Relationships are fundamental to building a lasting business. And today I’m here to talk with Michelle Warner about her relationship approach to marketing – versus a traffic approach.

In this episode, we talk about traffic funnels vs. relationship funnels, scaled relationship marketing, and how to get over the fear of cold outreach/how to ask something of someone who is a weak tie.

We discuss how you CAN be more profitable as a 1:1 business versus a big business doing mass marketing.

About Michelle Warner:

Michelle Warner designs tiny companies that are built to last.

With an MBA from one of the world’s top business schools and 15+ years growing small businesses, Michelle knows what it takes to build a business – and she knows that authentic relationships are at the heart of it. It’s why she created Networking That Pays and why she’s thrilled to see over 200 entrepreneurs implementing the system in just the first few months its been publicly available.

The Networking That Pays system was first created by Michelle over 10 years ago when she started her first business. It’s what she used to grow that business to 7+ figures while also landing herself a spot on an official White House Task Force – despite starting the business with exactly zero relevant connections. 

Read the full transcript

Michelle Warner 0:00
You can be proactive about saying these are the types of people that I want to meet, here are good ways to meet them that will lead to an actual relationship instead of some sort of weird transactional thing that makes us feel gross about meeting people, right? Like, let’s build a real relationship and see where that can take us.

Meg Casebolt 0:18
You’re listening to social slowdown, a podcast for entrepreneurs and micro businesses looking for sustainable marketing strategies without being dependent on social media. Social media is a double edged sword. It’s a wonderful way to stay connected. But it also can feel like an addictive obligation. And it’s even more complex for businesses, your audience might be right there, but you’ve got to fight with algorithms to maybe be seen by them. So whether you want to abandon social media altogether, or you just want to take a month off, it’s possible to have a thriving business without being dependent on social media. This podcast is all about finding creative, sustainable ways to engage with your audience without needing to lip sync, send a cold DMS, run ads or be available 24/7. Let’s get started. Hey, there, Michelle, I am so excited to have you here on the social slowdown podcast.

Michelle Warner 1:11
Oh my gosh, thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Meg Casebolt 1:14
I actually you and I just met because I have three separate guests that I’ve interviewed in the past months that as soon as we finish the interview, they go, if you talk to Michelle, you should know Michelle, you should interview Michelle. And they were kind enough to introduce me to you. So here we are to talk specifically about your approach to marketing, which is not traffic based. It’s much more it well, I’ll you explain it. What is your approach to marketing? Michelle?

Michelle Warner 1:41
Well, I think you just described it perfectly. It’s a relationship approach versus a traffic approach. But I’m thrilled and honored that three people who you interviewed in the past month brought up my name. And that’s not indicative of some kind of huge strategy that I have, it’s just indicative of how I operate in this world that has turned into a little bit of a strategy in that I value and prioritize relationships above all else. And I know that that’s something that a lot of people can say. But when you dig into a marketing strategy behind it, it means that I have built what I call a relationship funnel instead of a traffic funnel. And I talk to people about the benefits of those things, because I think we confuse the two things. And they’re very different things.

Meg Casebolt 2:28
So talk to me about the difference between a traffic funnel and a relationship funnel, then, yeah, so

Michelle Warner 2:32
and it’s really in how your business evolves, right? When you start a business, a lot of times you’re taught, go to family and friends talk about what you do try to find some clients probably sell some one on one services if you’re a service based agency, because that’s the quickest way to get a sale and to start learning. And so that’s very much a relationship based sale, right? You are talking to people, and they know someone, they introduce you and there you go, you have a relationship based sale. And then somehow we got in our heads that the next step is to go start building an email list and get 1000 followers on Instagram and jump over to this mass marketing approach, which is a traffic based sale, right? And we think that those two things go hand in hand. Step one, sell the family and friends, see who your network knows, then step two, start building a huge following. But when you break those down into strategies, they are completely different skill sets. And the when you start, right, that’s a relationship based on all it’s based off of who you know, and how you how you interact with them. And frankly, what’s a match for what you’re selling. And then the traffic based funnel is a strategy for a different kind of business and a different kind of sale. So it doesn’t make sense to jump from one to the other automatically. Instead, you want to think, what am I actually going to sell for the long term and what kind of funnel makes sense because you can scale a relationship based funnel without jumping over to a bunch of direct marketing tactics.

Meg Casebolt 3:55
Yeah, and I love how you said like, you’re going from selling to family to then mass marketing, there’s no in between. It’s like, I’m gonna sell to my next door neighbor. And then I’m gonna put a billboard up there are stages in between that. And I’ve definitely seen people do this where it’s like, you go to your hot hot leads. First, the people who know you already they trust you. They’re like, they’re ready to buy from you no matter what. And then you’re like, Oh, now I need to grow my list. So I’m gonna go completely cold. I’m gonna go to the opposite end of that spectrum. Instead of like, what is the in between? So after you feel like you’ve tapped out those, you know, friends and family? How do you move? A little bit less warm? How do you how do you go from hot to warm as opposed to hot to cold?

