"When you can hold back the marketing messages from your content, it will take your business to unimaginable places. But the idea of restraining marketing messages is a difficult pill for most people to swallow. It’s the opposite of what many marketers believe to be right and true."
Have you ever thought about what makes wildly successful online businesses stand out from the crowd? Michael A. Stelzner, founder of SocialMediaExaminer.com, does just that in his book Launch: How to Quickly Propel Your Business Beyond The Competition.
At its core, this book is really about shifting our approach to marketing. It is a frontier that involves “focusing on the needs of others, giving gifts, working with outsiders and caging your marketing message”. What gets us to this frontier? Content.
Stelzner makes the case for the fact that people have basic and constant needs such as desiring valuable insights and gaining access to great people and recognition (before purchasing). In this regard, content can become a competitive advantage in the business landscape because it adds immense value to someone’s life, steers us away from overt marketing tactics and builds relationships with a bigger community.
The Elevation Principle
"If you lift people up, they’ll help lift you up."
In a nutshell, the elevation principle is: Great Content + Other People – Marketing Messages = Growth. This is the theory Stelzner puts forward in Launch and he makes a compelling case for it being true. He suggests that it is the process of meeting the core desires of prospects and customers by helping them solve their basic problems at no cost. By taking this approach, you focus on building trust and gaining attention without an obvious marketing message. This is more or less the complete opposite of traditional internet marketing, which is all about pushing the message out to the reader. Moreover, this helps a business shift from the “all about us” mentality to one that focuses on being of service to others. Stelzner also suggests that this facilitates a change in the prospects mind from “I’m being sold” to “I’m being educated”.
Use Your Vision as a Filter
"What’s your vision? This may seem like a no-brainer concept, but it is very easy to lose focus and drift off into space without a clear vision."
It is a classic problem for a lot of business owners online. It starts as a passion project or a hobby, but then it takes on a life of its own. The problem is since it wasn’t started as a business, it can be a challenge to get a handle on the long-range view. In other words, what are all of your efforts going towards?
Creating a vision for your business helps you by painting a picture of a desirable future and can guide your business decisions. Understanding what you want your future to look like will help you make more informed decisions in the present in order to achieve that future vision. For example, your content and the gifts you give your readers should be created with the goal of moving you closer to your vision. Furthermore, when you have an idea of what the future looks like it becomes easier to say no to projects that don’t fit the bill. This can be an equally powerful tool that will help keep you focused.
Other People Will Take Your Business Places
"Remember, it’s people who take your business to new places. When you give them what they want, your business will grow."
This takeaway ties back into the The Big Idea of this book, which is the elevation principle. As it states, you need great content and other people for growth to occur. Stelzner outlines several different groups of people that are necessary for the elevation principle to work. Chiefly, your reader base, outside experts and fire starters. In the case of each group, relationship building and reciprocity are key.
Your gift to your reader base will always be your content. In addition to that, you might provide them with other gifts that help them solve their problems. This could include a free webinar, a template, an e-book, etc. Stelzner states that in gaining people’s trust and demonstrating how valuable you can be, you will create a larger, more loyal pool of prospects. If you’re looking to build your readership, then you have to focus on the other two groups: outside experts and fire starters. “Experts bring credibility, experience and exposure to your business”, which are key components of growing your business from the ground up. Building great relationships with experts comes down to the value they find in the exchange – be able to articulate this clearly. Finally, fire starters are the people who have so much influence that their endorsement can set off a chain reaction that propels your business forward. The best fire starters have the eyes and ears of an audience that closely matches your ideal reader base.
One thing that Launch affirmed for me is that there are many moving parts and pieces to building a successful online business; my own experience running an online business hasn’t been such an anomaly after all. It’s not enough to just be creating content in a silo. You have to be committed to the greater vision, which usually involves community building. Perhaps relationships really are everything.