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People buy from who they trust.

It’s no longer enough just to sell. We buy from who we trust. If we’re unfamiliar, we ask a friend, we compare, we look at reviews, we acquire trust by proxy.

Too many people focus only on the first sale. They try so hard to close the deal and get people to buy their product, but what happens after that? What kind of experience are they having? Are they going to buy again?

Your reputation and relationship with your audience is what enables you to sustain yourself long term through repeat business.

Repeat business comes from brand loyalty. Brand loyalty comes from great experiences. You can only give people great experiences if you have their attention. Consistently delivering value with no strings attached is how you get their attention. That’s Relationship Marketing.

Highlights, Takeaways, & Quick Wins:
  • Eventually you have to be able to sustain yourself by selling, but start with giving.
  • People aren’t afraid to pay for something that’s valuable to them.
  • If you want to have someone’s attention, you need to give them something of value.
  • People buy from those they trust.
  • Trust comes when you provide value over an extended period of time with no strings attached.
  • Relationship Marketing does’t have a quick turnaround but it will breed extremely loyal customers.
  • When you launch your first product, you’re better off on crafting an experience that will encourage long-term loyalty than you are worrying about profits.
  • When your first product is an experience for your customers, they will keep coming back. Don’t be afraid to break even on your first product.
  • Freeloaders come with the territory when you practice Relationship Marketing. Don’t worry about them—they were never your customer.
Show Notes
  • 10:34 Sean: With Relationship Marketing, you want to give people value before you ask of them—it’s a giving vs. taking mindset. Eventually you do have to cash in on it and ask for something in return, you can’t just give forever. You have to be able to sustain yourself and you have to sell, but it starts with giving. The reason Relationship Marketing is the way to go right now, in this day and age, is because hard-sells don’t work anymore. When you go up to someone and say, “Buy my product,” it’s not compelling enough. They can pull out their iPhone and search online to see if they should buy your product and what other people are saying about it. If they don’t know you, they’ll look up reviews and they’re going to see if there’s a better option. They’re going to compare solutions and go with the best one. It’s not enough to just say, “I have a solution. Buy my solution.”
  • 11:41 Ben: Decades ago, people who were able to sell something in the first place was a very small crowd. It wasn’t like the market was saturated with all these different options. If someone was in the position to be able to sell you something, they earned their way there. That’s no longer the case, even with the companies that have been around for a long time. The number of years a company has been in business is starting to matter less and less because the quality of what people are able to produce, in comparison to larger companies, is often comparable and sometimes better. That’s putting these big companies in trouble because they’re having to try to out-maneuver these smaller guys. Those big companies depended on social proof and the preexisting trust that they’ve been around a long time—they got there because they’re experts—and because of that, you could trust them right off the bat. Now, they’re not able to cash in on that as much.

Giving vs. Taking

  • 13:26 Sean: People notice those who give and give without any strings attached. It seems like everyone is always out to get something from you and people are wary of that. They’re looking for something that isn’t like that. Give value, don’t sell their attention as the product. All of these “free” services sell your attention and data to advertisers and sponsors. People want something more than that and I think the future of the internet is direct-to-consumer content delivery. It’s value delivery and I think people are willing to pay for that. It’s not easy getting to that point, but that’s the way things are heading.

People aren’t afraid to pay for something that’s valuable to them.

  • 14:33 Everyone’s like, “It’s got to be free! No one is going to use it if it’s not free!” Think longer-term than that. If you come out with something and you want everyone to want it and care about it and they don’t, the problem isn’t that you didn’t make it free. The problem is you have no credits. You weren’t practicing Relationship Marketing. You haven’t given to these people so you’re not even on their radar. They don’t trust you.
  • 15:05 Ben: There’s a class of consumer that really is looking for the free stuff, bargains, and discounts. The sustainable, long-term business doesn’t target customers who are looking for deals, bargains, and free things. The sustainable, long-term business looks for customers who are willing to compensate you fairly for the value you provide, after developing a relationship and trust. It’s so much easier to get to the customers that are looking for a bargain, because it’s a quick sell. You don’t have to do much work to establish a relationship there. They’ll buy and take advantage of their offers, but are they going to stick around? Maybe if you keep offering them deals, but how long can that last?
  • 16:21 Sean: How long can you continue offering deals? If all you’re relying on is how compelling your offer is, then you have to make your offer pretty compelling. If it’s compelling, people want deals. I know how much an iPhone, Apple Watch, or computer costs and I can go to the store and buy it at normal price whenever I want, but if I was going to buy it outside of that, it would have to be a crazy deal, like half off and in perfect condition. How can you continue to offer super compelling deals, if all you have are people that are going to buy bargain bin type stuff? How can you stay in business?
  • 17:06 Ben: You’re not going to achieve the brand loyalty you need to make it sustainable either, because as soon as someone else comes along, offering a similar product at a better price, those discount shoppers are going to jump ship. Then, you end up thinking you should lower your price again so you can get those people back. It’s a race to the bottom.
  • 17:29 Sean: How many people are only thinking of that first sale? “How can I close the deal with these people? How can I get someone to buy now?” Then as an after thought, “How do I get these people to stick around?” That starts before the first sale and not being obsessed with making the first sale.