Michelle Warner 4:40
Yeah, and I think the first question you need to ask yourself is what are you selling at that moment? And is it appropriate for a relationship sale or for a traffic sail? Because then is your answer is do I take a tiny step to scale my relationship efforts? Or do I start you know, taking tiny steps to scale my traffic effort without immediately putting up the billboard chord right? And the answer for most of us is that we should scale our relationship side. Because that allows us to then play a little bit in traffic later on, which we can talk about. But if the game is then to scale your relationship side, how do you move from family and friends, to having a more robust network that can help you, it’s starting to ask yourself some questions about who should be in that network. So again, the typical thing that we do is we meet some people, and we set up a bunch of coffee chats, digital or in person, and kind of hope we get lucky, right? When in reality, the way to start scaling that is to start being really intentional and proactive about who you’re meeting, as opposed to reactive about who happens to come into your space and hope that they’re a match, you can be proactive about saying these are the types of people that I want to meet, here are good ways to meet them, that will lead to an actual relationship instead of some sort of weird transactional thing. Rows about meeting people, right? Like, let’s build a real relationship and see where that can take us. And because then those people are going to know other people, and those people are going to know other people. And then, before you know it, you know, you’re going to be interviewing three people in a month, well, I’ll tell you to meet me, even though you’ve never heard of me, because I have all of like, 300 followers on Instagram. But there’s this web of people, you know, it’s like the behind the scenes web of people who I have interacted with.

Meg Casebolt 6:22
Yes. And I love that visual of a web of people where you’re connected to somebody who can connect you to somebody else who can connect you to somebody else, it doesn’t mean that you have to be friends with every single person, it means that you have to have people who are willing to vouch for you. And and I think it also means like, you have to be clear about what it is that you’re selling and who you’re working with. So that when people are engaging with somebody who could be a good fit for you, they’re like, Oh, do you know, Michelle?

Michelle Warner 6:50
Exactly, exactly. It all comes with clarity. And it all comes with also having clarity, then when you’re clear with what you’re selling, who you’re selling it to, you can also be clear on who can help you do that thing. And again, you can go intentionally make relationships with people who will build the best web for you. This is all actually science, there’s a science behind how networks are set up in an optimal way. And it’s called strong ties and weak ties, and your strong ties with the people who are closest to you. But then your weak ties are all those people who you kind of know, right? You know, you can have a conversation that’s maybe beyond the weather, but that’s about what you don’t know everything that’s going on in their lives. And the thing that we screw up is we don’t intentionally Think about who our professional weak ties should be, who are those people that you should invite in your life, who are close enough to you that they’re going to remember you and interact with you, but not so close to you that they know what you’re doing all the time, which by the way frees them up to have close ties with other people. And that’s how the web starts working. If you can tap into a bunch of different weak ties and maintain those relationships and have good stable relationships with them, they will introduce you to all of their strong ties, and their other weak ties, and then your web of influence grows.

Meg Casebolt 8:06
Exactly. And I love like that idea of you. And here’s me like the Enneagram seven coming out, like my, my E INFJ. Shining where I’m like, but I want to be best friends with everyone. Right? And, and there’s that feeling of if you don’t get super close with somebody, then you can’t ask them for help. It’s only the people that you know really well that you feel comfortable reaching out to, to ask for support. And then when you do have those deeper relationships with those folks, sometimes you share more than maybe you would with a weak tie. Or you say, Wow, I had a really rough week because this happened at my kids school. You don’t need to do that with everybody. Right? You can, you can have a professional relationship that is deeply beneficial, mutually beneficial to both you and the other party without also needing to go into all those details. And I think sometimes social media gives us this idea that like we have to share everything about ourselves. So people value us and they think we’re authentic. But like that’s not required.

Michelle Warner 9:06
It’s not required. And frankly, it’s overkill. There are a lot of people who overshare all the things as a way to try to build relationships, because they don’t understand that a relationship is actually built on specificity and dampening, right. And so I always talk about like, you can do this in five minutes a day, if I am paying attention to what is really important to you, and to what are the common things that we have in common you and I haven’t Wisconsin in common, right. So we can talk about that in an in depth way. And then that relationship is solidified for you know, three, four months, and the tie doesn’t go away. And I can ask you or you can reach out to me anytime and ask for help. And I’d be happy to help you because we’re tied into a shared experience that it’s obvious we’ve seen each other and when you go on social media and you just kind of dump about your day As you’re being, quote unquote vulnerable, a lot of people don’t actually care, because that’s nothing to do with them. Right? It’s not the third, it’s not this 32nd moment of deep and specific connection between two people. Yeah. And so you spend all of your time trying to be vulnerable and share in the depths when what you actually need to do is spend five minutes connecting specifically about something that matters between you and another person. And then again, you’re done for three or four months, maybe you’re you’re passing in the in the night, and you’re you think fondly of each other doesn’t feel transactional, you’ve just you solidify the relationship when it’s specific and deep. You don’t have to be in contact all the time. Yes. And

Meg Casebolt 10:40
I think that there are ways to feel human in the way that you present yourself professionally, without needing to be vulnerable. You know, I presented somewhere a couple weeks ago, and I said, like, I also love romance novels. So if you guys like if you are watching this, and you’re also a romance novel reader, like, here’s how you can get in touch with me and give me your recommendations. And I’ll send some to you like, based on what you say to me, like, let’s open that conversation. And then I dug into the actual training, it’s part of my introduction to call people into me to say, here’s something that’s important to me, here’s something that I enjoy. And if you’re also into it great. And if you’re not, like, here’s something else a value to you. But now I have these really fun conversations happening in my social DMS that have nothing to do with my business. But those people trust me a little more, because it’s like, are they remember me a little bit more, because we’re also having this conversation about something that we both value. It’s not, that’s not what I do. I am not a romance novelist. I just like that’s my happy place I like it happily ever after. And so people now know that about me. And it makes me more memorable without it needing to be this like awkward, like, spill my guts situation about the inner details. And those are weak ties to, you know, people saying, Oh, I got this recommendation on this book, I feel good about this. And then also, like, when somebody needs SEO, I’ve now had that relationship established with her. It goes both ways. It can be personal and professional. And if you’re running a personal brand, which most of us in this like kind of small business online space are, your personal brand can be personal, without giving away the ghost, like without giving it all away.

