environment in which your readers will get to know, trust and like you. And even the most hard-core salesman can tell you that that’s the most important key to persuasion.

But becoming a self-centered bore is not a great idea. Make sure you’ve got plenty of solid content that your readers care about.

Everyone’s mix is going to be a little different, but you want to aim for a mix that looks roughly like this one:

The content mix

  • 10-15% entertainment and/or “personality” content that forms an emotional connection with your reader (if you’re shy about revealing personal details, this will probably lean more toward the “entertainment” side)
  • 50-60% valuable tips and quickly usable information
  • 10-15% weighty reference and higher-value content your readers will want to bookmark and return to (as time goes on, you may find you create less of this, preferring to send readers back to your classic content)
  • 5-15% content that builds relationships with other bloggers, including news and links to other content
  • 5% “selling” content that leads to an affiliate promotion or to a sales sequence for your own product

Don’t get too hung up on precise numbers, but do try to keep your content profile in this general neighborhood.

Your audience will tell you the best mix for you. Some markets want lots of entertainment, some like plenty of news, and others want to form a strong bond with you as a person.

Also, remember that in some cases these categories can overlap. For example, a meaty reference post can also be entertaining and show your personality.

It’s still not about you

When you share your personality on your blog, it’s not for therapy or to make yourself feel good.

Internet Marketing for Smart People is a marketing newsletter, after all, so we assume you’ve got something to sell. (Even if that something is simply an idea, awareness of an issue, or a point of view.)

The most enduring way to maximize those “sales” is this: Keep your attention focused obsessively on your customer.

The two secret ingredients for the most effective marketing persona

If you’re going to create relationships online, there’s got to be someone for your readers to have a relationship with.

Even for the most “authentic” blogger, there’s a difference between the complicated human being called you and the persona that you use on the blog.

Your persona is still you, but a selected version of you.

Your persona has boundaries and limits. Your persona has a consistent message to share. Your persona is a “subset” of who you are offline.

The first key to a persuasive persona is authority.

You may have heard that “authority is dead,” but nothing could be further from the truth. Authority will never die, because it’s hard-wired into our DNA.

The second key to a persuasive persona is warmth and nurturing. When you genuinely care about your audience, it’s much easier to get the word out about what you have to offer.

In my opinion, this can’t really be faked — you actually do have to give a damn.

That’s one reason the traditional “yellow highlighter” squeeze-and-sleaze Internet marketers will always be limited in their success: They see numbers. You need to see people.

When you combine these two factors, you end up with the marketing persona that works in every market, every topic, with every audience:

The best persuasive archetype is the nurturing parent.

(Now you don’t actually refer to yourself this way explicitly, that would be kind of weird and creepy. This is just the psychological underpinning beneath your content.)

Your persona needs to consistently reflect two core messages:

  1. You know what you’re talking about.
  2. You care about your audience as human beings.

The “nurturing parent” archetype is one that always steers the audience toward the right thing. The nurturing parent knows right from wrong. The nurturing parent puts the audience’s needs above her own, always. The nurturing parent sets healthy boundaries and knows when to be gentle and when to be firm.

Everyone’s version of this can look very different.

Some nurturing parent archetypes are very “touchy-feely,” others are more cool and distant. You can put this together in the way that works best for you and feels natural.

Just remember: nurturing parents aren’t wishy-washy. It’s perfectly fine (and smart) to admit what you don’t know, but be firm and clear about what you do.

Your assignment for today

Put together 10-15 ideas for content that would illustrate the “nurturing parent” concept.

They could be great pieces of how-to advice, philosophical lessons, expressions of affection, or warnings about pitfalls to avoid.

Get some good headlines together for them and get them into your “ideas for content” folder. (If you don’t have one of those, start one now. It can be physical or virtual, whatever works for you.)

Next time we’re going to try something different. I’m going to take a typical “hard sell” sales letter, pull out an element, and show you how it might look with the “Internet Marketing for Smart People” approach.

Look forward to seeing you then!

Sonia Simone


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