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Why Your Business Needs Friends

A Guest Post by Johnny B. Truant from The Charlie and Johnny Jam Sessions.

I got an email the other day from a man who was at his wit’s end.

The email explained that in this man’s business, he was doing many of the same basic things that I was doing, but with much less success. He had been building websites for years. He had refined his craft. He felt that the sites he built were better, more complete, and had more features and better support than mine. He had more experience than I had. He even said that he was probably smarter than I was.

Yet I was doing really well and he was not. So what was the problem?

I replied that he was looking at the situation incorrectly. Generating the business I have — over 70 current active leads at last count — has nothing to do with making better websites, or being faster, or being cheaper. And it certainly has nothing to do with being smarter. (Besides, I graduated first in my class, ahem.)

There are a million people out there who do what I do. A million people putting up WordPress sites and making them sing. Plenty of these people are better, faster, and cheaper than I am.

So I told him: People don’t come to me because I create the best WordPress websites in the world, because I don’t. The people who come to me do so because we’re friends.

This is the Third Tribe

I’m not going to argue that relationship-based marketing is better than bulk-traffic based marketing, because I know that many incomes have been built on attracting a ton of people who you don’t know and who don’t know you. However, I will say that if you’ve never truly tried to get to know your readers, followers, commenters, and casual online acquaintances, you may really be cutting off your profits at the knees.

In case you missed the memo, Darren is one of the principals of the Third Tribe — a group and a philosophy with its roots in building businesses and audiences based on interpersonal connections. If you’re operating with a Third Tribe mentality, the sheer number of people who visit your site or read your blog matters far less than the number of people you exchange a few words with, or who you help without asking for pay, or who like you enough that they’ll retweet everything you post or buy everything you put out.

A Third Tribe business is about getting as many people to like you as possible. I tell my consulting clients that my job is to teach people to make friends.

And yes, I know how naïve that sounds. But hear me out.

Most people in my shoes, looking to sell WordPress website setups by leveraging social media, would get on Twitter and announce their service’s features and low prices. They’d blast their specials and sales out to Twitter and Facebook. Maybe they’d create a fan page so that people could be “fans” of their business — because, you know, it’s really natural to be a fan of a business. They’d optimize sales pages and plan careful upsells, and they’d massage prospects through their product funnel.

By contrast, here’s how I use social media:

  • On my Facebook profile, I have photos of Robert Goulet Photoshopped into ridiculous scenes from my “travels.” (I used to use Robert Goulet as my avatar.)
  • Most of what I put out on Twitter are dumb jokes: “I’ll bet zombie dinner parties are really awkward” or “They say that true beauty is on the inside. The problem is that nobody can see it in there, so you’re still going to look ugly.”
  • A lot of my own blog posts have nothing at all to do with my business, like “I want to join Fight Club” and “Why I’m exactly like Morpheus.”

That all looks really backward, until you realize that my goal isn’t to create customers, but instead to make friends.

If you’re funny, people tend to like you. (I’m not saying you should be funny if you’re not, but if you’ve got it, flaunt it.)

If you write and talk about yourself as a whole person, rather than a one-dimensional business drone, people tend to be interested in you.

If you answer tweets and emails in a somewhat chatty, personal way instead of going for the sale when it’s not obviously warranted, people tend to enjoy talking to you.

And when all of those friends — and friends of those friends — one day have a need that you are able to fill, they won’t go to Google and look for the first search result or for the guy with the cheapest price. It’s human nature that they’ll come to you — their friend — first.

This really can be as simple as I’m making it sound. If you have an easily consumable product or service that a lot of people need and can afford, then all you really need to do is to get out there and make online friends. And they don’t even have to be friends-friends, if you know what I’m saying. They can be people who have read what you wrote somewhere and liked it. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard something like, “I read something you wrote on IttyBiz about kung fu, and would like you to build me a website.”

I’m so not kidding.

The beauty of this approach is that it’s easy and natural if you can just unlearn some of the ingrained habits you’ve gotten used to, like a feeling that a businessperson should be “professional,” or that a fashion blogger should, you know, always talk about fashion and nothing else.

The web has magnified our interpersonal connections and the ability to meet new folks in new ways, but it hasn’t changed the fundamental nature of relationships. If we like people, then we want to hang out with them more, and do more with them. It’s that simple.

Now get out there and make some new friends.

Johnny B. Truant writes about Fight Club, tweets about zombies, and is one of the two extremely personable guys behind The Charlie and Johnny Jam Sessions. If you want to build a cool business while being a real person instead of a boring business drone, you should definitely get in on those.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Jere Cogburn says:

    Although I would’ve preferred if you went into a little bit more detail, I still got the gist of what you meant. I agree with it. It might not be a popular idea, but it makes sense. Will definitely come back for more of this. Great work

  2. I will be reading more from you as soon as you post it. I love your blog. Thanks for it. I never can figure out how you all do these blogs so in depth I get lost in the first few sentences.