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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. Vivek says:

    Every Business needs some friends to start up. if you have to done some big things you have to build a community around your self. By joining facebook and twitter clubs and many social networking sites are there to make new friends so that you may easily contact with them online.
    And having more friends in your niche will boost your traffic on your blog and helps you to make extra $ of income

  2. Hi there,
    Business need concentration, Determination and marketing strategy. Nobody cares about your personal treats and behavior.If you are not willing to visit or read any personal stories they why should other people.Smarter people succeeds and other fails.Because smart people works with pre-planing and with deep studies of business promotion.Whether they promote their business or services through social networking or with other medium,but all need strategy and networking with smart friends.

  3. But at what point will friends get tired of all of the stuf fyou are selling them.

  4. You put it right. I my self will choose to do business with my friend instead with a stranger. Price is second priority after trust as first priority.

  5. I had never thought of your perspective. I do believe that a lot of what you said holds true, especially for personal type websites like dooce, or The Pioneer Woman where the product is the actual blog…

    Bringing out what I call the human factor is a great way to get people to subscribe to and follow your blog… because in this case people want a genuine connection.

    If that helps you sell your product then all the power to you!

    I’m surprised at the negative comments because your “technique” if you will, is clearly working for you… then who is anyone to criticize?

    Do what works.

  6. Kato Collier says:

    No matter what industry or niche you’re in, you are gonna need some friends to get you up there. Just a few works, but the more the better I say!

    Altogether though, great advice to that fellow! Hope his business expands, cause it sounds like he deserves it.

  7. Srinivas Rao says:

    This post is so key. In the last 3 months I’ve really embrace this philosophy of building a “tribe” and I get much more engagement from my readers I have far more subscribers and I’m actually getting consulting work from my blog. Even Malcom Gladwell talks about the idea of connectors and how they have the ability to influence events. What drew me to your blog in the first place was the humor.

  8. Wannabe says:

    I am absolutely behind the principle, making friends is good for business. An even better principle is to join or build a community, and if all things fail .. consider a partnership or a collaboration on specific levels with another blogger.

    Thanks for the wise words!
    Wannabe
    http://www.HotBlogorNot.com

  9. Mike Stenger says:

    Totally agree about making friends. In fact, just a week ago, I did a project for a friend of mine who we’ve known each other for about a year now on Twitter. Because of that built relationship, it was one of the more enjoyable projects I’ve worked on lately. And as well, it was money in the bank and she enjoyed the end result.

  10. Dave Higgs says:

    Hi Johnny;

    A very relevant post indeed! I think that “friends” also act as your evangelists whereas no one really raves about “large corporates”.

    Sure some corporates make a “cult following” (I think of brands like Nike, Levi, etc), but they don’t KNOW their customer PERSONALLY either.

    When it comes to blogs and “impersonal” relationships/transactions such as on the web – a friendship goes so much further…

    Thanks

  11. This is absolutely right! In this kind of business, it all starts with your friends. From there, word of mouth – from your friends, will help your website grow and generate more business for you.

    Great Article!

  12. Hello Johnny

    I wanted to take the time to comment you on your well written article. Such a simple concept but yet so useful. I have to admit that I have been pretty successfull in sales IRL, but the internet was a little slower with taking off. I then realized that I wasn’t do the same thing on the net that I was doing when I was doing office desk sales. I will work on that and hope to get some better things going with my site.

    Thanks again!

  13. betty says:

    I think this is all about a question of personality.
    Some people may find it harder to make friends, so each person has his virtues.
    Some people are good for business
    Other people are good programming in wordpress.
    And there who are good doing everything

  14. Excellent points! What I have found about the web that has brought my success is to be different, to be controversial, to make mistakes and to just be myself. Oh yea, one more thing to just have fun with the process. All of this is what makes one interesting and will attract other people to you.

    When I first came on the internet I was nervous about being successful and filled with self talk and doubt. And guess what – it all showed up in everything that I did and needless to say the amount of traffic to my stuff wasn’t very good.

    The minute that I said the *&^( with all of that was the minute things began to change and get un-boring.

  15. Julius says:

    I totally agree with this post. Often when I’m looking for information, I tend to focus on the sites where content is delivered in a friendly, personal, and conversational tone. It gives the impression that I’m talking to a human being, and not some superprofessional.

  16. hokya says:

    agree with the post
    we cannot handle all the business without relation nor references

  17. Geoff Crane says:

    It’s funny…I’ve been coaching my clients that to be successful in managing their projects they need to develop personal relationships with their team, stakeholders, clients and vendors. People are more likely to come to you for help, and overlook mistakes. When people see you as someone they can identify with, you stop being just another commodity and start being a trusted advisor.

    Yet here I am, searching for ways to help grow my business online and I’m faced with the exact same advice! :-) LOL

    Thank you, Johnny, for reminding me! :-D

    Geoff.