Michelle Warner 12:22
Absolutely, I when I teach about networking, and how to build connections with people, I tell them, then like there are 1000s of people who can likely be a connection that you’re looking for. And from just a professional standpoint, right. So let’s bring in the personal pick three things that you can connect with anyone on the earth about if they share that common interest, and then look for that. I always say mine are water dogs and outdoors, because I’m obsessed with all those things. And I can talk about water, like from taking a bath to surfing the Pacific, like you get like if there’s a water experience, I can talk about it. And dogs are universal in many cases. And in the outdoors. I’m just an outdoor adventure. And when I look at and I think about networking in terms of building collaborations, more than meeting my direct clients, so when I’m looking at who I might want to connect with in terms of a long term collaborative agreement, like they better want one of those things, or one of those things. And now I look back at my best collaboration partners, and that one’s a backpacker, right once as upset as I am. And those are the ties that bind. That’s what takes you beyond, you know, the weather into a continuous tie that you can stay connected on and then on Instagram, or wherever you’re connecting to each other, you can talk about your next trip. And it doesn’t have to be this huge slog of constant business conversation and inventing new things to talk about your business and we don’t talk about for business for six months. And then we think oh, like we should collaborate again. But we’ve been chatting about about backpacking trips, and whatever trips and whatever our dogs are up to, in between there to keep the relationship going. And that just means much more so right? Colleague, right, right. And

Meg Casebolt 13:59
I think my Three Things would be like books, chocolate, and karaoke, or like performing music and some fun, non professional way amateur performance, right. But then when you say dogs, I’m like, right, look like let’s talk about dogs. That’s not my top three. But we were just talking about my pitfall right before we started recording, you know,

Michelle Warner 14:18
it wasn’t I have a list of 26. Yeah, I’d say I have a list of 26 months I’ve gotten through so far this year. Let’s talk about them. Yeah, it does talk about, yeah, it’s that it’s that edge where you can sit there and think I have something in common with this person.

Meg Casebolt 14:32
Exactly. And then when it makes sense for you to collaborate, it doesn’t feel like it’s just that like, what’s in it for me, what’s in it for you? How is the transaction going? And I think when you do have that collaborative opportunity, whether it’s you know, hey, can you introduce me to somebody else, or can we do a webinar together? Or can we be on a podcast, because you’ve already connected on something that’s memorable and personal. By the time you get on to that collaborative collaboration? In whatever it is, you feel like you know that person. And it’s not just like, let me ask you the same wrote questions about your business that everyone else has asked you. So that way this podcast interview could have been recorded by any human on the planet, or you just go through your talking points.

Michelle Warner 15:13
Exactly. And you don’t have to be terrified of approaching them and asking them, it just becomes you’ve equivalent of running into them at the watercooler in the hallway and being like, oh, yeah, I have this other thing to ask you. In the midst of our other conversation, I have this idea, what do you think, and it’s just, it’s an easy conversation with a colleague, as opposed to this big, intimidating, scary thing. And the same goes for, you know, potential clients that you’re connecting with over romance novels, the same game works, right. There’s like that relationship already. And so then it’s like, oh, and by the way, like my programs opening, if anybody’s interested, it becomes an oh, by the way, part of the conversation, instead of something that is this huge, heavy lift, that is scary. And that’s what trips get back to our original point in the conversation. That is what turns people off of the relationship side of things and why they run over to direct marketing is the one to one interaction is terrifying when it’s coming from a transactional place.

Meg Casebolt 16:07
Because let’s talk about that, like, yeah, how do you get over that fear of especially, I would say, there’s kind of two levels of fear. One is the cold outreach to somebody that you’ve been watching and you admire, and you want to make a relationship with them. And then there’s that like, second level of you have a loose weak relationship with somebody and you want to ask them for something. So I think there’s two different kinds of fear here, the like, introductory fear and the request fear. Talk to me about those, and how you can kind of move through those in a way that feels comfortable.

