How Not to Blow the Most Important Business Relationship You’ll Ever Have

by Annie

in content marketing 101

This post — yep, this one you’re reading right here — is the August PJ Productivity entry for Tea “The Word Chef” Silvestre’s Word Carnival. The theme this month is “Business Relationships: Starting Them, Nurturing Them, or Ending Them.” So, as you do in these situations, I sat down to brainstorm a bit on the topic, and it went a little like this:

Business relationships … hmm, started a few, ended a few, which ones were most important…there was AJ, the writing coach I met and talked with about a joint venture, but that went south….south…..I’m getting hungry….wish I had some tacos…tacos….Taos…New Mexico…didn’t I meet a designer in New Mexico one time? Where was that….oh that was the convention…convection…oven…fish tacos would be good….

You get the point. It wasn’t very productive.

Throughout all this, I’ve also been nagging myself to get off my butt and finish a particular post that I’d started — sort of an object lesson, if you will, using a person who, I believe, does this online marketing thing to perfection (confection…ers sugar….doughnuts) and from whom I have learned much.

Late last night – when I was (ahem) supposed to be sending Tea the link for this digital party – I had one initial thought:

The most important business relationship you’ll ever have
is the one you have with your prospective clients/customers.

That’s when it finally occurred to me what to do: mashup!

It’s All Relative to Your Prospects

So why do I say that your relationship with your prospects is your most critical business relationship? It’s not like we know all of our prospects, or even most of them for that matter. How can you have a relationship with someone you’ve never interacted with?

It might not be the relationship that first springs to mind, but it’s definitely the most important one for the health of your bottom line, and it most definitely is a relationship in the first place.

Think about it for a second…your prospects, your blog readers, your targeted clients, your ideal clients — whatever you want  to call them, they’re on your business site, reading your Twitter feed, browsing your Facebook page and they’re expecting something. More accurately, they’re expecting you to deliver that something to them.

Yes, even before they plunk down one measly buck, they expect stuff from you. And you’d better deliver ’cause they WILL go somewhere else if they don’t get it.

Not unlike a marriage in that respect. Ahem.

So, yes, your readers — your prospects — expect you to behave in a certain way and do certain things and if you do those things well, they will prove their loyalty by making the next-level commitment: becoming clients + customers. 

What are those things? Glad you asked! (Get ready for the obligatory mashup transition … or, wait — maybe that was it…)

What Pamela Wilson of Big Brand System Does Right

I’ve written before, I know, about Pamela Wilson. She’s a designer by profession, and her site is really the go-to spot on the web for practical, do-able DIY advice on design principles for the web.

That part, I believe, is fairly indisputable.

It also has nothing to do — well, little to do — with my overall point in this post, which is this: Pamela does marketing right, and you (and I) can learn a lot from observing her purposefully.

Pamela hits all three legs of the trifecta of awesome content marketing: in her blog, in her subscription newsletter, and in her products.

Prospect Expectation #1: Your Blog Must Deliver the Right Stuff

Your blog — the first really in-depth look most people are gonna get at you + your specialness — carries a certain expectation for your peeps. What are they really expecting you to deliver?

Well, take a look at Pamela’s blog. Run down the list of articles there and you’ll see she’s consistently delivering content organized around her primary area of expertise: website design. (Also some stuff about ebooks — more on that later.)

Pamela stays on point for her particular biz-mission, and that’s what her readers expect from her.

Look more closely at Pamela’s content and you’ll probably note that the vast majority of her content is geared around exceedingly practical, do-able actions + principles that her readers can actually use — can put into action on their own sites.

If Pamela chose instead to write — however eloquently and persuasively — purely about aesthetic matters of taste, would her readers’ expectations be met?

Probably not. We might still read the blog (because Pamela’s an interesting person with a level of expertise we’ve come to respect, and because we might get something intelligent and thought-provoking out of it). But, to put it solely in terms of dollars-and-cents, her conversion rates from reader to client/customer would probably drop.

Prospect Expectation #2: Your Newsletter Must Soar Out of the Inbox

Pamela’s weekly newsletter has a lot to teach us, too.

It’s not all about “what you missed on the blog”/me-me-me (or, to be accurate, “Pamela-Pamela-Pamela”). Rather, Pamela goes out of her way to find other people’s content.  And she shares it openly with her subscribers, along with her thoughts.