Brand loyalty starts with planning for the long-term.

  • 18:01 The first thing you need is attention. Attention is a commodity that’s hard to get, because it’s a noisy world. The noise is only increasing with the number of devices we have that are making notifications, automated posts, and adding to the collective data we have to sift through. Even the valuable things are getting overwhelmed. If you want to have someone’s attention, you need to give them something of value. Their attention is going to be at peak levels when you’re acknowledging what they’re trying to tell you (Related: e171 6 Tips for Dealing With Confrontation). If you’re acknowledging when someone is trying to communicate something to you, they’re going to be super engaged because they feel heard.
  • 19:11 Similarly, peoples’ attention levels are going to be at peak when you’re giving them something of value, something they want, and something that helps them. If you’re doing that for free, you have their attention, so when you go to sell something, that attention turns into sales. That’s how you’re able to sustain your business.
  • 19:39 Ben: That’s the long-term approach. You’ve got to deal with the fact that the work of getting that attention and getting to the point where you can make a sale isn’t something that happens overnight, or even over a month. It’s something that happens to build over a long stretch of time.
  • 20:03 Sean: I like what Sarah says in the chat room, “I want people to buy from me because they know it will be as good as I’m marketing it, not because I’ve flooded them so much that they’re just giving in.” If you’re not sure about this whole value thing, I’ve personally been on both ends of this—the receiving end of value and the end of giving value where I’ve seen peoples’ response to it. I’ve told the story about Nathan Barry taking five minutes to send me an email that helped me make five figures extra in my Learn Lettering launch. As soon as I read that email I thought, “I could give him $1,000 for that.” It was so valuable to me. He told me how to sell in packages and tiers, when previously I was structuring 10 lessons to be sold separately but when purchased together it would be a better rate.
  • 21:06 He told me to think through who these different packages are for and give it to them in exactly what order they should go in. They can go out of order if they want to but people want order. They want something that’s been thought through for them. That made a huge difference for me. He came out with a course on product launches and as soon as it launched, I went to the landing page and I scrolled until I reached the $1,000 package under purchasing options. I bought it without even reading it or thinking because I wanted to give back. It was totally worth it to me. I got more value from him in a free email than that $1,000 I was giving back. I’ve also been on the end where I’ve given people a lot of value—like when we reopened the Community the other day. So many people told me, “I would buy the annual membership just to pay you back for all the free material you’ve given me. I’ve been listening to this podcast since 2013 and it’s changed my life.” The fact that they’re in the Community with incredible people and extra value is just a bonus.
  • 22:53 Ben: For the person who’s thinking to themselves, “My audience isn’t very big and I could put as much time and effort into creating something of value like Sean has, but I’m not going to see as much of a return off of that.” What happened for you is your audience grew because of the value you’re providing. I don’t know if you were strategic about when you cashed in on that or you were so focused on providing value that cashing in on it came as an afterthought.
  • 23:37 Sean: The delivery of value is just what I do and because Relationship Marketing works so well, I’ve been able to get away with not even having to think or strategize about selling. It did get to the point where I was focusing 90% of my efforts on Relationship Marketing and 40% to 50% on selling, and I know that doesn’t add up to 100%, but we go the extra mile here. You can’t sustain yourself just giving value, you have to actually sell at some point.
  • 24:30 I got to that point and it was an afterthought for me. I knew I needed to put pause on podcast episodes and helping people so I could actually come up with a product that people could pay me back on.
  • 24:47 Ben: One of our new Community members in the chat room, Aaron Hendrickson asks, “How do you build an audience to the point where you can make a profit? How do you overcome providing so much value and then feeling like you have the right timing in cashing it in?” That goes back to some fundamental things like the Overlap Technique (Related: e137 The Overlap Technique: A Crash Course & Creative South 2015 4 Keys to Growing an Audience). It does take time to build an audience, but you’re giving stuff away and the only way you can give stuff away is if you’ve overlapped properly.
  • 26:10 Sean: Keshna asks, “If you don’t have an audience, how do you know what you’re saying is valuable?” What’s valuable is subjective—it depends on the person. What’s valuable to one person isn’t valuable to another. What’s valuable is what helps this person and the best way to know that is if you’re answering someone’s question (Related: e99 How to Read Minds). A lot of people just spray out this content and hope some of it resonates. They’re just making whatever they want, but a better way to do it is to start with what people are looking and asking for.
  • 27:15 Tailor your content to peoples’ questions. If you don’t have an audience, I bet you have family, friends, and Facebook acquaintances. You have people looking to you, so talk with those people. If you have eight or 40 newsletters subscribers that you think is so small compared to people with 10,000 or 100,000 subscribers, go to those people and figure out what they’re struggling with. Those are your people! Help them out and make content in response to that. That’s how you know something is valuable.
  • 28:04 Ben: The multiplication of that is so powerful. When you’re thinking about the value you’re offering as it relates to a single person, and you want to put content together that would change that person’s life, create a powerful experience for that one person. If that’s where your focus is, it’s going to spread and grow over time. Your only job is to provide that kind of value for one person. You’re not scaling what you’re doing, outside of offering what you’re saying in new mediums, you’re offering value consistently as if you’re trying to change a single person’s life. That experience is universal enough that your audience will grow and it will come back to you as it multiplies.