Michelle Warner 16:42
Yep, yep. Number one, what I find is that a lot of people don’t actually know why they want to connect with those people, or they haven’t really thought it through in a strategic way. So number one, is just think through exactly why you’re connecting with the person be specific, right? It’s not just because that you’ve always admired them know what you want your end game to be. And then be real with yourself, does that person meet your end game, because a lot of times, they don’t, a lot of times are just these names that we know that we feel like we should connect with. So be really real with yourself there and having an intention. And then once you’re at that point, if you need to get introduced to them, and I have some tricks for this, that that I share in some of my material, there’s three great ways to do it, you can write a thank you note, especially if they are somebody who publishes online, there’s a specific way that you can thank them that is likely to get you introduced, you can find somebody who knows them who can create a connection for you and can introduce you. And if you are intentional about who your weak ties are, it is likely you have someone in common who can make that introduction for you. Or you can find a way to share a platform with them, and to offer them a platform. So the very obvious example here is if you wanted to make a connection with someone, you invite them on your podcast as a way to get introduced, right, you’re offering a platform of some kind. So those are three great ways to get introduced. And if we’re talking about weak ties, who you want to ask something up, but you haven’t talked to them in a while, you probably don’t want to ask right away, you want to do a little bit of this relationship building First, find something in common do exactly what you did, frankly, like throw out there like something about romance novel, something that doesn’t have anything to do with business. So that relatively quickly, you can move into Oh, hey, I had an idea. I want to run by you. Would you be open to this? We freak out when we try to make the ask too early. Or big mistake. Yeah. And this is going to feel counterintuitive. The other big mistake we make is we freak out when we take too long to ask. Because then you’re trying to string something along and you have this thought in the back of your mind that you’re like, When can I say it? When can I say it? When can I say it? The natural point for an ask is usually after like, it’s usually maybe the second or third? Outreach, it doesn’t take that long to get to an ask, right? And when we start dragging out to like the 10th, that’s when you start getting well, they’re not following up with me anymore. They’re not replying Well, well, yeah, because you’re dragging something out unnecessarily.

Meg Casebolt 19:04
Yeah, and I love the idea that you have, like, have a platform that you can give them, you know, whether that is a podcast, or you know, having them become a guest expert in something or finding a way to help that person to grow their network. And then at the end of that, be able to make it you know, potentially be able to make an ask from there or or once you it’s, it’s the law of reciprocity, right, Michelle? Like where it’s like, when you have given somebody something, they feel like they need to react in kind. And so if you don’t already have a platform, that’s fine, but if you have something that you’re connecting with that person on, I could reach out to you and be like, Hey, I just read this book called The ladies guide to celestial mechanics. I think you’d really like it. Just want to let you know because I thought of you when I read it like it doesn’t need to be this giant, you know, complicated follow up sequence. It could just be like I I thought of you, when I saw this newspaper article knew who reads the newspaper, okay, but I saw this blog post and I thought of you, I saw this free training, I thought you might like it. Like, it doesn’t even have to be something that you’ve created, maybe it’s better if it’s not that you’ve curated something of value to that person, and just say, like, saw this and thought of you, period. Or if you’re British, like a little X, you know, like,

Michelle Warner 20:24
you nail that, and I’m going to share two examples of this in work from my own work. I came up with this system, I figured all this out. Back in the day, I had a tech startup. And I was headquartered in Denver. And I had to figure out how to meet local nonprofit and government leaders in a bunch of the big cities in the US. Those people were not joining an email list, right, right, or did they want to hear from the woman from Denver, they had their enough of their local problems. So I had to figure out how to meet these people, because they were ultimately going to be my customers. I was in a fortunate position, where my startup had a ton of media buzz in our industry, but zero clients at the time, and I think a lot of startups are in that situation. And so but I was asked to keynote at every big conference. And what I did was I started turning down the keynotes and asking for a panel instead. Because what to local government officials and local nonprofits want, they want to be seen. And so I would call up all those people who were ignoring me and I would offer them a spot on my panel, and you best believe they all showed up, loved it. And then they all became my customers. So that is an extreme example of sharing a admittedly lucky platform. But I had to see, like, you know, you can do the same with podcasts or anything like that works. And then on the flip side, where you’re saying, just seeing people and knowing what’s important and sharing with them, in my current business, one of my best collaboration partners we met because, again, I shared the outside is important to me. She was a big rock climber who was transitioning into starting backpacking, and she had actually just posted she’s like I’m trying to pack for my very first backpacking trip. Who knows how to do this? Well, let me tell you, I have an Excel spreadsheet that details exactly how to pack for a backpacking trip. I didn’t. Yeah, I didn’t know her. But I knew I was interested in getting to know her. So when I saw that post, I went out of my way. And I said, Hey, this is awkward. I don’t know you yet. But I have a full spreadsheet, I’m happy to share it with you in any advice. And that is where the relationship started out of something that was a mutual interest. And that solidifies a relationship right there. I packed her for her first backpacking trip, four years later, we’re still great collaboration partners. And you have that test experience at the beginning, where you actually see someone and help them and acknowledge them or whatever is going on, in a specific way, right, you don’t want to send something generic, that shows you’re not really paying attention, you’re just trying to like desperately get in touch with them, you want to find like that thing that’s perfect. And send that and then the relationship is easy from there.

Meg Casebolt 22:52
Yeah, and I think a lot of times, the marketing advice kind of messes this up, where they say, you know, go into these places people are hanging out and just add value and just be helpful. But it’s not specific in the way that you just said, it’s like, Hey, I have this freebie, my spam, or like, I wrote this blog post, who wants it, it’s not engaging, it’s not reacting to what people are actually asking for. It is spamming it’s broadcasting, let’s talk about that. Like that feeling of not wanting to, you know, creating something and hiding behind what it is that you created, because you don’t necessarily want to reach out to individuals or you feel uncomfortable about putting yourself out there. So I think a lot of times people go to the mass marketing tactics, because it’s less scary to talk to nobody and pretend you’re talking to everybody.