That was a revelation to me — and if your newsletter is anything like 99% of those circulating in email inboxes these days, it should be a revelation to you, too. Here’s someone who actually puts into practice that whole “give unto others, of other people’s stuff” precept of content marketing in a consistent, valuable way.

Speaking as someone whose stuff got shared in that newsletter, I can tell you I certainly appreciate that link — but more than that: as a subscriber, I appreciate each and every issue.

Here’s why: because by now, seeing Pamela meet my expectations of her over and over again, I trust her. And trusting her, I also have a certain regard for her opinion. I may not always agree with it, but I know the stuff she shares will have a certain value to it.

(And remember that whole “70% of Americans won’t do business with a company they don’t trust” statistic? You wanna build that prerequisite trust? There you go. This is how you do it.)

After the Sale, Over-Deliver On Your Products + Customer Service

Then there’s the direct interaction with a prospect who turns into a client/customer. In the lead-up to her product launch for Ebook Evolution, Pamela and her partner on that project were generous with the freebies, which were directly tied to the product itself. Instead of offering up some stale old two-year-old white paper, their prelaunch freebies were designed to seamlessly flow from the point of consideration + interest, into and past the moment of sale.

And once that sale was closed, a few weeks later, what happened? In the inbox, an announcement of more stuff.

Think about that. When was the last time you got more than you paid for?

And think about this: How could you give more than your clients/customers expect or pay for, at each particular nexus point discussed above?

Something to chew on this week. Enjoy the rest of the Word Carnival! I’ll update this post later with links to the other Carnies.


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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Tea Silvestre August 31, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Pamela has been front and center for me too the past couple of days. In fact, just last night I left a comment on her guest post over at Copyblogger (see lickable screens). She DOES do everything right…these all must be signs that I need to pay more attention to her.

Thanks for such a great post, Annie. It was worth the wait. 🙂
Tea Silvestre recently posted..Bad Table Manners: 39 Ways to Kill Valuable Business Relationships


SandyMc September 1, 2011 at 1:35 am

So much to learn from this post. The first point to take note of is Pamela’s constant delivery of content around her ‘primary expertise’. Something it is easy to be guilty of not doing, especially in the internet marketing sphere. Another one to take note of: that much of her content is practical and doable. We can wax lyrical on occasion to no one’s real benefit. And what a great approach to a sale. Annie, you just earned Pamela an advocate. And really, isn’t that the way this great online carnival goes round? What goes round, comes round? Thank you very much for introducing us to Big Brand Systems.
SandyMc recently posted..Business relations – an oxymoron?


Annie September 2, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Thanks SandyMc! I love finding real honest-to-goodness success stories out there and asking myself “What can I learn from this person?” Even other people’s failures or less-than-stellar hits (or misses) have SO much to teach us.


Nick Armstrong September 2, 2011 at 5:50 pm

“When was the last time you got more than you paid for?”

This is such an important point that it needs to be restated. I may just write an entire blog post on that – but, not only *when* has this been done for you, but when and how are you doing it for other people, and how are you promoting it? Do people even know? Are they gracious? Or do they come to expect it and abuse your business and your generosity?

It’s time to find a good middle ground, but it’s so difficult to do unless you’ve seen both sides. Excellent post!
Nick Armstrong recently posted..Equal and Opposite Community Reactions


Pamela Wilson September 16, 2011 at 11:50 am

I am (very) late to this party: my Google Alerts didn’t let me know about this post until just now.

Thank you so much Annie for all you wrote. When you’re the person producing all the marketing for your business, it’s easy to lose touch with how it’s being received.

It’s very heartening to read this, because apparently it’s coming across the way I intend it. That’s really great to hear!

Somehow we have to find a way to reach out across the pixels and make a connection with our prospects. Email works especially well for this: it’s an intimate space, you know? I mean, your message is sitting in an inbox next to a message from a friend or a loved one.

I try to remember that when I write them. Of course you have to write promotional emails occasionally, but if you’ve delivered plenty of value and connection before you promote a product, it’s much easier.
Pamela Wilson recently posted..3 Pivotal Design Lessons Learned from 450+ Interviews


Annie September 16, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Content marketing: ur doin it rite!

Thanks for the object lesson, Pam. I’ve especially enjoyed your approach to Ebook Evolution’s marketing on a meta level. You and Kelly have managed that incredibly well. Keep up the awesome work!


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