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Content Marketing: Outreach as Networking, Part I

ConnectYou’ve probably encountered the concept of ‘networking’ as something that professionals should do in order to increase their chances of success. The website LinkedIn is literally designed specifically for the practice. As it turns out, there are a lot of similarities between the two practices.

The Basics
When you’re content marketing, the thing that you need most is a consistent way to get more eyes on your best content. (Well, OK, first you need content worthy of those eyes, but let’s assume you’ve got that.) The ‘channels’ available for you to work on basically break down into:

  • Channels you already own (your Facebook page, your blog, your YouTube channel, etc.)
  • Channels you must pay to use (basically any form of advertisement or pay-per-click), and
  • Channels you must earn the right to use.

These last ones are where ‘networking’ pays off, because most often, the best ‘earned’ channels are ones that are owned and operated by someone in or related to your industry. If you’re hawking a new boxed set teaching people how to perform Dim Mak death strikes, for example, you could hardly do better than to get a mention on a blog post by Russell Stutely (if you’re looking for a street-cred angle), or a YouTube video by Sifu Steven Burton (for the more Chinese-master-on-a-mountaintop style).  Now, to my knowledge, neither of those people have ever actually done any ‘mentions’ like that, but if you could get one, the effect would be instantaneous and profound.

…but until you earn the attention, and probably the respect, of those people, you’re never going to get that kind of bump. Which is why content marketing and networking are so closely related, and why you can use the lessons people have learned about networking to help you learn about the ‘outreach’ part of the content marketing cycle.

So what are some of those lessons?

Making First Contact is Awkward Without an Introduction
It’s always possible, when networking, to simply walk up (or call up, etc.) to a powerful mover-and-shaker in your industry and introduce yourself. As much as Tim Ferriss likes to challenge people to call famous folks at random and chat them up, for most of us Internet types, that’s not the easy task Ferriss makes it out to be. We’re generally more comfortable typing than talking, but making first contact via email or Twitter or whatnot is even more unlikely to result in a successful connection than doing it in person.

That’s why LinkedIn has the “ask for an introduction” feature. Because, for example, if you happen to be pals with a man like “Ian G,” the producer for New Approach Publishing, a company that has helped both Russell Stutely and Steven Burton sell their products, you have an ‘in.’  If you can talk “Ian G” into approaching those gentlemen and introducing you as someone worth their time, you can get the chance to earn their attention, and hopefully their respect.

Be Useful to the Person You’re Reaching Toward
Networking gurus always tell you to present yourself in a way that makes you useful to the person you’re reaching out to. People who are at the top of their industries tend to be pretty busy, pretty action-oriented individuals — very few of them are interested in ‘wasting’ time talking to yet another person with a plea for help. So if you want to earn their time and attention, you have to offer them something interesting.

This does not mean you have to give them something business-related, or that you have to work for them for free or any ridiculous thing like that.  On the other hand, it also does not mean that you should present what you want as though they should want it — all that will do is set off their ‘salesman alarm’ and send them packing. What it does mean is that it’s worth your time to learn all about them, and figure out what they love and hate, and use that to build a common interest with them. If you’re talking to Sifu Burton, for example, a short bit of Googling will reveal that he’s something called a “Lau Gar Guardian,” and that part of the job of a “Lau Gar Guardian” is developing a marketing strategy for Lau Gar products.  Bingo! You have something you can talk about. You are into marketing, right?

Wow, that got longer than I expected, and I’m nowhere near done yet — more next Monday!

(*Disclosure — New Approach Publishing is one of my clients, and I’m legally obligated to mention that fact here just in case anything I wrote comes off as advertising in some way. ~Michael Danielson)

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