Michelle Warner 23:47
Absolutely. I see this as who you are building your network with. Because when you’re engaging in that type of activity, where you’re adding value in a Facebook group, essentially, you’re doing some passive cold calling, let’s call it what it is, right? Yeah, you are just trying to connect in a cold way with somebody who could possibly be your actual client. I am a big proponent of flipping that equation around. And I want you to build a network of collaborators. I don’t want you out there trying to connect directly with your clients. In most cases, there are of course exceptions. But if you think about your weak tie network, it’s actually limited. There’s a limited number of people maybe between like 60 or 200 people who can be in that so every single client you’re ever going to have cannot be your weak tie network. So instead, I want you to think about who has already gathered your potential clients in a non competitive way. Right. So who is the owner of that Facebook group that you’re hanging out in? And how can you find a way to connect with that person so that you can build a collaboration opportunity that gets you going into that Facebook group as the guest expert for the day? And now that gives you some authority and some you get to borrow the trust of the Facebook group owner and Now you were showing up as an authority, as opposed to other Facebook group member just desperately, you know, adding value all day long, that’s never gonna go anywhere. Exactly just

Meg Casebolt 25:09
cold blasting into the group as if. And that might get you a couple of people who are interested, maybe they’ll come join your email list, but they don’t feel connected to you in the way that you know. And I think when you’re talking about collaborative opportunities, when we say collaborative opportunities, there’s so many different ways that this looks but the key benefit of building collaborations first is that somebody else is introducing you warmly, to people that they’ve already warmed up. So if I’m doing a webinar with you, I’m saying I trust Michelle, and you should trust her to because I’m implicitly endorsing you by participating in that collaboration. By example, onto the podcast, I’ve already vetted you, we already have a relationship. And that’s why I feel safe to share you with my audience. And when people pitch me for podcasts, I go back and I listen to their old podcasts, and I see who their guests are to make sure that I would be a good fit for their audience, and that my values align with theirs, because I don’t want to just, you know, I think I think a big part of this is figuring out who it is that you want to talk to investing time and building the relationships that can get you there, not just getting in front of everyone that you can. And that’s a mistake that I made, especially when I was first starting to be a guest on podcast, it was like, Oh, sure, my, my clients client has a podcast. So I’ll go talk to them about SEO. But those people’s clients were not my ideal audience, and I got a lot of bad leads from it. And it wasn’t a good use of my time. So yeah, it was a backlink. And sure, I got another immediate hit on my media thing. But like those weren’t my people. So I don’t want to spend time with my clients, clients clients, they’re not mine. I want to find better exactly the time finding a better fit of people who have already curated an audience, that would be a benefit at the end. You know, I think when we talk about collaborations, talking about what’s in it for the person that you’re collaborating with, maybe you want to give them a commission on all the sales that come in from that collaboration. So that way, it’s worth their time, financially, for you to collaborate with them and them to spend the time in them to put themselves out there to their audience. You know, I get a lot of pitches for people who are like, can I come talk to your people? And I’m like, But why? Exactly. You’re what’s in it for me?

Michelle Warner 27:28
Yes, you’re nailing it all. And, you know, let’s go back to that fundamental relationship versus traffic question. Because this is again, what it’s about. And let’s talk about how those two sales funnels work right? In a relationship funnel, I break marketing and sales into three stages, awareness, engagement, sales, people need to know you exist, then they need to like you, then you need to offer them something to buy from you, right? In a relationship funnel, you and by the way, you have to work really hard at one of those stages. Not necessarily from a hustle standpoint, but from an effort and just a thought standpoint. So in a relationship funnel, if you are finding collaborative opportunities, what you are actually doing is working really hard at the awareness stage, because you are giving people number one, you’re building collaborations so that you can borrow an audience and borrow that trust of the person who is sharing the audience with you. And you’re probably spending 30 to 60 minutes with that audience, whether it’s a webinar or a podcast, or whatever, you are giving them a deep experience into your brain, right? Guess what happens then your job just in a were in engagement, and sales just got so much easier. The Snowball is like running downhill. And it is an easy sales process. Whereas over on the traffic side, the game is how many leads can you get. And that is where we’re just trying to get people into a list, a generic PDF, opt in whatever, like anything to get people on a list. But guess what you created. Now you did not work hard at the awareness stage. So now you’re climbing a mountain, and you have to bust your butt and engagement and especially sales. And that’s where we see high pressure, sales tactics, and just all the stuff that tends to turn us off. And it’s because people didn’t work hard enough at awareness, and they just got any random person on their list. And so now they are feeling all the pressure to convert those sales. And that’s where this is the other benefit of going down that relationship route in a skill manner. Yeah,

Meg Casebolt 29:15
totally. And even if you’re using tactics that are more traffic driven, you can still be really intentional about how you’re using those. So I have a lot of people who have come to me for SEO and content strategy. And I’m the third person that they’ve worked with because the first two came in, I have an example of a business coach who wants to help people build businesses that run in an automated way. And their previous two SEO consultants said, great, you need to talk about dropshipping you need to talk about four hour workweek. You need to talk about like running your business from the beach, you need to talk about passive income because those are the big search terms. And this business coach said like, I don’t want to work with those people. Yeah, but the SEO is just kept going but the volume but those people But that’s what people want is they want t shirt dropshipping businesses. And she’s like, I don’t want to teach people how to run t shirt dropshipping businesses, I want to help them grow serve as businesses. I don’t need them to work four hours a week. But I do want them to feel like things are, you know that they can work from anywhere, it was location independence, she was trying to help people with So recognizing not just who you want to work with, and who’s in front of those people, but who do you not want to work with who is a bad lead for you, and stop creating anything that draws in those, like, inappropriate leads, and give yourself a chance to get in front of the right people? In any kind of marketing that you’re doing relationship marketing, content marketing, social media marketing, stop worrying about how many people are on downloading your podcast or following you on Instagram or whatever your metric of choice is visiting your website, your pageviews do not matter. What matters is you get the right people, the only businesses for which volume matters are people who are selling advertising.

