It doesn’t matter how technically capable you are. How genius. How cutting-edge. At some point, you’re going to need customers. Most likely, lots of them. Customers do business with people they know, like and trust. Without this type of trust, all the marketing chops in the world are just more of the same old hype.
But how do you build that trust to begin with? How do you position yourself as a thought leader in your industry, a person that people naturally want to follow, when you are starting from zero? We all have to start somewhere … how exactly do you find your tribe? We share some ideas.
1. Start with the right intentions
Yes, there’s a chance that building influence will make you money.
And yes, there’s a chance that building influence will open doors you never even thought to knock on in the first place.
And yes, building influence will likely bring you a tribe, if you stick at it long enough and go about it the right way, and this tribe will love everything you do and buy everything you put out.
All of these are good enough reasons why you should want to build your influence.
… But they’re not the only ones. And they’re not the best. Want to know the real reason you should want to build influence?
Want to know the real reason you should want to build influence?
Building influence gives you power. It gives you the power to help others by creating value. The more influence you have, the faster you can help others, the more value you can create. Your influence grows further. It is indeed a virtuous circle.
And that’s the beauty of it. The best way to help yourself is to help others first. The rest will come naturally.
The universe works in mysterious ways, but there it is.
Keep yourself awake at night wondering how you can help others … not yourself. Then go do whatever it is first chance you get.
Do this well, and a great many wonderful things will flow your way. Ignore it, and you will be ignored. Sad but true.
2. Make real connections
This one is obvious in some respects, and yet it’s surprising how many small business owners and managers don’t do this well, or don’t do it well enough.
You’ve likely heard a million times that you are supposed to strategically network.
For many, this dredges up fearful images of foisting business cards on unsuspecting (and unwilling) recipients, or worse yet – standing alone in a vast conference hall balancing a coffee and a cookie, casually trying to project an air of supreme confidence while inside you are quaking in your boots.
Or perhaps of broadcasting your business message 24/7 to all your new Twitter followers, and wondering why you hear only crickets in return.
Well, time to forget all that.
True networking is about making real connections.
And according to career advice site The Muse, one of the keys to making real connections is to relax and be yourself.
By all means, don’t overshare – there’s always a limit to how much truth one can take, especially with a brand new connection – but it doesn’t hurt to let your personality shine through a little.
Be honest, be genuine, be authentic in your dealings with new connections. It will go a long way.
3. Develop quality content
You’ve probably heard this one a lot.
It hinges on the idea that one of the best (if not the best) ways to draw your tribe towards you is with the production of consistently valuable, high-quality content. Note: a commonly used term for this process is content marketing.
Hrrrrmmmm…. there’s a lot going on within that idea. Let’s start by unpacking it.
One of its central assumptions is that you’re going to have something to say. And that your tribe is going to find it useful. And that you are going to be able to consistently produce it day after day.
For some, there’s an even bigger question lying underneath it all. It goes something like, “Do I really need to be doing this? I sell bespoke skateboards/ lawnmowers/ walk-in medical care/health food / legal services. Do I really need to produce content to achieve all that?” The
The answer is yes – in the majority of cases, you most likely do. It returns to the idea that people do business with people they know, like and trust.
One of the fastest shortcuts to achieving this trust is to engage them with content … ideas, advice, inspiration … that will help them achieve their goals, whether those goals are about having a beautiful green lawn to die for or navigating a tough divorce.
And to return to those earlier assumptions:
Producing consistent, quality content is admittedly tough. It does require thought, effort and investment – either your own time or someone else’s.
The good news is, it’s a learnable skill. Where it doesn’t appeal or doesn’t work to produce it internally it can be also carefully outsourced.
4. Position yourself as an expert
Now this one can be controversial, so we’re going to wade in with a starting assumption.
The starting assumption is that you do have an industry in mind that you want to influence, and that you have some grounding in that industry.
Mind you, we aren’t suggesting you need to be an “expert”, in the sense of the 10,000 practice hours type of scenario (which some have challenged in any case).
What you do need to be is at least 10 steps ahead of your audience.
In many cases, it can actually be beneficial that you aren’t too far removed from where your audience is at.
Take the case of blogging.
Say you have been blogging for a year and have managed to grow your audience from 0 to 1,000 followers. That rather well qualifies you to share that knowledge with others who are brand new to blogging and are just starting out.
In many respects, it makes you much more relevant than the bloggers who now have 20,000 or 100,000 followers because everything you’ve learned is still really fresh in your mind.
Ok, so you probably aren’t going to be running six-week courses on how to develop your own WordPress theme (unless that is your technical specialty). But your audience likely doesn’t want that anyhow.
Focus first on where you can add value. Then add some more. And some more. Pretty soon, this will add up to a uniquely valuable offering that your clients can’t get anywhere else…. what a great position to be in!
5. Amplify your message
This is where the power of your network really comes into play.
Once you have all of your ducks in a row with respect to the other four steps, you need to be able to get your message out there into the world.
There are a number of channels open to you for this … the challenge is to pick the right combination that’s going to work for:
- Your business
- Your customers
Say you sell bespoke skateboards. A probable mix that will work well might be a combination of YouTube Videos, heavy social media presence (especially Instagram) and a physical presence at key events.
This same approach may not cut it if you are a legal firm specializing in divorce issues, however. There you might wish to go for a strong blogging presence, hitting the public speaking circuit or even possibly writing a helpful handbook for surviving a divorce.
As with everything, a one size fits all doesn’t work here. Tweak your marketing mix for best results.
Influence is a two-way street. Find out what your customers need help with, how they prefer to access their information and what your organization is capable of producing. Then deliver. Work on that and the rest will follow.