People like to hang around winners. People want respect, recognition, and rewards. They want to be part of a group – a group that is exclusive and exciting. That’s the foundation of what I call “Entourage Marketing.”

An entourage is a group of devoted fans – in this context, an elite group of VIP customers who love your products (and buy them frequently), customers who appreciate your message, admire you, trust you, and want to be associated with you. Entourage Marketing is all about attracting these people to your online business and creating strong relationships with them.

The Top 10 Ways to Build Your Entourage

1. Create Your Own Fame

No one is going to stand up and applaud for you. You have to take action and start making a splash. So choose a niche market – a sub-group of folks who share a common interest – and “crown” yourself as their leader.

To choose your niche market, first identify your unique ability, passion, or area of expertise. Then prepare your message and deliver it to the people who will be interested in what you have to say.

At the same time, accept the fact that you can’t please everyone. The sooner you understand that not everyone is going to love you, and that some folks will even criticize you, the better you will be at creating your own fame.

2. Be a Leader

In any group, one person will always stand out and be just a half-step ahead of the rest. It’s this leader people want to be associated with.

Leaders are even more important during times of financial trouble, when folks are scared to make decisions on their own. They look to someone who has the courage to act, the guts to take risks, and the nerve to stand up to criticism. These are the characteristics that set leaders apart from followers.

Identify the key factors that separate you from your competition and start telling the world about it! Be a leader. Take charge. No one is going to do it for you. You have to stand up and deliver on your own.

3. Dream BIG

The folks in your entourage will look up to you for guidance. They want to dream big and have great things happen to them, but their fears and worries prevent them from taking action. It is up to you to do that for them.

To dream big, you must associate with the right folks, so join mastermind and peer groups that challenge you and get you outside of your comfort zone. Imagine sitting around a boardroom table with all of your business and intellectual heroes. Imagine surrounding yourself with the top advisors in your industry. That’s what it’s like when you associate with people who are smarter than you.

4. Do More Public Speaking

Every time you’ve attended a seminar, haven’t you noticed that each and every speaker, no matter how good they are, draws a crowd after their presentation?

Simply by stepping on stage and speaking, you become an expert, and that draws people to you. You become the leader. You are branded a celebrity. It’s a great way to build an entourage. You can also use teleseminars and webinars to build your entourage, but nothing beats speaking in person.

Start small, even if it means speaking to just three or four people in your office. Then move up to groups of five, 10, 15, 20 people and more.

People want to be inspired and motivated by what you have to say. If you operate your business almost exclusively online, they want to see you in person. Speaking establishes you as a real person with a genuine desire to educate and help.

5. Share Personal Details

Nothing resonates stronger with your entourage than sharing your personal struggles. While they want a leader and someone they can trust, they also want to follow someone who has had struggles of his own. The more you can tell them about what makes you tick, and the more insights you can give them into your life, the deeper they will connect with you and the more they will admire you.

Tell your entourage the deep truth about who you are and what you do. Share stories about what led you to where you are in life right now. Step out of the shadows. Don’t hold anything back.

You may remember that Alex Mandossian talked about this in his article “Are You Open With Your Marketing Interactions?”

6. Use Social Networking to Grow the Conversation With Your Entourage

There are dozens of Internet strategies you can use to build your entourage, but the most important rule to remember is to treat your readers like friends. When using social networking tools like Twitter, for example, your goal is to connect with them and add them into your entourage by conversing with them, rather than with hard selling.

7. Give Recognition to Your Best Customers

Eventually, you’ll want to bring your best customers into a paid membership website or paid monthly newsletter. This is where you can give this elite group of VIPs exclusive deals and information that they can’t get anywhere else.

You want to give the folks at this level “bragging rights” by letting them know – and letting others know – that they are the only ones who have such close, personal access to you.

8. Create Multiple Products

As your entourage grows, you must continue to create additional products for them. In fact, it’s likely that your ability to create products will never keep up with their ability to consume them. They will want as much of you as you can possibly deliver.

You should create products in all media, from MP3s to YouTube videos to teleseminars to physical products to information products. For ideas on how to expand this “back-end” product line, check out Michael Masterson’s article “Special Opportunities for Your VIP Customers.”

9. Allow Members to Ascend to Higher Levels of the Tribe

Even within your entourage, members will look for more rewards and recognition. There will always be some who will be willing to pay more money for more access to you. Expect up to 5 percent of your entourage to be “stars” who will buy at the top, no matter what you offer.

Your business should include multiple front-end offers to get new members into your entourage… then back-end offers to satisfy their appetite for more of your products… and, finally, personal coaching, the ultimate opportunity for them to have access to you.

10. Create Live “Entourage Appreciation” Events to Encourage the Group to Connect With Each Other

Occasionally host a weekend seminar for your VIPs – a premium-priced event where you bring together hundreds of people, elevate their sense of community and superiority, and encourage them to connect with each other.

Taking the above 10 steps will help you build a true entourage. And when you have that group of eager customers who love you and your message, you’ll have a powerful business that can thrive in any economy.

[Ed. Note: Craig Ballantyne – in addition to being a master Internet marketer – is a fitness expert. Check out his Turbulence Training program, which can show you how to get fit and toned with just three 45-minute workouts a week.]

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Craig Ballantyne

Craig Ballantyne is the author of The Perfect Day Formula: How to Own the Day and Control Your Life. Craig has been a contributor to Men’s Health magazine for over 17 years. Today he teaches his gift high-performing entrepreneurs how to squeeze more out of their days, increase their income, and make more quality time for their families in his Perfect Life Workshop and Work-Life Mastery programs. Craig used his own advice to overcome crippling anxiety attacks in 2006, and he’ll teach you his 5 Pillars of Success so you can increase your income, decrease your work time, and live the life of your dreams. Learn more about Craig at craigballantyne.com