The First Pillar — Relationships

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You know that old cliché, right? Content is king?

Well, it’s wrong.

Content matters, and content is a pillar of the “Internet Marketing for Smart People” method. But content isn’t king.

Relationships are king.

Where the money is

Clever online marketers figured out a long time ago that “the money is in the list.” In other words, if you can get a big list together of folks who had some interest in your topic, you could give those people a chance to buy stuff, and make a pretty nice living doing it.

The reality is, the direct mail (known to most of us as junk mail) folks had this figured out decades before there was such a thing as the Internet.

And because it costs money to send direct mail, they also figured out another very important piece:

Not every list is created equal.

When you’re spending even a few cents to send a piece of mail (and sending them by the millions), you need to get very clear on what works. And what doesn’t.

Taking good care of your village

There are a lot of names for a group of prospects and customers you communicate with regularly.

Dan Kennedy calls them a herd. (Just a bit condescending, I think.) Traditional internet marketers call it a list. Seth Godin calls it a tribe.

Here on Copyblogger, we call them a village. In some ways, we’ve gone back to the Middle Ages, when nearly everyone’s “work” was inextricably tied with their community.

The village baker was your neighbor. If he baked terrible bread, you walked over and gave him a piece of your mind. It was a messy, complicated system that became downright trying at times. But it also brought a comforting reliability and predictability that business today usually can’t match.

In other words, it was a relationship.

Your village asks more from you, but they’re also more loyal to you. This isn’t a new way of doing business, but it’s new to most of us.

(Take a look at this post with more thoughts on the village of customers.)

Your village is your greatest asset

In IMfSP (that’s Internet Marketing for Smart People) marketing, you treat your village as your greatest asset.

That means the combined total of all the people who read (or watch, or listen to) your content regularly. Your blog community, your email list, your customer list, your Twitter followers — all of it.

Every time you have a business decision to make, you make it with this in mind: How does this decision affect my relationship with my village?

It’s how you decide what products to offer. It’s how you decide how often to post. It’s how you decide whether or not to run an article by a guest writer. It’s how you choose your affiliates.

Now there’s an important flip side to this, too.

Relationships go both ways

Sometimes we justify our fear of selling with the excuse that we don’t want to damage our relationship with the village.

Keep in mind that a one-way relationship isn’t really a relationship at all. It’s exploitation.

In exchange for everything you do for your village, you must also conduct yourself in a businesslike way.

That means setting appropriate boundaries, making it clear from the beginning that you’ll be offering products for sale, and taking from the village as well as giving to it.

This is where many bloggers and other social media types stumble, and we’re going to give you much more specific advice on how you’ll do that with your own village. To get you started, take a look at this post, aimed at what I call “Kumbaya” bloggers.

Just remember: If you give and give to your village, and never get anything in return, what would that make you?

The village idiot, of course.

See you next time . . . in a couple of days we’ll be talking about the second IMSP pillar, which is copywriting. Specifically, we’ll go in-depth on the one element that can make or break your content. Catch you then.

P.S.

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