How to grow and manage relationships with content marketing

If there’s one skill that can have an outsized impact on your business (and life outside of business), it’s relationship building. Think back to one of the big turning points of your life: that first customer, that new job, closing that deal, it probably happened as a result of a relationship you built.

Building and maintaining relationships is a core skill of a content marketer. A successful content marketing strategy needs to build and strengthen relationships. Relationships provide a wealth of content and provide the opportunity to cross-pollinate your audiences.

If there’s one skill that can have an outsized impact on your business, it’s relationship building. Click To Tweet

This is a guide for building relationships through content marketing. I’ll give you some simple strategies and tactics to build relationships and a tool to keep track of all of the interesting people you meet as you grow your business.

Why you should proactively build relationships

In his post Why is Hiring a Great Content Marketer So Difficult?, Gregory Ciotti outlines the core skills of a “unicorn” content marketer.

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Networking is one of the 3. Gregory explains that, “Industry leaders in any topic all know and regularly chat with each other; content marketers should know how to connect with up-and-comers and bigger players.”

Even the most brilliant writing and ideas will fail to get traction if it never gets seen by the… Click To Tweet

In the early stages of a content marketing campaign, you’ll need to rely heavily on networking and relationship building to get some early wins on your blog. Without any organic traffic flowing or a list to draw on, your relationships will have the biggest impact on the success of your content.

You’ll need to start making connections with influencers in your niche and find opportunities to collaborate with them. Having influencers share and link to your content will probably be the first traffic you see flowing to your site. You’ll need to make this happen consistently to begin growing your own audience.

Relationship building techniques

Find influencers

If you are new to a niche or industry, you may not know anyone in your space to connect with.

Followerwonk – A Twitter analytics tool that helps you identify influencers in your niche.

Littlebird – A tool that helps you find influencers based on content.

Facebook groups – Find Facebook groups related to your niche and identify the owner and the influencers that post within the group.

Paid communities – Private forums and paid communities are a good place to connect with people. It tends to be a bit easier to reach out since there is a small barrier to entry.

Quora – Search for keywords related to your niche and look for people who have lots of upvotes on answers to popular questions.

Add value first

No matter what your approach is to building relationships, you should be sure to focus on adding value and not taking it away.

Keep in mind that the person you want to reach out to is probably bombarded with, “Can I pick your brain?”-style requests on a daily basis. They can spot someone trying to take advantage of them from miles away and will likely ignore anyone that they get this sense from.

So find ways that you can be a genuine help to the people you want to connect with. Don’t worry about getting compensated for the value you add. You should trust that the rewards for building this relationship will come in the future and may not come in the form of something you’re expecting or even aware of right now. The relationship itself and the trust between you will open doors to more interesting and serendipitous opportunities in the future.

In her TED talk, Kare Anderson encourages the audience to become opportunity makers.

“When you connect with people around a shared interest and action, you’re accustomed to serendipitous things happening into the future“

Here’s the full video, it’s relatively short for a TED talk and has incredible insights for adding value in relationships.

Share content

You should be keeping a good pulse on the content and influencers in your niche. If you see something that interests you, see if there’s someone you want to connect with that may also be interested. You can email it to them or share it with them on social media.

Use the content as a conversation starter. Pose a question to the person you want to connect with. Is there an idea in the content that you find controversial? Maybe there’s some ideas that you found lacking? Is there anything you would do differently? These are all good conversation starters and can help you.

As you get to know people better, you will discover other interests they have outside of their industry. They may have a passion for skiing or their favorite book might be Dune. If you come across content outside of their industry, you’ll have an opportunity to build more of a personal connection and cut through the noise.

Guest posts

Writing guest posts for other influencers in your space is one of the most time honored ways to build a relationship. You do them a big favor when you can create something great that resonates with their audience.

Look up their most popular content using BuzzSumo and see if there’s a way that you can add a unique twist to the content that is performing well on their site with your skillset.

Co-create content

Another opportunity to both flatter and help an influencer you want to connect with is by inviting them to co-create content with you.

This could be as simple as answering a few interview questions for a roundup post.

Another method would be to offer to interview an influencer for a case study or to collect their thoughts on an article you are writing. Reach out to them and set up a call on Skype. Let them know that you will be recording the call (I recommend the eCamm call recorder). Ask them a few questions and start a conversation. Have some pre-written questions ready to ask and when they say something that’s interesting, ask them follow up questions and get them to go deeper. Since you’re recording, you won’t need to take notes. A quick 15-30 minute call can turn into dozens of great quotes to draw from for the content you create in the future. Just make sure you give them credit for the idea.

