It’s tempting to think that all the time you spend on social media, writing articles, creating podcast episodes, or recording videos is time spent building relationships.
Heck, I’m doing it right now.
Every podcast episode I create is an effort to create a genuine connection between you and me.
But I know from experience that my efforts in broadcasting—whether on the podcast, with content marketing, through email, or on social media—pale in comparison to the time I spend interacting with people like you.
The conventional wisdom in today’s media-rich world is that you start by creating content, then build your audience, and then market a product to them. Final step? Bathe yourself in dollar bills.
However, this is a reductive take on what actually works.
Businesses aren’t built on audiences. They’re built with people. And there is a very real difference when it comes to creating for audiences versus nurturing relationships with real people.
We talk differently to groups of people. We share different ideas when we’re battling for the attention of others. We prioritize different outcomes when we’re shouting from our soapboxes.
At the end of the day, all this social maneuvering isn’t nurturing real relationships and its rewards are short-lived.
It might take a little more work but interacting with people one by one and cultivating true connection will serve you, your business, and your customers for the long haul.
That’s why “focusing on real relationships” is the second trend I see shaping small business in 2019.
Hopefully you’ve heard this before… but Paul Graham, a co-founder at the startup accelerator Y Combinator, says:
“Do things that don’t scale.”
Unfortunately, the vast amount of small business advice out there says to do exactly the opposite.
Only do things that scale. Only produce things that can be used by thousands of people. Find the lowest common denominator and make it your lead magnet. Only spend time on platforms where you can reach huge groups of people all at once.
Look, if doing things that don’t scale works for businesses that will eventually be valued in the ballpark of hundreds of millions of dollars or more, then it will work for you.
And, it starts by focusing on real relationships—one person at a time.
Now, the first relationship I would suggest you focus on is the one you have with yourself. Focus on understanding your strengths and your most productive ways of working. Focus on deepening your confidence and self-awareness. Focus on creating work that thrills you.
During my interview with Srini Rao, he told me:
“When you satisfy your own desires and you maintain your own values and standards — as opposed to letting it be driven by the desire to live up to the expectations of other people — you’re much more likely to create something with emotional resonance, something that’s going to have a lasting impact on people.”
Once you’ve developed habits and practices that strengthen your relationship with yourself, you have a foundation for nurturing relationships with others.
They might be potential customers or existing customers. They might also be colleagues or mentors. They could just be people you think are awesome who you want to get to know better!
What’s working for me is using the platforms I love the most to connect with individuals instead of just broadcasting. That means that when I hop on Instagram, I’m not just double-tapping and posting. I’m commenting, I’m responding to others’ stories, and I’m letting people know when they post something that really resonates with me.
It also means that I don’t just use our small business community to broadcast my own ideas. I hop into the comments and share my experience, cheer people on, and ask questions.
Let me make this crystal clear: I believe 2019 will be the year that small business owners—especially in the digital space—stop caring so much about how many email subscribers they have, how many people like a post on Instagram, or how much organic reach their last Facebook post got.
Instead, they’ll get clear on the number of real relationships they need to make their businesses work and start making plans to build and nurture those relationships.
Now, as a hardcore introvert, I know that focusing on real relationships can be easier said than done.
That’s why I wanted to pull an episode from the archives that could give you real tools for making connections and prioritizing personal interactions.
I considered Carlos Saba and The Happy Startup School for the way they’re bringing people together in events all over the world. I also thought about Justin Shiels, who shared his ritual of meeting one new person every week.
I knew we couldn’t go wrong sharing a Vanessa Van Edwards interview since, as a recovering awkward person herself, she’s made the science of connecting with people her business.
Ultimately, I decided on my interview with Jordan Harbinger to illustrate this trend.
I interviewed Jordan in the summer of 2017—long before his life and business was rocked by an unexpected breakup with his business partners at The Art of Charm.
However, I think this actually makes Jordan’s interview even more relevant. Jordan was able to negotiate a deal with his partners and start a new show—The Jordan Harbinger Show—which instantly catapulted itself to the top of Apple Podcasts.
Jordan is now the founder of Advanced Human Dynamics, which helps people experience the transformative power of savvy social dynamics, heightened senses of nonverbal communication, decisive negotiation mastery, and the confidence to excel in any personal or professional social situation.
Jordan and I chat about how he nurtures relationships whether he thinks he “needs” them or not, how his first business was born from the relationships he nurtured, and how his approach to networking has evolved over the years.
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