What is the future of online marketing? I’ve been trying to answer that question for some time, and I think I’ve found an answer. Before we get there, let’s step back for a moment and make a few observations about the current state of Internet marketing…
Meanwhile, content marketing is still a relatively fresh frontier. Neil Patel, serial entrepreneur, SEO guru and well-known blogger remarked recently, “Content marketing the new SEO.” The question is, with the advent of services, tools and blogs that help businesses create more content more easily (see, for example, Scripted.com, which has an API allowing businesses to purchase content on demand), what’s next?
As content marketing also goes mainstream, the “info noise” consumers hear will only increase. So how can businesses break through and find a new growth opportunity?
I’m willing to bet my years as a marketer and entrepreneur that the future of Internet marketing lies in something quite intuitive that I like to call “Alliance Marketing.” Let’s say you want to grow your business and I want to grow my business, and since we share the same target customers but aren’t direct competitors, we decide create a formal alliance to help one another by cross-promoting each other’s “stuff” (our products, blog posts, tweets, etc.). As a result, you get more exposure and attract new customers, and I also increase my reach.
Unlike affiliate marketing, there’s no direct cash benefit — this is about taking offline business relationships online in an organized way. Admittedly, I’m biased — I’ve evolved this concept over the last few years into an actual product called Saber Blast – but any business owner can utilize the principles of Alliance Marketing to their benefit.
Here are 3 steps (and one bonus tip) to help you get started:
- Define who in your network (non-competitors) has customers in and around the market you are targeting. For each contact, ask yourself if this person is producing content relevant to your online followers, and likewise, would they see value in sharing your content with their audience? For each contact you think is a fit, send him or her a short email invite to “ally up” for your mutual benefit. Remember the big idea here: You re-share stuff I create that’s relevant to your audience (no pressure or obligation), and I do the same for you. Our audiences get more valuable knowledge and ideas, we both look good for providing them with this content, and in the long run we both get more customers (without producing more content per se).
- Decide how to manage your marketing alliances. This part is important. Saber Blast streamlines the process, but some great free options include: (a) simply creating an email list with all your allies in it, or (b) creating a private Google+ or Facebook group. You’ll use this group to post links to content you want help promoting, and likewise, you’ll check it regularly to see which of your allies you can help out (by liking or retweeting, for instance). If you see people aren’t contributing but only taking value, “un-ally” them by removing them from the group.
- Track results. Have you and your allies seen an increase in the number of likes or tweets your articles get? Has your website seen a significant jump in traffic? And, finally, has your customer count risen?
- Bonus: If you organize your alliances well, you can effectively add it to your marketing mix in only a few minutes per day or 20-30 minutes per week. You create content (which you’re already doing), you share it with your allies, and they help you. You check for what relevant content they’ve created and want help promoting, and you re-share it. Everyone wins — and your offline relationships get a boost too.
The process is simple: (1) Grow; (2) Blast; and (3) Track.