Michelle Warner 31:05
Yeah, I 100% agree and everything that you just described, I would describe as scaled relationship marketing. So this may surprise some people. But I, I consider SEO a tool in the relationship side of things, right? You’re in many cases, even borrowing Google’s trust, as you build your SEO ranking. And as your your borrowing audiences, as you’re getting those backlinks, those are all relationship tactics, like yeah, maybe it’s not a full on interview. But as we scale, we don’t have time for all of those things. But it’s still respecting a relationship if you do it in the way that you are describing, right, as opposed to just take the most popular links and just go build for those keywords, no matter whether they’re a match for you or not, that’s a traffic thought. Yeah, no, I

Meg Casebolt 31:49
think that’s you just kind of blew my mind with that a little bit. Because then my mind and I’m not gonna get too heavier to do. But it’s also like, when you are building those relationships, whether you’re building them, you know, getting people from Google or if you’re building those collaborative relationships, then those people might also give a link from their website to yours, which is called the backlink, which helps your SEO which helps grow your authority, and you can continue to grow that relationship with Google boo. Oh, man, I never thought of it that way.

Michelle Warner 32:17
Yeah, that’s thing like you can scale relationship marketing, right? It’s not that you never borrow from traffic as you build it up? You absolutely do. It’s not that you don’t have an email list. It’s not that you don’t play an SEO, it’s that you just have a different understanding of how you’re operating in that way. And within those universes, you probably have a smaller email list than people who are just doing traffic based email, right, you probably make some concessions on your keywords, because you’re committed to the quality over quantity. But that doesn’t mean your your quantity is always going to be you know, zero to 20 people in your universe, you can scale it, there are more people in your universe, you’re just always going to choose quality first.

Meg Casebolt 32:59
Yeah, and I work with a lot of people where I’m like, you don’t need the, you know, 10,000 search volume amongst keywords, you need the 200 people a month keyword that are yours, and you can own that term. And those people are going to find you and buy from you. I was just talking to somebody who’s perfect keyword was 260 people a month because it was like Squarespace web design for yoga teachers, boom, right? Like, if she create 200 people a month to her website, then she’s set for life. It doesn’t always have to be big. Yeah, right. Exactly.

Michelle Warner 33:33
Yeah. And that is a perfect example of what relationship based looks like when you start scaling it. And that’s what I was saying at the beginning, when we make this immediate jump from friends and family into building a following. That’s where you screw it up. It’s not that you’d never build a following. It’s just that you don’t take the time to think through what that following should should look like and what its foundation should be.

Meg Casebolt 33:56
So let’s talk about that. Like, not just scaling and leveraging your relationships, but scaling your offers in a way that you can continue to draw from those relationships. Because I think a lot of people have heard this. I’m gonna say fallacy, I don’t know if that’s the right term of like, you can’t grow a one to one offer, because you’ll burn out. And if you want to scale and if you want to continue to make money, then you have to go from a one to one to a one to many offer that’s a lower price. And then you have to get more people and more traffic and more eyeballs. And that’s how you’re going to be able to grow without recognizing that as soon as you go from one to one into a one to many offer, then you have to get in front of so many more people. So I’m seeing you nodding along. Go on your soapbox for

Michelle Warner 34:46
me was happy to go on my soapbox. So it’s funny. This is actually why I talk about networking so much because in my day job is I call it I’m a strategist and a business designer. And I fixed businesses that are broken that aren’t growing and aren’t working Way People expect them to be. And this is the number one mistake that I see is again, it is the leap from extreme to extreme, they are told to start at one to one, and then they want to go immediately, I was laughing, every application I get oh, and I’d love to add a little passive and I just roll my eyes, because I want to one to passive, or what I call a mass market right away. There’s a whole continuum of different models that are available to you, some of which are just running one to one more efficiently. And that doesn’t have to mean building an agency. Like there’s a lot of things you can do behind the scenes. There’s a lot of things in productizing that your clients never see if you don’t want them to see that make a high end ones one offer a really beautiful high value add that does not burn you out. And so there’s six or seven options right there on what I call like the left side of the continuum as you’re starting. And then you can move into another six 712 Infinite options on a group programming type thing, right. And there’s again, this does not have to be the traditional group program, we probably all see if you’re hanging out in the online space. And then you can move into a bunch of different mass market options. And those are all continuums. And I call them a continuum because not only is it a marketing shock to the system, if you try to jump from one to the other, there are also business lessons that you need to learn. And this is me with my strategist MBA had on big time, right to make that jump, there are so many lessons that you miss, that you run around in a circle for years confused, unsure of why things are going on, because you didn’t do things in the right order. And so you didn’t learn some of the lessons you were supposed to learn. And that’s why it takes so long for some of these scaling projects that jump from one end to the other. Some people I get are so frustrating because they feel like they’re moving slowly. I say no, like, if you’re moving, what looks slow to you is first of all very fast in the real world outside. Yeah, number two is going to be stable. And it’s going to stick with you for the long time, the hockey stick growth that is in trouble very quickly. And I’ve seen it and it’s ugly. And it’s terrifying, when you do really have that overnight success because it crashes back on you. Because you didn’t learn some of the fundamentals. And I don’t mean from like just an academic standpoint. I mean, like the customer lessons and who your customers really are, and all these fundamentals that they come crashing back at you if you if you don’t learn them.

