In addition to this blog, I maintain other websites that complement the content and ideas shared here. The main ones are the (the now closed) Indie social networking site (7,000+ people connecting), a Twitter page (12,000+ friends) and a FaceBook Page (2,000+ likers).
Many of the same people connect at some of the sites, while others only use one or some of them. I'm sharing this with you by way of introducing you to the important truth that you have to create an ecosystem in which your business can thrive.
Back in the “olden days” (that is pre-2000), if you had a website you were doing everything right. You owned a domain name and hosted an online brochure and secure shopping options. Hopefully, you were also using the proper keywords to drive specific types of customers to your site. Today, if all you have is an e-commerce site, your business is doomed. In fact, I recommend that some start-ups skip an e-commerce site altogether and go straight to FaceBook to set up a store front and start building an ecosystem.
You Need An Ecosystem
You must create and maintain an ecosystem from which you can launch and expand your marketing activities. The dictionary defines “ecosystem” as “the complex of a community and its environment functioning as an ecological unit in nature.” Just like a delicate ecosystem found in nature, the ecosystem of your business must represent a community of multiple locations that function as a single, fluid unit.
Have a good product. This is a given, but it only barely opens the door these days. Good products are everywhere these days. You need one, but you need more than that. You need a solid marketing strategy that includes investing resources in creating and maintaining an ecosystem for your business.
Create a pleasant place to be. Whether it's FaceBook, your blog, Twitter, a Ning-hosted site, or any one a number of options, you must proactively host pleasant places where your customers and other stakeholders can “sit a spell,” and enjoy your company and the company of one another.
Invite people into your world. Once you are create the space, you must tell people about it. Invite them to join you there. Your incentives are good products, useful information, and importantly, the other people who have already joined you there. It has to be fun and interesting, and fun and interesting can only exist when you are connected to other people.
Participate at other people's ecosystems. As great as you and your products are, it's not all about you. You must step out of your comfort zone and connect with others in theirs. Be interactive and supportive. When you support other people's ecosystems, they will support yours.
Systematize your outreach. Since you can't spend all day at your ecosystem, or in others's, it's important that you systematize your activities. Create a system of activities that you participate in on a regular schedule. A weekly contest, a monthly podcast, a daily tip … the possibilities are endless. Set up a system and stick to it. When people see this, they will grow to see you as a reliable and credible. And they must see you you that way before they will become your customer.
Once you’ve done these things, you’re on your way to creating a sustainable structure that will support your business for years to come. Sure, the technology will change, and so will you. But once your ecosystem is in place, it's easy to adjust it to accommodate all kinds of unexpected events.
Question: What does your ecosystem look like? How do you maintain it for long-term success?