People Buy From Those They Trust

  • 29:25 Sean: For the most part, people buy from those they trust. You might be thinking, “I buy power cords from Amazon all the time and I’m not buying because I trust them,” but what do you do before you buy? You read the reviews. You can argue that you don’t trust them but you trust them by proxy. Trust comes over time. You can’t just walk up to someone on the street, ask someone to be your friend, and say, “Do you trust me to take care of your house while you’re on vacation?” Trust is also something that’s earned. You have to give of yourself all the time, over a long period of time, with no strings attached.
  • 30:43 Think of any relationship that means something to you: you’ve both given something to the other person. It’s not always this barter of, “If you do something for me, I’ll do something for you.” That feels more like an exchange, not like you can trust them more. It’s more like, “I saw your car wasn’t working, do you want to borrow mine?” You give and over time, you have a relationship. How do you go back on the timeline to see where trust is established?

Trust is a variable thing that gets stronger over time, but trust comes from providing value with no strings attached.

  • 31:36 Ben: If you think about it, there are strings attached eventually.
  • 31:44 Sean: They’re implicit. What I mean by that is, on an individual basis, each one of those things isn’t predicated on another.
  • 32:05 Ben: Maybe a better mindset to have is one of providing value indefinitely, no matter what. Eventually, you would like to see something come back, but when it comes back, you’re not going to stop providing value. You’re not going to get to the point where you can cash out and then you’re done providing value. Your goal in this relationship is to provide value. That positioning is what builds the deepest trust over time. You’re going to sell something eventually, but even after you purchase something, you’re going to keep providing value. You’re not changing your game.
  • 32:55 Sean: It’s a mindset of over-delivering on that value or promise. This could sound naive to some people. “Haven’t you heard of economics, Sean? You can’t just give things away or you’ll go broke!” Proverbs 11:25 says, “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” It’s like when you give of yourself, you’re never going to have a shortage of resources. Underlying that, the reason Relationship Marketing actually works and you don’t just run out of resources, is the Rule of Reciprocity that Robert Cialdini talks about in his book, Influence. The Rule of Reciprocity is that you give something to someone and they feel compelled to return the favor, even on that one-on-one basis. If I tell Cory he can use my car, he feels a sense of obligation and wants to do something for me. Relationship Marketing is essentially building up that credit over time. You have to have an ask somehow, somewhere.

You have to sell eventually, or you cannot sustain yourself.

