Web 2.0: Marketing by Providing Value

As I noted in a previous post on Web 2.0, marketing on the “new” web is about providing value to prospective customers. I was recently able to connect with Kwame Kuadey of Gift Card Rescue to discuss his web 2.0 strategy.  What I found is that, regardless of your industry, the basic principles of web 2.0 apply.

Kwame began marketing Gift Card Rescue through traditional means: he set-up a website, initiated a branding campaign, and “put a stake in the world wide web’s ground.” What he learned was that the old theory of ‘build it and they will come’ is only partially true. In an effort to increase traffic to Gift Card Rescue’s website he began a blog, Gift Card Blogger. Instead of focusing on his company and what he wanted, he instead decided to provide relevant and important information on gift cards. That’s right, he started providing value to potential customers instead of just his services of buying and selling gift cards without the risk of fraud.

Providing Value Builds Success
Today, over 35% of Gift Card Rescue’s traffic comes directly through his blog, and he believes that a large majority of his other hits are a result of the increased traffic, resulting in better search ratings, due to his blog. In addition, through his blogging and writings Kwame has positioned himself as a leading expert in the gift card industry, a move that will pay public relations rewards many times over throughout the busy holiday seasons.

What you can learn from Gift Card Rescue
Regardless of if you are in marketing in a professional services company, a construction company, or a non-for-profit, you can look at the Gift Card Rescue model and learn three things that will help you to be successful in the Web 2.0 marketing world:

  1. You must begin by developing a strong website, brand, and an easy to navigate web presence.
  2. You need to provide value to your potential customers: You can do this through posting white papers, starting a blog, sending out weekly tips, or just explain the best way to engage a firm that provides your type of product or service. Remember, DO NOT SELL, rather provide relevant and helpful information.
  3. Leverage the value that you are developing and sharing through your website, blog, or network to establish yourself, your company, and/or your product as the best in the field.

Success in a Web 2.0 world
Success in Web 2.0 strategy, be it on LinkedIn, blogging, or as part of an online community such as Civil Engineering Central, must be defined differently than in traditional marketing. For me it is the relationships that I have made as a result of this blog, for others it is public relations, and still for others it is increased name recognition. What is important is that you identify your objectives and then focus your Web 2.0 presence to meet those objectives.

The Network goes National

This past week I received multiple calls and e-mails from people across the United States that wanted to take the Washington DC Design and Construction Network concept to their region. Through these conversations it has become clear that the concept is larger than just the Washington DC market, and that it possibly provides the opportunity for a fresh wave of networking in our industry. On the heels of these discussions I am excited to announce that we are changing the Network to enable others in the industry to leverage a nation wide network. As of today the network has a new name; the Design and Construction Network!

The goal in building the network as a national network is to provide others with the opportunity to bridge the gap between online networking and building business. It is our hope that those I have spoken with, as well as others, will leverage the national network to bring people together not just in an online environment, but also at the local level. With that said, here are the three things you need to know about the Design and Construction Network:

  1. Happy Hours for Everyone – The primary purpose of the network is, and always has been, to bridge the gap between online networking and true relationship development. To that end, the goal for the national launch is still to facilitate in-person meetings. To accomplish this, we are looking to team with individuals in local markets that are looking to make in-person networking events a reality. If you are interested in facilitating an event in your neck of the woods, start by joining the network. Then send me a note to let me know of your interest so we can work together to make it happen.
  2. Washington DC -The Washington DC network will remain the flagship of the Network as we work to try new concepts that can be leveraged in other regions as well. The main change will be that the bi-weekly e-mail will be turned into a national newsletter. The Local website will remain at dcdcn.com and we will maintain plans to expand it to bolster benefits of being a part of the Network at the local level here in Washington DC.
  3. You – Now it is your turn to be apart of the Network… after reading posts about the Network for weeks it is your turn to jump in! All I ask is that you are serious about building relationships and not just collecting “Links.” If you are in the Design and Construction Industry please click here to become a member. I also want to recognize that over half of Cofebuz’s readers are not in the Design and Construction industry. To that end, I look forward to sharing with you the lessons learned here on Cofebuz in addition to my weekly posts on Marketing and Building Business though Social Networking.

