4 Lessons for Bloggers From John Jantsch’s Referral Engine Presentation

by Jerod Morris on May 7, 2010

john jantsch - referral engine

As I wrote recently over at our social media blog, last night was my introduction to the thoughts and theories of John Jantsch, one of the more influential marketing voices on the Internet.

John spoke about the concepts that will be in his new book The Referral Engine: Teaching Your Business to Market Itself [Amazon affiliate link].

In the process, he educated a room full of PR and social media people about the intricacies of creating a business that is referable and then how to leverage that referability.

While John is a blogger, and a very successful one at that, his presentation last night was not specifically aimed at bloggers. However, I believe – similarly to how I felt after seeing a Chris Brogan presentation – that many of the concepts he discussed can be repurposed as steps for successful blogging.

So here are a few ways that the concepts of The Referral Engine can be applied to our blogs.


1. Make your blog referable

It didn’t take long for John to fill us in on the secret to creating a business that will get referrals: be referrable.

Sounds simple right? Well, in theory, it is.

One of the best ways to gain targeted traffic and increase the long-term SEO health of your site is to get links from other websites in your niche. To do so your blog needs to be referable, meaning that it needs to be the kind of website that other bloggers want to send their visitors to.

How do you ensure that your site is referable? Here a few ways:

  • Interesting, informative content
  • Establish credibility
  • Easy, intuitive navigation
  • Clean, visually pleasing design

Other bloggers won’t want to send their readers to crappy blogs that offer no benefit. They will lose the trust of their readers quickly that way. Keep this in mind if you want to get links and traffic from other websites.

2. Understand the 4 C’s…of blogging

John discusses how the 4 C’s – content, context, connection, and community – have replaced the traditional 4 P’s of marketing. Take them out of a strict marketing context and apply them to your blogging and they work just as well:


The success of your blog begins with good content; if you don’t have it, you have no chance.


Information or media without context is, for all intents and purposes, meaningless. If you find a good article, don’t just give your readers a link; present it to them with context so they know how it applies to their lives. Your readers come to your site for a reason, most likely because you deliver content they find interesting and because you put it into context better than other websites. Don’t get lazy and forget this responsibility.


If you have good content and provide meaningful context it should create a connection with your reader. If so, they might comment; respond if they do. You also might get an email; make sure you respond. When you’ve succeeded in creating a connection with a reader, do everything you can to solidify that connection. Not only will they become a consistent reader, they’ll likely refer more people like themselves to your blog.


Establishing connections between you and your readers is one thing; facilitating connections between your readers and eachother is quite another. When you can create a blog where your readers come not only for you but for eachother, now you’re talking about a blog that can be a powerhouse. The better your content, the greater the context, and the more you are connecting, the better your chances of seeing your readers connect with one another as well.

3. Understand who your ideal reader is and what they like about your blog

One of the best points John made last night was when he implored business owners to dig into the experiences of their clients to find out what in particular their clients liked most about the service they offered. Why can’t bloggers do this with their readers too?

If you have an analytics program on your website, you’ll have access to all kinds of data that will help you get to know your readers better. Find out answers to questions like:

  • What posts get the most visits?
  • What posts drive the most traffic from other sites?
  • On what posts do people stay the longest?
  • What keywords drive visits that result in the most reader engagement?

You don’t need to go overboard with this, but take periodic skims through your analytics to get a sense of which posts do the most for you. Obviously you will want to write more like them. In a sense, your readers are giving you direction through their actions.

In addition, pick out a few of your ideal readers – the ones who leave the most comments, the ones who perhaps ended up writing for your blog, the ones who link to you the most from their own blog, etc. – and ask them why they like your site. These are your ideal readers, the ones who are either sending new readers your way or creating activity on your site that gets new readers excited. Find out about them, understand them, because you want to get more readers like them.

As John said last night, you may be surprised by what you find out when you ask your top readers what they like most about your blog. Either way, understanding this information will have you armed and ready to improve your blog based on feedback from the people consuming it.

4. Build a community of like-minded bloggers

No idea was harped on more last night, and with good reason, than the incredible potential of building a powerful partner network.

In business, this means building up a network of other businessed who all have a similar target client in mind. In blogging, this means building up a network of blogs that have a similar target reader in mind.

One of my hats is that of a sports blogger. I have been fortunate to become a part of a few networks of sports bloggers that share ideas, link to eachother, help promote eachother’s stories, and even write for eachother’s sites. It has been tremendously valuable in improving the quality of the content on Midwest Sports Fans as well as the number of people who see it.

You can do the same thing.

Reach out to other bloggers in a pay-it-forward style. Link to people, promote posts that you know they are proud of, and offer help if they are ever in need of it. One thing I’ve learned about the blogging community is that it is a very supportive place; your efforts will almost surely be reciprocated. As you develop these relationships, introduce your new blogging pals to eachother. As the network grows, everyone will benefit.


I could probably keep going and pull out many more lessons for bloggers from last night. However, what would be the fun in that?

I’d rather challenge you to apply some of John’s referral marketing theories to blogging. If you weren’t at the Dallas SMC event last night, and most of you probably were not, here are my notes from the event. See anything else that applies to life as a blogger?

Visit John’s site and dig deeper into his concepts. What else do you see that could be applied to blogging?

The comment section awaits you.

* – John Jantsch photo credit: ReferralFlood.com

* – The Referral Engine image credit: BNI.com


Jerod Morris is the Director of Blogging and Social Media for Orangecast, a web marketing firm located in Dallas that specializes managing the online profiles of small- and medium-sized businesses.

Jerod is the managing editor for IndieChristmas.com and Corporate Compliance Insights as well as Midwest Sports Fans, where he hosts a podcast, has been a guest on ESPN’s Outside the Lines, makes regular radio appearances, and has hexes named after him.

Follow Jerod on twitter or email him: jerod [at] orangecaster [dot] com.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Derick Schaefer May 7, 2010 at 11:56 am

OK, I was bummed I couldn’t hear John speak due to travels due to travels however I did keep up with what I could from tweets during his presentation. I have to say, from what I took away from Twitter, this post is the perfect morph of his guidance into the blogosphere.

Congratulations Jerod on helping transform another great presentation into concise and actionable advice that bloggers can relate to!


Jerod Morris May 7, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Why thank you Derick. I actually had a lovely evening planned of tracking the White Sox game on my computer and inevitably shouting lots of obscenities at the screen when they inevitably lost…so I’m glad I chose going to the presentation instead!

All joking aside, it was great. Very informative, John has a very laid back, easygoing presentation style that is easy to follow, and getting to meet and talk with more people in our field is always good.


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