  18. Tony says:

    The key to website sucess is having friends in you niche. Facebook and Twitter help. I dislike the fact the some sights use plain facts and know voice. Voice inspires you and keeps you reading. It’s common sense.

  19. Sarah Baron says:

    So, here’s the interesting thing. Friends are indeed key. In every business I have started, they are the key to our success. In this internet world, I agree that they are, even more so. I’ve made some great acquaintance always. The difficult part is that my group remains anonymous – for obvious reasons if you visit the site. So the friends I have made with regard to this business are new and just surrounding this blog. I have met lots of great people, and they keep coming back to the site.

    Very good observations…Thanks for this post.

  20. Tinh says:

    I think that not only business but also blogger without intending monetize their blog still needs friends. We have good contents or products but we need friends to promote it. Two people make a bigger difference than one.

  21. Thanks JB!

    It’s an art form, trying not to take life seriously yet still be serious about life.

    It took me ages to write that after 3 beers!!! Do you understand me?

  22. The other thing JB is ever noticed when you were single and weren’t trying all the chicks came from nowhere!

    So to that bloke that wrote ya, tell him to stop trying so hard!

  23. Archan Mehta says:

    Hey Johnny:

    Once again, you’re right on the money, man, way to go.

    I think customers/clients are sick and tired of having to “go-to” a business person, who sounds like Steven Spielberg’s out of this world character, “E.T.”

    “Eliot, me go home. Eliot, me go home. Eliot, me go home.”

    Robots like that probably got kicked in the shin, had their lunch money stolen, and girls made them carry their books before going on a date with a jock with threads and money.

    Seriously, though, I think customers/clients are more likely to do business with people they can relate to or identify with–that’s just human nature. What can you do?

    If you put on a stiff upper lip, count beans, and are so busy you have to eat a big mac at the desk, I’m sorry, buddy, but you are not likely to make any friends anytime soon.

    Study after study suggests that “people skills” are highly valued by the market, so much so that it has become a part of the curriculum at prestigious B-School: Ever heard of OB?

    No, not Obnoxious Boss, more like Organizational Behavior.
    For many MBA-types, OB=writing fairy tale stories, but when you get out into the real world you realize why people like Johnny and Charlie are minting money and why geniuses are joining the swelling ranks of the unemployed and begging for bread at your neighborhood soup kitchen.

    Cheers!

  24. Deborah says:

    Hi Johnny,

    This is great food for thought and a great post.

    When I first built my website, I did just the opposite. I thought all my friends on Facebook would run to my store and buy something. Guess what, not one person did. Very disappointing since this was during the holidays!

    So, a lesson learned and I stopped bragging and preaching about my site. Now I feel like a dupus.

    People you make friends with tend to check out your profile and peek at your website, according to my traffic state.

    Thanks for the great writing. I have learned quite a bit since coming on board here. Nice people and very helpful.

    DR

  25. This is something that I wrestle with on a daily basis… trying to entertain, and at the same time trying to provide worthwhile content. The third tribe is an intelligent group of people. This is a group that loves to be entertained, but at the same time needs to know that they aren’t wasting their time with some wanna-be.

    There is a fine line between telling, education, and entertaining, and selling. If you tell or educate too much, then people drop you like a hot rock.

    If you entertain or sell too much, then people will leave because they don’t get enough content.

    People love to buy, they just want to feel it’s on their own terms and that’s where the power of Johnny’s post comes in. The friend loves to take suggestions of what to buy from other friends. This is the third tribe at its finest.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  26. This post is perfect for what I have been thinking about lately.

    Whether you work 9-5, run a blog, or an internet business your success depends almost soley on the relationships you build. People need to believe in you first then they will believe in what the product is you are selling or offering them.

    If they think you are just another shady internet business more than likely they will not purchase from you.

    So i agree with this approach and I think it is right on the money.

  27. completely agree with you…good post

  28. Gennyca says:

    That’s exactly why I hired you Johnny! Any (other than you) website designer guys or gals (actually didn’t find any gals) that I checked out came across very rigid and authoritarian. I know, that I know nothing about how to build a website, and they made sure I knew that they did. You on the other hand; treated me like a friend (and we had not been in contact yet), you made me laugh–even the comment about becoming a friend of Chuck Norris, made me giggle. So I felt comfortable, my bro. was going to help me build an awesome website.

    We’re ate the point where you’ve handed over the reigns (yes I’ve replaced the “dummy” pics of Captain Kirk) and I’m personalizing the content of http://roatanvortex.com. I still have some questions and requests from you–and I know without a doubt–You will continue to help me…cause that’s what friends do…aaaaawe!

  29. nada says:

    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
    yes agree with you

  30. KS Chen says:

    Making friends is really important for us to survive in blogosphere. We can’t survive without others. I love to see the bloggers help to each other without any selfishness. This is a good scene for the win win situation.