As always, thank you for being apart of Cofebuz!

Tim Klabunde

Online Networking meets Real Networking

dcdcn-happy-hour-feb-2009-002As you may recall on December 1st 2008 I posted an article about how most people struggle to use Online Networking as an effective tool in the development of their personal networks. You may have also have noticed that many people spend time on LinkedIn just collecting “links” instead of developing relationships. At the time I posted the previous article, I had just established the Washington DC Design and Construction Network on LinkedIn with the goal of bridging online networks and in person relationships. I am excited to announce that the experiment has become a huge success!

An “Online” Happy Hour

On Wednesday last week the Washington DC Design and Construction Network held its first ever Happy Hour exclusively for the members of our LinkedIn group. The results were astounding: In the first 24 hours after announcing the happy hour I received 40+ RSVPs. By last Wednesday we had 130+ people attend the happy hour and many were turned away as our venue could only hold 100 people. As I write this on Sunday afternoon we have over 480 people in the Network.

An idea whose time has come

We all know the power that online networking sites hold, but few have been able to figure out how to harness it as a tool for networking (that is to build mutually beneficial relationships). This week when you are on LinkedIn, or any other of a number of online networking sites, ask yourself if you are just collecting “links,” or if you are doing something to build relationships. If you think you might be collecting links, take the first step to building your network: look at your LinkedIn contacts and help three people just because you can. When you focus on helping others instead of yourself you are focusing on building mutually beneficial relationships.

If you live in the DC area and you are interested in joining the Washington DC Design and Construction Network just follow this link to LinkedIn and click “Join Now.” All we ask is that you are in the Design and Construction industry in Washington DC and that you are serious about doing more than just “linking” to other people.

Online Networking is not Real Networking

networkI am a big fan of LinkedIn, yet I recognize that most people do not understand how to use online networking sites to build and maintain their networks. In part, this is due to a misunderstanding because online networking sites in-and-of themselves are not really networking at all, they are just one of many tools you can use to network. Real networking comes down to relationships, not “links.”

Online Case Study

Eight weeks ago I started the LinkedIn group the “Washington DC Design and Construction Network.” Within the first two weeks word-of-mouth marketing had grown the group to over 50 members and today we should cross the 200 member mark. The group has two things that many groups never get: 1) active discussions and 2) opportunity to meet others in the network in person. That’s right, in early 2009 we are going to be having our first Happy Hour to give people an opportunity to meet in person. The goal is to bridge the gap between online networks and in-person networking.

Real networking

Real networking requires multiple points of connection. In the same way that simply “linking” to others is not real networking it is also true that going to networking functions is not real networking. Networking is building relationships. This relationship development should be done at the intersection of multiple communication points, including online networking sites, networking functions, follow-up e-mails, letters, association events, phone calls, lunches, coffee, and meetings. This lack of follow-up and connection is the main reason that many people that attend networking events feel that they haven’t had any success.

Your Network

Each person should evaluate all of their available communication points to identify the ones that they can best use to build their network. I personally have found that LinkedIn can be a great and professional way to maintain those connections. There is no requirement that in order to succeed at networking you must use online networking sites, but there is a requirement that you use multiple communication channels that will help you to foster and build relationships. What are the best channels for communication for you? Look for opportunities for developing mutually beneficial relationships and remember that online networking is only one of many networking tools that you should be using every day.

If you line in the DC area and you are interested in joining the Washington DC Design and Construction Network please use this link and click “join group” to join.

Roll with the Changes

In his recent post Roll with the Changes on PSMJ Resources Ed Hannan addresses the ever changing face of marketing. I especially like his thoughts on LinkedIn in the last four paragraphs. Namely, he and I agree that LinkedIn has become the business networking site of choice in the United States today. If you haven’t visited the PSMJ Resources blog recently it is well worth taking the time to explore. Also, Bruce posted a great blog today on the same site that will help you determine if you are a seagull manager. Thanks Ed and Bruce!