Misguided marketers are trying to use "old-school" marketing tactics in a new, consumer-driven business landscape. But being the best, the cheapest or the most convenient is no longer going to get you the results you're after; so don't promote these virtues on social networks.

We've all seen how kindness, honesty and generosity online are rewarded. And yet internet conversations are getting heavier with sales pitching and self promotion by the minute. This sales pitching is not only turning consumers off, it's giving internet marketing a bad rap and making it more challenging for business to convert contacts into sales.

There are a few marketing strategies you should add to your daily practice to set yourself apart and turn your online communities into profitable business transactions. What's more, these activities will increase the ROI for your online efforts without looking or sounding sales pitchy (or what I like to call sales bitchy).

Here are seven secrets for successfully converting online contacts into sales.

  1. Focus on generosity: Share your knowledge and expertise willingly online. Avoid the attitude that people are out to get you, instead think of it as people are out to do business with you. The more you are generous with your expertise and resources, the faster people will connect with you online and want to do business with you (because they've already had a sneak peek at what you offer).
  2. Use the 3/3 Rule: The opposite side of the generosity coin is this; you have to set some boundaries online so as not to give too much away. When you are directly e-mailed or approached for advice, offer your services no more and no less than three times to that contact before you ask for the business. Don't spend more than three minutes responding or chatting per person or group. After the third such activity (on the same network, of course), just ask. This is the one thing that separates the broke from the prosperous--asking.
  3. Don't act desperate: There is a big difference between desperate and sincere. Make sure that you really want the relationship and their business specifically and that you're not just asking for the sake of getting another deal (or because it's the third action and you're "supposed" to). Consumers are smart, they can tell the difference between the two.
  4. Do a SPAM check: Before you even ask for the business when you're beginning to build a relationship you need to do a SPAM check. Whether it be online or off, make sure that your conversation does not involve constant:

    Sales
    Pitching
    After
    Meeting.

    If you start a sales pitch before you've even established a rapport then you are spamming, something that consumers do not tolerate very well. This can instantly shut down a relationship. Make the conversation about the consumer, not you. (Related article, see "Are You Talking Your Way Out of a Sale.") Start by listening and end conversations by asking what you can do to help them with a goal or problem. By doing this, your services and offerings will become a natural part of the conversation, rather than a forced sales pitch.
  5. Have a communication plan in place: Once you start to engage with people make sure that you have an ongoing plan to stay in touch. A great way to do that is to get their e-mail address and send them periodic updates, resources and tips.
  6. Build your social proof: Do you have testimonials or recommendations on your social sites and your main website or blog? Social proof is basically proving to your target market and community that you are worth doing business with. Testimonials show potentials how great you are, you don't have to say a thing. LinkedIn is a great place to house some of those testimonials.
  7. Just be yourself: Do not try to be someone that you are not because you think that you will get more contacts, leads and business. Consumers want to feel like they are doing business with someone real, not someone that's insincere.

Above all, don't hold yourself back from reaching out to new people, groups or industries. The internet is full of millions of new contacts for you, just engage with them sincerely and leave out the sales pitching. You never know if that invite or accepted request will be your next big customer.