  31. chandan says:

    Thats right which friends or community we can not success on blogging, we have to build good community with other fellow bloggers and should discuss about different things on blogging, which will help us to increase our blogging business.

  32. i-Blogger says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. People have always told me what a funny guy I am, and I know that I have the ability to make people laugh, but I have never really used that sense of humor on my blogs or websites.

    It makes sense though, that is how I have always made friends in my day-to-day life (being a comedian) so why not on the world wide web!

    You have given me something to think about here, thanks for the post Johnny B.

  33. If any thing is the secret to having success (on or off line) this is it. I wish we could all just make a great website and push a button to automatically be successful, but that’s not gong to happen.

    I am a Chiropractor, who is almost retired – I say almost because I have patients that just won’t let me retire! They are more than patients, they are also friends.

    Thanks for reminding all of us of this important fact.

  34. Sarah Arrow says:

    I love this post Jonny, much of my business comes from my online friends who recommend me, who have come to know me and like me and I am not a drone for my business but a real live human being, with human thoughts and a penchant for Champagne, rottweillers and Essex – whats not to love?

  35. This is SO true. I used to work retail, and I was told over and over and OVER again what a good salesperson I was. Thing is, I HATE sales. With a passion. So, I didn’t approach it that way. Every customer I interacted with was a friend…I mean I spoke to them as if they were one. I made jokes. I told them about my kids. Because I hate sales, and I hate people trying to sell me things. So, I’d banter with them, find out their issues, and solve them with our products. We’d laugh, we’d have a great time, I wouldn’t hate what I was doing, and they wouldn’t feel pressured. Win-win-win (them, me, store).

    I think, though, that this isn’t something you can push. A lot of people won’t be able to do this, especially the people with the “sales” mentality. If it doesn’t come naturally, it feels pushed and fake, and it won’t work.

  36. I’ve made 5,000 friends on Facebook and I’m working towards 5,000 on YouTube. Probably the toughest place to make friends is Twitter, but the more time I spend on search.twitter the easier it becomes…

    The loop starts again every month though!. Fresh video and a fresh product, chatting and friend making is constantly on-going!…

    Awesome post Johnny! FTW!!!!!…

  37. we cant do business without customers…customers are our first friends (help us by purchasing some products)…In similar fashion blog business is totally dependent on customers/ visitors

  38. This is a great post Jonny! I’m still trying to figure out how to get my colleagues to look beyond the traditional ROI metrics…not easy though…

  39. Sup

    I respect the design of your articles, perfect length and sweet, yet you get enough of them. Keeps me wishing to learn more. I will be sure to check every day!

    Bye

  40. Hi Guys,

    In business you do need friends. But I have heard negative people say that “Business and Friends don’t mix.” (Smile)

    Kind Regards,

    Sam
    X

  41. Just getting back from SXSW and I see that the comment I tried to leave from my phone didn’t post! Well, then quickly… just wanted to say thanks for the great discussion on this one. This method isn’t for everyone, but I’ll bet it’s for a lot more people than you may think. And for me, it’s worked really, really well. Something to consider!

  42. IPBrian says:

    I love this…you have to care about your audience. If you give to them, they will give back to you. I always this it is better to have 100 people who really care about what you are trying to accomplish then 1000 people who don’t give a crap!

  43. Deborah says:

    “Nobody cares how much you know . . until they know how much you care”

    Theodore Roosevelt

  44. popupbooster says:

    Are people really interested in other people in business?
    People will only enter a tribe if they see a personal benefit or a comfort zone.
    The personal benefit can also be a method or reason to become interesting as people aren’t interesting themselves. By becoming an advocate for a company or a product people can make themselves interesting.

  45. Jason Cobine says:

    People do business with people they like, they pay more money to do business with people they admire. If you want to be liked, tow the line. If you want to be admired, be yourself.

  46. Just getting back from SXSW and I see that the comment I tried to leave from my phone didn’t post! Well, then quickly… just wanted to say thanks for the great discussion on this one. This method isn’t for everyone, but I’ll bet it’s for a lot more people than you may think. And for me, it’s worked really, really well. Something to consider!

  47. I told them about my kids. Because I hate sales, and I hate people trying to sell me things. So, I’d banter with them, find out their issues, and solve them with our products.

  48. Aglolink says:

    Your assumption is correct, no one can grow their business alone. Environmental necessity, friends and networks that make us great.

  49. Anne says:

    I don’t have anything terribly profound to say, just that this is a great article. And the funny thing is, JohnnyB, that even though I paid you to set-up my website and I paid for your Zero-to-Business course and have asked you for all kinds of advice that you have so graciously given – I have no clue where I originally heard about you!

    I have racked and racked my brain to remember how I heard about you, but nothing comes up (which if you knew how seriously bad my memory has become in recent years might not seem so surprising). But I am pretty sure that it was a humor article of yours that I read somewhere that first “reeled me in.”

    Anyway, bottom line is I am proof of your hypothesis above.

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