How to Lurk

How to Lurk – An Introduction to Schmoozing in Online Discussion Groups

by Monique Harris

As you begin your schmoozing career, it’s important to do some sort of homework before jumping right into the frying pan. The newsgroups and mailing lists that you choose to participate in may be strictly business-related, or they may be geared towards a niche market, but in either case you’ll still have to learn the specific protocol for schmoozing effectively within them. Each group has its own rules and nuances for what the regular participants will and will not allow.

Within the first week that you start lurking, begin to note the names, e-mail addresses and URL’s of the people who do the most posting and seem most in alignment with your business goals. The vocal members of the group will often prove to be formidable allies for helping you to gain more customers, even if they’re your com- petitors. Not only will you learn a great deal of information that will help you to communicate more effectively with these participants, this action will essentially put you a step ahead of the average marketers who rely on postings alone for getting to know others in the group.

Go to their Web sites and you’ll find a wealth of information about them. Do they sell goods on their site, or is their online presence strictly for informational purposes. Are they non-competitive companies that sell to the same types of customers that you do? If they have an online newsletter perhaps you can contribute a series of regular articles or tip sheets. They may even be willing to form a strategic alliance where you sell their goods on your Web site for a percentage of the profits, and vice versa. This will give you even more exposure to your target audience.

Even competitors sites can provide valuable indicators of what you should, and shouldn’t, be doing online. As a matter of fact, knowing what your competitors are doing is just as important as finding out what your customers want. By going to their Web sites you can check out their prices, type and style of goods they sell, if they accept credit cards, listings of their clients, whether they’re hiring, and so on. Scanning your competitors Web sites allows you to tailor your online presence accordingly.

And keep in mind that even competitors can exchange sales leads. Sometimes you may run across a prospect that you can’t service. Perhaps they have special needs that you cannot accommodate. Or maybe you’re just swamped with so much work and don’t have the time to add any new customers right then. (Aaaaah, every business persons dream!) By knowing other practitioners within your field, you’ll be able to send your prospects to a person that you know is competent enough to handle their needs.

Tanya Bale is a motivational coach in New York. Because the Wall Street Journal had recently done an article on her classes, business picked up considerably. So much so in fact, that she had to start turning clients away. After lamenting about her situation on the Small Biz Marketing discussion list, she was approached by a fellow list member who suggested she subcontract the work that she couldn’t handle, to another coach.

The list member even gave Tanya contact information for a motivational coach in Washington, D.C. who might be able to help her. In the end Tanya was able to refer the extra business to the other coach, and still keep a percentage of the profits. She was ecstatic considering this was business that she would have missed otherwise.

Prospects, in fact, do remember your honesty and keen ability to find somebody who can help them. Over time if they know somebody who needs your particular style of product or service, they’ll be very likely to refer them to you. Your competitors also remember the favor and when they have a prospect that they can’t service, you can be sure that your previous referral will be repaid. As you can see, even competitors can be fabulous schmooze partners!

Make sure that you keep a running log of everything that you find. The more information that you have, the better you’ll be able to zoom in on the wants, needs and issues of the groups participants.

This article was excerpted from Monique Harris’ special report, Successful Schmoozing on the Net. You will receive a copy for FREE when you order Monique’s newest manuals, How to Successfully Sell Information Products Online.
Copyright c 1998 Monique Harris