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Building Your Business With Online Communities

by Jim Marshall

In today's online world there are numerous high profile online business communities which have memberships in the many thousands of active Internet users.

These are literally bubbling hives of business people and entrepreneurial activity, where casual observation shows that some members appear to have large circles of influence while others have almost none. These membership sites are ripe with opportunity for the online marketer who knows the secrets to mining their treasures.

Let's take a look at how they work and how you can become a successful business builder by using your membership within these online business environments.

The question to be asked here is this: Is it fundamentally worth the price of admission for you to join these subscription based business communities and pay their monthly membership fee? From a bottom line ROI, cost verses return analysis, is this money well spent or not?

In the end the answer to this question really boils down to this: If you are engaged in a home-based business of any type, your single most important asset (more important than your computer; more important than the time you will commit to building your business; in fact more important than just about anything except perhaps your determination to succeed), is your circle of personal business contacts. People...they are your single most important business asset.

If you are engaged in a home-based business, let's face it, you are in the Relationship Business. This is a fact of life and the sooner you recognize it, the sooner you can get busy building the kind of income you deserve and desire.

Okay, so where then, once you have tapped your family—nephews, cousins, neighbors and aunts—are you going to find ENOUGH GOOD PEOPLE to build a lucrative long-term business in the networking arena? One idea is that you could stand on a street corner handing out business cards. Whoopee.

Another, perhaps smarter approach to solving this problem would be to join a thriving online business community just crawling with thousands of entrepreneurs, business people, and networkers from every walk of life. It's your choice. The "street corner" or a thriving community of thousands of independent, creative, active entrepreneurs. Sounds like a no-brainer, don't you think?

That's because it is. Not to say that you (or anyone) is going to waltz into such a community and immediately start signing up dozens of people into your business. We all know it doesn't work that way and anyone who expects instant results from taking this approach will surely be disappointed. But consider this: if you want to make money, go where the money is. Likewise, if you want to develop new relationships, then go where the relationships are to be had!

It does you no good to sit in your home office staring at your computer wondering why no one is joining your business. If your business is dependent upon connecting with new people, then you must be willing to go seek them out.

Remember, people are your most important single business asset so doing so can have a major impact on your future!

Okay, so we've reached that magic moment where you have gone and joined an online business community. You've committed to paying the monthly subscription fee ranging between $10 and $30 a month. You're ready to go out there and meet people and grow your business. So what do you do next?

Can you expect them all to jump for joy just because you and your bizop have shown up in their midst? Not very likely. But here is a morsel of the world's oldest business building advice that always works—and will work for you this time as well. Just three simple words: "Make yourself useful".

Take a long term view of your business community membership. Learn your way around. Say hi to people, and set the stage for your "coming out". Here's how to do it: Engage a 'service approach' when you log in and communicate with people.

You'll recall that much-used Zig Ziglar quote (no doubt?), "The secret to getting what you want in life is to help enough other people get what they want first."

There is profound and fundamental truth to those words. Help others, and you'll succeed in helping yourself. Be sincere in this endeavor and you will in fact prosper. This is exactly what it takes to make a lot of money in any home-based business. Help others, and you'll help yourself.

Develop new relationships by practicing this approach and you'll soon notice the difference. The next time you have a good business offering to make, what do you think will happen? All those people who remember how helpful you were when they could not figure out how to get their computer to stop freezing, or where to get a good autoresponder service, or how to send group e-mails, will be much more likely to listen to you now.

This IS relationship building and when applied to business building the combination is powerful indeed.

Trust me, it works. I can share my own experience as an example here. People who know me are generally interested in joining a business with me (if the particular business also meets their other needs) for one single reason, and that reason is not because I'm a nice guy or particularly cute either. A person's self-interest in joining any new business venture is paramount.

People will go where they sense they have the best chance of success, period. People choose to join with businesses me for one reason: I have a reputation as being a person who will work tirelessly to solve their problems. My effort on their behalf is about their own self interests; their money, their future.

Gain a reputation in any business community you join as being a useful, helpful, problem solving person and you will gain a circle of influence within that community. It may take time but it will happen. I have seen this work over and over again, both personally and by observing others who do it even more successfully than I do.

There is no question; this is what separates those who have influence in online communities to those who do not. The bottom line is, be useful to people and you will be rewarded!

So, in answer to the question posed at the top of this article; is it worth paying the monthly membership fee to belong to an online business community—I unequivocally answer; yes it is.

Consider that the monthly membership fee is the cost of advertising your business every month. The form of advertising that you are paying for can be categorized as "relationship advertising". Your goal will be to show as many people as you can every month what a quality business partner you would make, if they ever did decide to look at your business. And the truth of the matter is, the better you are at providing evidence of this the more—and the sooner—people will begin to ask you what you do, and what companies you work with. Adding this information to your signature file won't hurt either.

It all boils down to human nature. Take care of someone and you will make a friend. There is nothing disingenuous at all about taking this approach to building your business; just be genuine in your desire to help others and you will inevitably be rewarded with key new relationships that will help you build your financial future.

The best advice I can offer is to go forward and locate the business community of your choice (or more than one; I personally am a member of three), and then take action there to make friends and most importantly, to make yourself useful. There is a huge amount of need out there and those who genuinely address this will be amazed at the rewards that such an approach can bring to their business life.


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