I recently talked about the different groups I’m part of. For a long time I was part of perhaps three or four different groups that had a little bit of overlap, with the overlap being me.

Venn diagram of you and your networks
Venn diagram of you and your networks

For all the differences in the groups, most of it is pretty localized, and always has been, despite the way the Internet connects us with people from all over the world. At least for me there has been a trend in “hyperlocal” websites, from coupon sites like Groupon to local reporting like Nashvillest.

This spring I went to my third PodCamp Nashville and I realized how many amazing people are around me, and I realized how poorly I’ve done at getting to know those people. So, personally, I’m making an effort to go to more events just so I can get to know the smart people around me. The opportunity to learn is tremendous. We all have so much to share with each other, not just online but in person. It’s great to meet up for coffee and exchange ideas. Sure, you can tweet people while sitting at home in your bunny slippers, but there’s nothing like sitting across the table from someone and talking and laughing.

The temptation is strong to somehow turn that meeting into a sales pitch, but that’s a quick way to turn people off. We’ve all been there: that old friend who finds you on Facebook and wants to meet for lunch, and you discover they’re trying to sell you something. It leaves you feeling used.

Relationships are more important than money. Unfortunately, money is what keeps the lights on. (If I could give NES a painting or a drawing to pay the bills, I’d be paid in full for several years out!)

But the thing is, I have faith that if you freely give and share with your audience with no strings attached, they will gladly pay you what you have to offer them when you do make the ask, because you know just what they need. A few weeks ago I had a conversation with Jeff Goins over coffee and we talked about this.

Jeff pointed out that it’s what Copyblogger, John Saddington, Chris Brogan, and Seth Godin do. They’ve built a special niche audience by continually giving away so much for free. They’ve built their credibility and reputations by providing quality content that helps their audience. They are good listeners and know just what their audience is looking for, whether or the audience asks directly. (Seth Godin in particular seems to be great at reading between the lines and encouraging us to figure it out on our own.) Then they leverage the information gleaned from listening to provide that audience with exactly what they need, either by selling it to them directly or by some affiliate technique.

To recap:

  1. Build your audience. Find people you resonate with, and cultivate your relationships with them.
  2. Truly listen to your audience and connect with them. Chris Brogan calls this “growing bigger ears.”
  3. Share freely with that audience and show them respect, and you’ll never go hungry.

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