  • 35:24 People want to give to a generous person! If you look at someone who’s just giving and giving, then you’ll give them some of your resources because they’ll multiply them. They’ll go do more good things with that.
  • 35:42 Ben: Should you be strategic about the type of thing you give away or the cost of producing what you give away? For example, MailChimp gave away free t-shirts, which seems crazy to me because I know how much t-shirts costs to produce and ship. To give those away seems like it wouldn’t work out financially. If you’re a hand lettering artist, do you give away prints, or do you focus on something that doesn’t cost as much money to produce?
  • 37:07 Sean: This is why we have the Overlap Technique—getting yourself a foundation in a day job where your bills are covered while you work on a side thing. The day job should be step number one, and what that affords you is the long-term mindset that’s required to practice Relationship Marketing. The problem is that Relationship Marketing isn’t a quick turnaround or an overnight solution. It’s going to take a while to build up that credibility. You’ll have to give for a while and the good thing is when you have your bills covered with a day job that isn’t taking up your creativity, you can afford to think long-term and give away even more.
  • 37:58 The day job just needs to serve the functional purpose of paying your bills, it shouldn’t suck the life out of you. If it is, then you’re in the wrong day job. My answer to that question is not to worry about how much the value is. Go broke in your secondary pursuit or your passion. If you start with money, it’s the quickest way to kill your passion.

When you launch your first product, your goal shouldn’t be profits.

Your goal should be getting people to be loyal to you.

  • 39:00 Create an awesome experience so they buy a second product and a third product. The first product should be an experience for them. If you jump out of your day job cold-turkey and sell products, your number one concern during your first launch will be money. You need to sustain yourself or you’ll try to figure out a way to profit from this launch because you can’t afford not to! Somehow you’re going to have to get money out of that exchange, so you’re going to cut corners and skimp on the quality. You have to milk out some of the resources to sustain yourself instead of padding the experience for your customer. That experience is going to be the reason they buy something from you in the future.
  • 40:02 I was a hardcore PC guy—I had a PC computer repair business. I thought Mac was for people who don’t know how to use computers, then the iPhone launched. I got one and thought it was pretty cool. I got all of the next generations and every time I got a new one, I sold the old one and made money from unlocking or jailbreaking them. I started to realize that Apple really did things right and that went throughout their entire product line. It took me four years of iPhones before I bought my first Mac computer. I have two iPads, we both have iPhones, an Apple TV, a Mac Pro, and an Apple Watch. Look at that long-term mindset they have! Even if they lost money on the first iPhone, it doesn’t matter because they’ve gotten five figures back from me. They cared about that first experience. Break even on your first product and make it an experience, then people will come back for the next one when you have a profit.
  • 43:37 Ben: The focus shouldn’t be on how much money you’re spending or how many people it’s reaching. Where’s the balance between how much value you’re putting into something vs. how many people it can reach? The more value you’re putting into a material based thing, the fewer people it can reach, but don’t worry about any of that at all. Try to focus on providing a single individual the most valuable experience you possibly can. The impact of that experience is going to lead to loyalty, more purchases, and evangelism. That person is going to have such a great experience with your brand that they’re going to share it with other people.
  • 44:35 Sean: Don’t worry about numbers either. Don’t think, “I want to give something away but I can’t afford to give away 100 of this or 1,000 of that.” How about 10 of something awesome? We’re talking about marketing here—giving things away isn’t the only point. The point is so that hopefully it goes a little bit further. Hopefully the thing you gave away results in a person who feels so loyal to your brand that they tell someone else about it. Is the depth of the thing you gave away to this one person so deep that it will cause them to tell another person about it? Maybe it’s not. Maybe don’t go so wide—don’t spread it so thin.

Don’t Make Your Audience The Product

  • 45:31 The caveat to Relationship Marketing is freeloaders. If you give away value, you’re going to attract a lot of people that are just there for the free stuff. I announced that the Community reopened and someone felt compelled to tweet at me, “Oh, I’m not doing that. I’ll just keep listening to the free stuff you put out.”
  • 46:11 Ben: I feel bad for people who have that attitude. In a healthy society, the Rule of Reciprocity is followed because it’s how you gain acceptance in a group and maintain healthy relationships. You don’t know when you’ll need to cash in on those relationships. Where there’s not a fundamental understanding of that rule, you’re going to experience trouble. They’re getting all of this free stuff, yet they don’t see how it obligates them. If they feel compelled to say something, they don’t understand how this works.
  • 47:17 Sean: You’re welcome to freeload. I’m forced to take that on by adopting Relationship Marketing, instead of saying, “You want value? Give me something valuable.” That’s commerce and Relationship Marketing flips that around. I’m giving them value first so hopefully they buy something from me. The freeloader will look at all of that and will feel entitled—“Everything I’ve gotten for free I’ve deserved, because it was free. Therefore I don’t owe anything.” When you ask for something in return, in their mind, they’re at square one. They don’t think of all the stuff they’ve gotten already as a form of credits or a gift that’s been given to them. If you’re considering this Relationship Marketing model, this is a reality. The problem isn’t freeloaders, the problem is in your response to freeloaders.
  • 48:39 You don’t want to have a negative response to the freeloaders, it comes with the territory. If you were tweeting about how your electric company wants to give you a bill, you would look like an idiot. Don’t complain about it. You need to pay attention to your response to freeloaders and I would recommend ignoring them.