If you have a great quote, it’s nice to take an image of the person you are quoting and add that to your content. It makes the person look even better and makes great visual content for social sharing.

One of the best ways to maximize the value on a good quote is to make it into a click-to-tweet in your content. Add their handle so they are notified every time someone tweets it.

Below is an example of how I used both of these ideas in the post “8 entrepreneurs reveal the 1 critical skill they focused on to grow their business.” I took a good image of the people I interviewed and added their best quotes to them. The quote has a tweetable link right below the image as well.

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A good looking image and a mention for every time their quote is tweeted will make sure they get the recognition they deserve from collaborating. Every mention services as a reminder that their message or story is resonating with people.

Repurpose successful content

If you have good visual design skills but not writing, an easy win could be looking up some of the top content that influencers have created in your area and simply repurposing it to another medium.

Take an amazing blog post and offer to turn it into an infographic or a slideshare for the influencer. Let them host it on their site and publish it. Make sure they link back to you and see if you can negotiate adding your logo somewhere on the graphics. This will add big value to the person you want to connect with.

How to use Trello to build and track relationships

I use a very simple Trello board to keep track of my relationships. It was inspired after seeing the system Tyler Tervooren uses in “The Friends Game: A System For Thriving As An Introvert“. I modified it to fit the needs of a content marketer and the relationships they develop through their work.

This may seem odd to have a tool to manage relationships, especially if you are someone who is extroverted like me. But it is far too easy to lose track of valuable relationships with so many distractions these days. You need a simple system to visualize the tribe you are building and to help support you in reaching out to them.

Here’s a template you can copy and use for yourself.

Setting up the board

I have a template available free to download in the link above and at the bottom of this post. Or you can create your own based on this guide.

The board has 13 lists, 1 for instructions and 12 for each month of the year.

Begin by adding as many names as possible to the board, anyone that you are interested in building a relationship with through content. You can keep them in the “instructions” list until you have reached out to them. Add some notes in the card description about what they do, contact information, their website domain, social media accounts and any background knowledge you may have on them.

Using the cards

Each time you interact with an influencer add some notes on the interaction in the comments section of the card. Do they have a new product they’re about to launch? Maybe they made a new hire?

As your list (and business) continues to grow, it will become more challenging to keep all these relationships straight. So the more details you can add to the cards, the better equipped you will be next time you reach out to them. This will free up more of your headspace as well to work on growing your business, instead of remembering the details of everyone’s lives.

Set reminders

You can plan out interactions ahead of time by adding names to the month list when you want to connect with them. Use the “Due date” feature to add a reminder to the card so you will be prompted when it is time to contact them. Add a comment to the card with some details about why you set the reminder and how you want to reach out to them.

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Be strategic for when you set reminders. Consider upcoming events, product launches, holidays, birthdays or milestones that could serve as a conversation starter or as an opportunity to collaborate.

Meeting someone new

If you meet someone new while you’re away from your computer that you would like to keep up with, use the “email to board” features in your Trello.

In the board menu, click the “email to board settings” button and save your board’s email addresses to your contacts. Add the name of the person you met in the subject and any details about them or contact information into the body of the email.

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This will create a card in the list you choose in the settings.

Making time for the board

I set aside time each Friday to review my relationships board and plan out next steps. It is part of my Entrepreneur’s Weekly Review process inspired by Taylor Pearson. Each Friday, I’ll take some time to reflect on my week and add any updates to the Trello board. I ask myself a few prompt questions.

Who have I not heard from in a while that I could reach out to next week?

Who would benefit from knowing about what I was up to this week?

The goal is to have at least 1 person identified that I can take a step to build a relationship with in the following week. The more people you have on the board, the easier it will be to do this.

Conclusion

No matter how brilliant of a writer you are, nor how interesting your ideas, without building relationships your content will not go far.

Remember to focus on adding value first when building relationships. Through true connections based on trust and value, you can open doors to grow your brand sustainably.

Through true connections based on trust and value, you can open doors to grow your brand… Click To Tweet

It takes a lot of effort to maintain and grow relationships; use a system to help you keep track. Here’s the template for the Trello board I use for relationships tracking.

Here’s a copy of the board that you can use for your own work.

kylegray
Kyle is the founder of conversions cake and helps people grow their businesses with content marketing, paid advertising and conversion optimization.

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