Meg Casebolt 37:24
Yeah, if you go on Oprah before you have a fulfillment plan, exactly, they are overwhelmed with orders, and then you’re going to be backlogged. And then people are going to feel bad about the fact that like, oh, I wanted that thing. And it’s backordered. And they’re not. And then it’s going to come back to negative PR. And that’s just one example of how that looks in the online space. It could be, you know, you run a Facebook ads campaign, and you get a lot of people on your email list. And they also, I had this happen once where I just had an upsell on an offer. And I had a one to one upsell on the offer. And I burned a quarter because I underpriced my upsell. And I was like, Oh God, no, I have to deliver all of this. And I don’t have the time or the capacity to do this alone. Like, big, big months can really mess with you.

Michelle Warner 38:05
They can say really can Yeah, yeah. And so we all get excited about that passive dream and the overnight success dream. It’s great for three or four months, and then it catches up to you. So yes, I am the boring person who is all about like moving along the continuum at a rapid but reasonable rate. And then you know what stopping when you want to stop? Because there are non burnout audible versions of I still do one on one, I absolutely love it. And there’s a non burnout version of that. If you are a one on one person, I feel like anybody who’s doing one on one is looked at sometimes as Oh, they haven’t figured something out or like there’s just something wrong with you. And that’s it. That’s not true.

Meg Casebolt 38:50
I think that’s absolutely the case, you know, where we’re especially those people who are selling how to build a complicated funnel, and you have to give me money to learn how to build this complicated funnel. And then you have to give me money to learn how to get people into that complicated funnel. And then you have to give me money to figure out what the obsession model is to move people through that complicated funnel like they are benefiting from you overcomplicating things, because you feel tied into their system now.

Michelle Warner 39:20
Yep, absolutely. Absolutely. And there’s, there’s just

Meg Casebolt 39:24
whereas there’s, if you have a one to one offer, That’s high praise, you don’t need to have a million of them. And then if you want to move to a more productized version of that you can bring down the price and work with more people, but it still can just be you. Or maybe you and a small team and your overhead doesn’t go up and you don’t need to work with a million people and you don’t need to do all of the things to get those million people into the funnel so that we 10 Of those million people can buy from you. It’s it’s hard. The going big is hard and

Michelle Warner 39:54
going big is hard and it’s expensive. Your margin goes away very, very quickly. Right. And you Don’t understand those trade offs, you know, you can actually be more profitable in a one two in a well designed, informed one to one system that I would call a mature business, right, you’ve learned your lessons, you can be more profitable in that business than you are in something that looks more fashionably scaled.

Meg Casebolt 40:17
Yes, and a lot of the people who are talking about how big their businesses are, are not telling you how profitable said the business. If they’re spending, if they’re spending 80% of their revenue, investing it back into ads, so that way they can push more people through the funnel, sure they have a high amount of revenue coming in, but how much are they actually taking home? And, and how much are they stressing about every single cost per lead and lead acquisition and the mass marketing is stressful, there’s a lot of metrics that go into it,

Michelle Warner 40:47
it is very stressful. And then on the other hand, you can have a business that doesn’t look as mature or big, or whatever, bringing home 90% of the cash. And those those are all personal decisions, right? If you are a mass market person, like, keep moving, and you can learn the lessons and you can do it as good as you can. And it can be profitable and good, right. But if you are a person who’s not interested in that you can stop earlier if you want. And all things in between what I don’t want to see are the inefficient modes of any of it because you are crossing paths that, you know, if you are a more bespoke person who is running what I consider a relationship business, and you’re trying to drive it on traffic marketing, that is going to make me crazy, because then you’re just you’re kicking yourself in the foot. And on the flip side, if you’re running a traffic business, because you feel like you have to, in order to be profitable, and your margins are shrinking, that is also going to be frustrating to me, because you’re just fundamentally misaligned at that point. It’s not that any of these choices are bad, they become bad or suboptimal as I like to say, when they’re misaligned, right when the when the marketing strategy is misaligned. With the business model, that’s when we run into trouble.

Meg Casebolt 41:59
And it sounds like the one of the keys, I don’t want to say the only key but one of the keys to all of this is to figure out what your goals are with your business. Do you want a lifestyle business that you can, you know, be able to pay your mortgage with the money? Or do you want to be the next Oprah? Exactly. There’s a lot of space in between those two options of you know, sometimes, without trying to do my horns, my own horn, sometimes I feel like an internet celebrity. You know, like, where, where people have recognized my name to an extent. But then also my neighbors don’t know what I do. I’m not like, there’s their levels of, of success. And and let’s talk about success versus fame. You know, we don’t actually need to talk about that. But like, how big do you need to be and how much of your success is tied into your ego versus your profits versus your goal alignment, I just threw a lot at you. I’m sorry,