Freeloaders were never your customer and that’s not something you have to worry about.

  • 49:08 With any kind of arrangement, Relationship Marketing or not, they aren’t your customer. If you knocked on their door and ask them to buy something, or if you gave them a gift and kept showing up every day with gifts then asked them to buy from you, they would still say no.
  • 50:03 Here’s the call out: you’ve been receiving value for 170 episodes and it’s free, but I can’t do it indefinitely without selling. I’m not asking for donations in exchange for what I’ve done, I’d rather give you more value. I’d rather give you the Community and everything we have there. If you’ve been getting value out of the show, go join the Community.
  • 51:10 If you’ve listened to this podcast, I haven’t sold you to advertisers or subjected you to sponsors. I value your time too much to do that. I haven’t made you the product like Facebook, Google, or any other podcast that has sponsors. That’s my gift to you, so the only thing I ask is that you compensate me in return. Charli in the chat room says, “Message for the freeloaders: I’ve been in the Community less than 24 hours and it’s already worth it.” I just want to thank everyone in the Community. It’s an incredible place and it’s incredible because of the people. They’re the reason we’re able to do this and this is who we’re doing this for.

Relationship Marketing Is Worth the Wait

  • 52:37 If you’re considering Relationship Marketing, you’ve got to be patient. Don’t try to cash in too quick. When you give value, don’t be surprised that people aren’t giving back right away. It’s going to take time—realistically it will take years. But it’s worth it. It feels like the most honest exchange. You have two parties that are so concerned about giving the other value and it feels so genuine. “I care about the fact you’re struggling with these things and I have something that can help you. My motivation is to get this to you.” All I want is to be able to continue doing this and if you can help me continue doing this, then everyone benefits. You feel like you’re getting more value than you compensated for, I feel like I’m helping you, and everyone feels good about the exchange. That’s what I like about Relationship Marketing.
  • 54:02 Ben: It’s not only the time and effort that Sean put into producing this show, the time I invest coming here twice a week, the time Cory puts into producing live shows, but it’s also the people in the Community. These individuals are part of what made it possible for you to hear this episode. Don’t you want to be in that group? You’re going to get value whether you’re a freeloader or not, but you’re going to realize more of that value when you’re making a fair exchange. Being a part of the Community means you’re going to get far more value than you would ever pay to be a part of it, but by paying it you’re going to realize more of that value. Even just the things you’re experiencing now—podcast episodes, newsletters, blog posts—will be worth more to you because of the attitude of realizing value you have toward them and wanting to compensate for it.
  • 56:42 Sean: I think people should adopt this model of Relationship Marketing. It’s worth waiting the time it’s going to require for it to be sustainable for you. You can do Relationship Marketing to get people in the door, but you don’t necessarily have to do it with every sub-offering after that point. Eventually, you build an audience and you can market these products directly to this audience, with whom you already have credit. You’ve already given them something and you can market to them immediately. You now have the reputation, name, trust, and loyalty to say, “I have this product offering and here’s how it’s going to help you. Go buy it,” and people will buy it. They’re already in the door and trust you.

If you’re trying to close a first sale or make a good deal, all you have is that one sale.

  • 58:03 You have no credibility and no audience loyalty. You start over with every product. It’s worth doing things right from the beginning.
  • 58:31 Ben: I put the people who are wanting to be in the Community, can’t afford to yet, but are saving up for it in the same camp as those who were waiting to join the Community before it reopened. I don’t see those people as freeloaders. I wanted to make sure people listening understand who we’re talking about when we use the term “freeloader.”
  • 59:08 Sean: A freeloader is someone who has made a decision never to compensate for value received. If someone wants to compensate us and they’re not in a financial position to do so, I want to help them. I want to give them more information and guidance to get them to a place where they can sustain themselves and have the extra income to be able to do the things they want, then if they want to, they can pay us back. If you’re saying, “Thank you for doing these podcasts and having a sponsor-free network. I want to pay you back someday,” then you’re not a freeloader to me.