Befriending visitors all the way to the bank

June 27, 2009

How the best bloggers make friends with visitors and convert them to customers

Smart bloggers treat customers like friends. Seth Godin  is a good example. In a great post called the The difference between strangers and friends Seth makes a distinction between three types of relationships we deal with in such huge numbers online. I’ve recast his definitions here in summary:

  1. Friends (someone with shared history and personal connection)
  2. Friendlies (an acquaintance with a digital connection but no personal connection)
  3. Strangers (visitors)

Seth’s key point is that we tend to market to each kind of the above relationship discriminately. If you think about this, he’s spot on. Consider these examples of “marketing” in the broadest sense.

Relationship Marketing
Stranger Auto response email
Friendly Strategic retweet
Friend Personal message

Strangers might get an auto-response thankyou email for the kindness of subscribing to a newsletter. Friendlies probably receive strategic retweets in order to encourage reciprocated audience leverage. But only friends enjoy a personal message just for them. Seth’s understated point is that if we want to move friendlies and strangers into the buying category, we may need to be – well a little more friendly.  He walks the talk in this respect as a skilled writer. His language in this post is open, honest and welcoming. Although a little skewed to a male audience, he uses authentic language:

“Friend” is more broadly defined as someone you have a beer with or meet up with to go on a hike.”

Authentic language shows what we are writing is simply an extension of us. It does not shift from who we are in order to manipulate someone. This is a key skill for anyone writing commercially.

Aware of the ethical tension that the idea of marketing to friends carries, Seth keeps his points simple but loaded to allow readers to make their own conclusions about applying them:

“Nurturing your friends—protecting them and watching out for them—is an obligation, and it builds an asset at the same time.”

The word “asset” can be taken two ways here- financial (concrete) and social (intangible). This ambiguity is a deft summation of the online marketing experience. The more we learn to treat our visitors as friends, the more they will move into buying mode. The point here is not the manipulation of friendships for money. It is that in order to put bread on the table as entrepreneurs, we choose a higher benchmark for all our customer interactions.


12 Responses to “Befriending visitors all the way to the bank”

  1. Seth Godin Says:

    Thanks Ben!

    Great insights.

    As someone who has never had a beer in his life, I can testify that it’s not a necessary ingredient in finding a friend…

    • Ben Dawe Says:

      Thanks Seth. So pleased you are the first visitor to my site as well as its first subject. I’m ahead on beers, now is the time for friends!

  2. Ben, I love your point about authentic language – it’s like having our own ‘linguistic signature’. It’s certainly an increasingly important way of differentiating our commercial offering on and offline.

    Personally, I still wrestle with the notion of keeping the distinction between ‘friends’ and ‘business’. This can become a murky area.

    Congratulations on launching your site.


  3. Ben Dawe Says:

    Thanks Robin. Yes, friends are valued in a currency that transcends dollars.

  4. Jen Le Couteur Says:

    Just catching up on some late night reading! I am sure you might appreciate?!
    Congrats on the launch of your site….it is really great!
    I, too, was captured by the phrase “authentic language” and really had me mulling over how this does so closely connect and can show our authenticity, integrity, vision and whether our business life aligns with our personal/authentic selves? For I guess possibly that is where the stranger-friendly-friend conundrum could be lessoned… how authentically consistent we are in all our dealings on all levels?
    A light beverage never goes amiss too!

  5. Paul B Says:

    Insightful and thought adjusting! Congrats on the blog.
    Looking forward to the beer,assuming that we are friends that is!


  6. Rob D B Says:

    Hmmmm, yes. I too find friends more friendly with beer. But Beer in itself is not intrinsically a friendly drink. So there fore it is us who are the main ingreedient in the beer friend relationship. So when you next try to beerfriend someone try it without the, hang on I just lost my train of thought.

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