The perpetual struggle to chase after the circus of SEO has given many marketers migraine or more. And yet, the answer to succeeding in the market is found in fundamentals, and has not much to do with search engines.

I have seen the rise and fall of many Internet directories and search engines since the availability of the commercial Internet in the mid-1990s. Many of the practitioners like us who had to ride the bandwagon of SEO and SEM since their inception, found that it was never an easy task, and that was also why many clients relied on our labors to get their websites on directories or search engines.

Increasingly, if you have not noticed already, every Internet property seems to be chasing after monetization, and that includes social media channels and search engines. The pristine search engine where we find only true search results seem to be a figment of the past, and many search engines supplement search results with “sponsored” results, basically paid advertisements. Clients who find it hard to rise to the surface of search results rely on paid advertisements, hoping to find some sanity in remaining buoyant in search engine listings, only to find that becomes increasingly expensive, as more and more companies are led down to the same spiral. The “investments” then become increasingly skewed towards a loss, since competitors are pitting more and more dollars at this advertisement wall.

So then, is there a way out of all these, and still attract users and more importantly, paid customers?

Fortunately, the answer is yes, and the answer is deceptively simple, albeit not as “sexy” as many of the emerging Internet paradigms.

Take a step back, and if you have been in business for the last ten, twenty or more years, you would remember that the fundamental rules of business, branding and marketing still apply, if not even more so today.

First, building a business through cold calling, pitching, negotiating, and closing, is still very much valid, and still the mainstay of building businesses in our part of the world. Our cultural lineage is built on relationships, built slowly and steadily through honest and steadfast friendships. It is not easy, but still the best way to know new prospects, turn prospects into paying customers, and retain existing customers.

Second, events large and small will continue to be important tactical approaches to increasing and engaging prospects and customers. Look around, and you will notice that well-executed and marketed events will reach far and wide, and pay the bills. Events can include media and product launches, public roadshows, seminars, conferences, large exhibitions, fashion runway productions, and even movie screenings of commercially available or custom-produced films.

Third, building a business is not merely meeting people. It is also developing good presentation materials, compelling elevator pitches, developing our people to be equipped to enlighten prospects and customers, and building a good support infrastructure to deliver products and services, whether it be logistics, databases, data centers, or procedures. Having a sustainable workflow that serves every stakeholder to conclusion is the backbone to endearing our customers and other stakeholders.

Fourth, let us also remember that it is really about goodwill and reputation. A good reputation travels a lot further by word-of-mouth referrals than any mechanical and artificial computing platform like search engines or virtual channels. The most powerful outreach is often when we hear it from trusted parties. When was the last time we chose to buy from a particular bakery, eat from a particular restaurant, or buy a particular home appliance? More often than not, it was good old-fashioned referrals from our friends and families, people we talk to and live with in the real world.

When we “un-couple” ourselves from the virtual platforms, remember that the real world goes on and is even more vibrant and life-affirming than we may have inadvertently and momentarily become distracted from.

We live in the real world. We are real people. We build businesses in the same way.