Internet Marketers should learn from St. Nicholas


Several years ago, I had the opportunity to explain the story of the real St. Nicholas to my precocious (then) 6yr old nephew. The bright child had figured out that “Santa” wasn’t a jolly fat guy who brings presents pretty quickly and was being a bit cynical about the whole thing. After explaining the life of St. Nicholas to him, he looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and said, “I get it. Santa Claus is about the spirit of giving.” What a bright child!

This experience brought to mind something that has been bothering me for several months now. That being that there is a mentality of “all about me” saturating the Internet Marketing industry. Everywhere you turn, somebody is bragging about themselves, asking over and over and over for you to check out their latest “earth shattering” program, asking for likes, stumbles, tweets, favs, etc.. Having spent the last several years working online, I’ve seen this type of mentality get worse. It’s to the point now where there’s hardly a place to socialize without somebody asking for something. This is NOT what the Internet and Internet Marketing are all about!

St. Nicholas was not an Internet Marketer, obviously, but there are some valuable lessons Internet Marketers can learn about his legend. Take for example that centuries after St. Nicholas lived, we are still talking about him today! His story was spread throughout the four corners of the world by sailors. Every year, in many diverse cultures around the world, he is celebrated. Even though the centuries have altered his legend, at the core of the story is the same message.

Now, let’s apply these principles in terms of Internet Marketing:

  • Buzz Marketing: If you want your product or service to go big, you have to create a buzz. There has been buzz surrounding St. Nicholas for generations.
  • Viral Marketing: The goal of every Internet Marketer is to get people talking to other people about their product or service. The story (brand) of St. Nicholas has been viral since the very beginning. He is a legend!
  • Strong Branding: Creating an instantly recognizable image, name, or tagline for a product or service is a huge factor in any marketing campaign. Though modern image of Santa Claus depicts a large, white bearded, jolly man in bright red attire, the fact is, early depictions were not so different. The attire has changed and it seems age has rounded out Santa’s physique a bit, but the basic look is still instantly recognizable.
  • Clear Message: In marketing, you absolutely must nail the message. You have to convey your message in such a way that it becomes ingrained into your target audience and there should be no doubt as to what you mean in your message. Through centuries, the finer details have been altered some, but the core message of St. Nicholas remains exactly the same, as if ingrained into our deep psyches.

So, what made St. Nicholas so popular? What has kept us talking about him for centuries? Why won’t his brand wither with time? The answer is simple; he embodies a message that is timeless and touches every person. That being the message of selfless giving. St. Nicholas has stood the test of time because he gave generously without regard to personal gain and without asking for reciprocation.

Selflessness has major benefits in Internet Marketing as well. While the ultimate goal of marketing is to get your target to do something for you, the path you take to get there does not have to be filled with taking all the time and not giving back. Any Internet Marketing campaign that is based around just asking enough people to click your link or check out your product or service is doomed to fail. To be effective, a campaign must give something back.

I learned this lesson through several years of working in Open Source Software. Those who gave the most, asked for the least, but received the bulk of the business. Why? Because they were constantly giving to the greater good without asking for anything in return and were rewarded with respect and trust. Trust is a major factor in developing relationships and building a successful marketing campaign.

When you reach out to others and give to them without asking for anything in return, you build strong relationships. Building relationships like this builds a strong following. Building a following in this manner, builds a highly targeted audience that already knows your brand, already trusts your brand, and is already primed and ready to take action when you finally do prompt them for action.

Why do Internet Marketers so often neglect this simple concept that can lead to stronger marketing campaigns? Simple, building relationships takes time and effort. It’s much faster and simpler to ask for something than it is to offer something. It’s much simpler and easier to use automated tools to broadcast out to thousands than to build a strong following of hundreds. Yet, with all these shortcuts taken, how many Internet Marketers are failing to get even a small percentage of their market to take action? Factors could be that they lack trust in their brand because they have not earned it or have abused it by asking for more than they give.

So, what does it take to give? Does this mean you have to spend every waking hour doing various tasks for other people? No! Many times, giving more than you receive can be handled en masse. Here are a few techniques for giving that can lead to stronger relationships.

  • Answer questions related to your product or service voluntarily.
  • Help others in lateral markets, thus building strategic contacts.
  • Seek out and assist vertical market contacts.
  • Become a prominent source for free information in your product or service’s industry.
  • Strategically offer your product or service for free without asking for anything in return.
  • Every time you see an opportunity to help, do so, even if the opportunity is not in your industry.

In all of the above examples, make sure your profile and/or contact information contains information about who you are and what you do, but don’t do so in a spammy way. The following example is usually sufficient.

James Morris
Web developer
james [at] yourwebsite [dot] com

Company Name, inc.
Catchy Company Tagline

1234 Some St., Box 5
Some City, WV

You can use variations of the above as email signatures, profile details, forum signatures and as a vcard. Even St. Nicholas had a calling card which was leaving coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him. In the modern tail of Santa, there is the milk and cookies that are left partially consumed. This is simply a part of personal branding that must be done.

On the surface, marketing and St. Nicholas don’t seem to have much in common. However, when you step back and look at the story of St. Nicholas critically, you can see where his life of giving is a model for building relationships. Building relationships should be the number one factor in your Internet Marketing campaign. Building strong relationships leads to a following that is primed and ready to take action when prompted. Giving back does not have to consume all of your time and can often be as simple as taking a few minutes to answer questions. Every opportunity to give a few minutes of your time for free is an opportunity to increase trust and recognition for your brand and you don’t even have to mention your brand.

Take some time to step back and look at your current marketing campaign. Are you buying contacts and broadcasting to a deaf crowd. Or, are you building strong relationships with those who will trust you, help you and take action when you ask them to? All it takes is giving a little and you will receive much more in return.

About JMorris

JMorrisMy game is SERPs and Web Dev. I read rankings and code like Gamers play RPGs. I do a little bit of everything online: SysAdmin, Design, Code, SEO & SMO. I love all things web.

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