08/11/2010 11:40 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Number One Secret to Marketing -- Both Online and Offline

There have been tens of thousands (probably hundreds of thousands by now) of books, articles, audios, and videos written about marketing. Heck, I wrote the first book on Web 3.0 Marketing, so I fall into that category as well. All these books are great and full of information in their own respects, but there is just so much noise when it comes to marketing. Fortunately, there is one, overarching secret that applies to all businesses, and works for everyone. This secret, if mastered, can explode your business.

Drumroll please . . . everything comes back to relationships. Building relationships is the most essential marketing weapon you could possess. There are so many outlets from which to build your relationships; social media, email marketing, video marketing, conversion, traffic, sales, leads, opt ins. The list goes on, and on and on. If you focus on the relationship (seeing your list as people versus emails) you are going to be 10 times better off in the long haul.

I'd rather have a list of 100 people that know, like and trust me than a list of 100,000 twitter followers and 5,000 Facebook friends that don't even know my last name. I've seen examples where people have massive mailing lists, over 100,000 names, and only 150 people open an email. I'd eliminate 99,000 of the names and focus on those 150 that are actually reading your stuff.

I encourage you to look at all your different prospect touch points and see where you can infuse some relationship building into them.

Here are 3 Keys to Help Build Profitable Relationships:

1. Practice education based marketing. Everyone has a different take on what education based marketing is. Some see it as educating people about your products and services. Relationship builders see it as a chance to educate prospects in general terms. You are able to build rapport by teaching before selling.
Let's take an example. You run a country club and are looking to increase membership. Most marketers would put together a flyer that talks about their golf course, the tennis courts, and the beautiful banquet facility. The education based marketing approach would be to put together informational articles or pamphlets such as:

The 5 Benefits of Belonging to a Country Club

3 Ways to Increase Your Business through Country Clubs

Rather than providing information about your particular club, you should focus on educating people in general. This will empower them to make an educated decision about purchasing your product or service.

2. Keep consistent contact. Make sure you're staying in touch with your contacts on a regular basis. This could be as simple as sending an email with a link to an article you thought they might find valuable, or as advanced as picking up the phone and saying hello. To make certain your relationships do not get stale, communicate a few times every month.

3. Don't be afraid to mine your list and your networks. I recommend mining your email list on a monthly basis. Remove people who haven't opened your stuff in 6-12 months, and delete people off your social networks that don't apply. If you keep your list and network clean, and practice keys #1 and #2, this network will turn into a profit house because you built strong relationships.

Please keep in mind, building relationships takes time, but in the long haul, you will outperform any list, period.

© 2010 Michael Tasner, author of Marketing in the Moment: The Practical Guide to Using Web 3.0 Marketing to Reach Your Customers First