Michelle Warner 42:57
Rondo, this is this product market founder fit. So again, like on the strategy side of my business, we work with our five stages of small business growth, this is research out of Harvard in the 80s. It is just kind of cannon at this point, this is how it works. And I have taken those five stages. And I’ve applied them to our super small, you know, our very solopreneur businesses, and looked at the stages people go through in stage two is sales, creating predictable and repeatable marketing and sales. And this stage takes years to get through if you’re doing it correctly. Because what is baked into that process is going through all of these continuums that I’ve talked about. And this is another benefit of the theoretically working through the continuum of business models. Because you figure out what you like, when you make the big leap from one end of the continuum to the other, all of a sudden, you’re like, Oh, crap, I have created a business that I actually hate. And maybe it’s profitable, maybe it’s not, it doesn’t matter if you hate it. Whereas if you kind of methodically work through the continuum, and again, I’m not talking, this doesn’t have to be a 15 year process to work through this continuum. But that is one of the lessons you’re learning is how do you want to show up in business. And then when you find your sweet spot, you stop. And then you optimize the marketing and the sales for that moment, as opposed to pinballing around all over the continuum, because you’re doing what you think you’re supposed to be doing. That’s when you start circling for years and years and years and getting nowhere because you’re throwing tons of inputs into something you don’t understand what you’re throwing into it. And you don’t understand why nothing is coming out. So being intentional about the order.

Meg Casebolt 44:32
It’s like that growth at all costs approach of like hustle culture, bro marketing, versus making intentional decisions about how you want to feel and when you want to stop.

Michelle Warner 44:42
Yes, yes, this is the most boring tagline in the whole world of business, I think but I call it sequence over strategy. Like i i prefer that you do things in the right order, as opposed to strategically correct because you can do everything strategically correct and you could run the perfect webinar. build the perfect funnel. But if it is not time for you to do that, it’s not going to work. So like just do it in the right order. And then we will figure things out in the correct order. And we have all these people beating themselves up because their funnel doesn’t work in the this and that and they think they built the wrong funnel or written the wrong message no like that. You’re just five steps ahead of where you should be.

Meg Casebolt 45:20
Yeah, don’t rush the process. Yeah, yeah. And if you want to learn more about that Harvard Business Review article, I’ve seen it, we’ll put it in the show notes, too, if you want to tend to try to figure out where you are in this five stage process. Because, you know, I feel like I’ve been doing this for a decade now. And I’m like, I shouldn’t be farther along than stage two or to be or whatever it is. But then I look at businesses that are not online businesses, and I’m like, Oh, great to be is totally normal for a 10 year old business, it’s just that we’ve been fed this story, that you should be able to go from $0 to $100,000, in six months of recurring monthly revenue, blah, blah, blah. It’s like the the people who are selling you these stories are the ones who are paying to get in front of you to sell these stories. So that way, they can sell the thing that makes you want that goal, as opposed to looking around at the people who are quietly building these relationships and being very successful and very profitable, but you don’t know them because they’re not broadcasting it.

Michelle Warner 46:18
Exactly, exactly. And I have a blog that breaks all those stages down to and a little principle you can throw up and remind yourself where you’re at. Because here’s the deal. Yeah, there are five stages, very few small businesses ever get past stage three. And that’s not because they’re failing, it’s because that’s a great sweet spot. And businesses can be very profitable and happy in stage two, it just means that they’re not trying to do stage four things, which would actually slow them down. So there’s nothing wrong with being in stage two for years. That doesn’t mean you’re not making money, you can make crap tons of money hanging out in stage two, you will stop making that money if you try to go to stage four too quickly.

Meg Casebolt 46:56
Right. I do not need a board of directors to oversee things like that. When you grow to that point, and that’s just how businesses work. You don’t not everyone has to

Michelle Warner 47:05
get to five. Exactly. Exactly. Very few do can. You can have a beautiful 30 year long business that never moves past stage two or three. Yes. As long as you except yourself being in stage two or

Meg Casebolt 47:19
three. Yeah, and recognize that that’s where you want to be choosing that. Yep. Um, aside from that blog, post any other resources that you want to share with us ways that people can get to know you or find out more about what you do?

Michelle Warner 47:34
Yeah, if people are interested in the whole relationship side of what we talked about, I do have a free training on my website. And I have a course called networking that pays that breaks us all down into a system. So you can go to the Michelle Warner slash free training to get that training. And if you want to get to the blog post hit blog, hit the blog link. In the show notes. It’s on my website, I don’t know the exact the exact address to know what pose. But that breaks down those five stages, as I’ve interpreted them, having looked at all my clients of how our kind of world of small business goes through those stages, and then you can always hang out with me on Instagram. I don’t think I’ve actually posted Instagram in a year but I’m stories and you can see my dog and that’s honestly where I chat with a lot of people. So that is Michelle dot Warner and you’re welcome to come say hi.

Meg Casebolt 48:19
That sounds great. I love when people are I love when people are like coming out on Instagram, but like don’t expect me to actually respond to you.

Michelle Warner 48:28
The DMS all day long? That’s a very networking that pays thing. That’s where I keep in touch with. Don’t expect to see any like main feed posts from me.

Meg Casebolt 48:37
Well, thank you so, so much for being here. I really appreciate it Michelle.

Michelle Warner 48:41
Yeah. Thanks for having me.

Meg Casebolt 48:44
Thank you so much for listening to the social slowdown podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe or come on over to social and sign up for our email list so you never miss an episode. We’d also love if you could write a review to help other small business owners find the show you can head over to social Or grab that link in our show notes for easy access. We’ll be back soon with more tips to help you market your business without being beholden to social media. Talk to you then

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relationships and networking with michelle warner