Relationship marketing. It's backbone of a successful online business. Fail to forge online relationships and your business will suffer. Simple enough concept, right? But what does "relationship marketing" really mean? Simply put, it refers to principle that, in order to be successful in business, especially an online business since Internet is such an anonymous medium, you need to establish a relationship of trust with your prospective customers before you can expect them to do business with you. It requires a commitment to customer service and a willingness to help others for no certain reward other than satisfaction of helping another and building for yourself and your business a reputation of credibility and trustworthiness.
At end of day, though, if your business is to be financially successful (and if you don't care about that, you're engaged in a hobby, not a business), you have to turn a buck. One of most common anxieties expressed by new (and even not so new) online entrepreneurs, though, is that they don't want to come across as "selling something" to those with whom they have forged very relationship that is a prerequisite to actually making sale!
In other words, focus on "relationship marketing" has been so much on relationship that marketing begins to seem crass and a something of a violation of trust. Many new online business owners report that they feel like they're taking advantage of trust of those with whom they have forged a bond. Of course, there's no reason to feel any such thing so long as you believe in what it is you're selling and that it's something that will benefit your customers. If you don't feel this way, then your bad feelings are well placed. You ARE taking advantage!
The discomfort associated with selling is not restricted to business owner, either. I have received several indignant emails over course of past three years I have been in this business from readers of my ezine in response to promotions I have run for programs I actively promote. The recurring theme of these sorts of communications is that I have a "responsibility" to my readers because they've come to rely on me as an authoritative source of information and I have somehow breached this responsibility by doing something so crass as to actually *market* programs I promote to earn part of my online income.
Some have even gone so far as to suggest that, since I accept paid advertising in my ezine, I should be content with that revenue stream and not seek to make money by promoting outside programs. (Of course, these are generally very same people who complain about advertising as well.)
My response to this line of reasoning is simply that I'm running a BUSINESS. I'm not working nights and weekends on my site and on my ezine out of goodness of my heart. I'm just not that noble, trust me. I have a profit motive. Despite what some people seem to think, a profit motive is NOT, in and of itself, a Bad Thing. A profit motive is only a Bad Thing when one misleads, deceives and otherwise takes advantage of trust of another to pursue that profit. There's no reason to apologize or feel guilty for wanting to make an honest profit.
How about you? Do you have just a twinge of uneasiness when it comes to marketing your products and services? Here are some ideas to help you overcome reticence you may feel in pursuing sales from your prospective customers and how to manage these relationships so that your customer understands that, although you are there to help them, you are also out to help yourself by earning an honest living.
CRYSTALLIZE YOUR PURPOSES
The very first thing you need to do is decide what it is you're really doing when you create your website or publish your ezine. Is it a hobby or is it a business? The difference, respectively, is absence or presence of a profit motive. If it's a hobby, fine. Don't try and turn a profit, just enjoy yourself and generate just enough income to cover your expenses (if you can). But if it's a business, understand that making a profit is non-negotiable. It's reason for your business's existence. You will no doubt have several purposes. But profit motive is key.
Do whatever it takes to crystallize your purposes. For some people, just thinking about it and making a mental decision is sufficient. For others, crystallization requires seeing it in black and white. If that's you, write down your purposes. Again, though, if you're running a business rather than indulging in a hobby, turning a profit must be on your list of purposes (unless, I suppose, you're running a non-profit business but we'll leave that aside for present purposes). Recognize that purpose for what it is. Embrace it. PURSUE it with a vengeance. It's nothing to be ashamed or coy about. So long as you intend to do so, and actually do so, by legitimate, honest and ethical means, give yourself permission to aggressively chase a dollar.