Category: Blog

Personal Brand is Part of Customer Experience

personal brand is product

You are the product and your personal brand is at the center of your business especially if you are an entrepreneur, solopreneur or small business owner. Your personal brand can make or break your business.  You are the hub of every interaction you have. And, you are also the product. What you do and say either adds values or detracts from your business relationships, client relationships and even your personal interactions.

Working with small businesses and entrepreneurs, I often take them through nine elements to their brand. Since your brand is intertwined with your business brand (be it service or product), review the following:

1. Product differentiation.Organizations that understand their competition and take a unique position among them do better than those that understand only their customers.

Personal Brand: What makes you different? Extract and discover this so that you can communicate that to the world.

2. Coordinated communications materials. Your brand name, logo, and slogan should all be consistent in carrying out the brand development mission.

Personal brand: Do all of your communication tools send the same message, give the same impression of your brand?

3. Positive positioning. Distinguish yourself by emphasizing your brand’s most specific, coveted benefits. A good way to improve a brand’s perception is to win awards from the Chamber of Commerce, trade associations, and other reputable sources.

Personal brand: Take notice – what are you doing now to make this happen? What are the coveted benefits of working with you? If this is a difficult question for you to answer, how difficult will it be for others?

4. Brand stewardship. Brands perform well if they are championed by a friendly and authoritative figure, such as the company CEO, a celebrity spokesperson, or a mascot.

Personal brand: Confidence attracts. What do you need to do to become more confident with yourself? What do you need to be a better version of you?

5. Positive associations. Strong brands usually represent a single positive benefit. An individual or company must decide which strong attribute to hang their hat on, then deliver a cohesive message with positive associations.

Personal brand: Who and what are you associating with?

6. Quality reinforcement. Consumers aren’t always able to distinguish the quality of one product compared to another. However, for an individual or company to develop their brand, they must make sure that it is seen as being high quality.

Personal brand: You must know what you have or do that makes you the best at what you do. It is your job to be able to compile that in bit-sized pieces; your job to connect the dots; your job to communicate succinctly what you do best.

7. Brand extensions. Several successful individuals and companies develop spinoff brand extensions that generate revenue streams from a related product or service.

Personal brand: What can you do to become more known and more connected? Associations with good companies, volunteer groups and even networking clubs provide a “halo” effect where your credibility is elevated because of the good reputation of the organization (i.e. Rotary Clubs). The key to success is to be sure that you sincerely believe and support the mission or vision of the organization.

8. Perceived value reinforcement. How the marketplace perceives the value of a product or service may dictate a brand’s image more than the product or service itself. Reinforcing the value of a product or service, as customers interpret it, is key.

Personal brand: Do you have a gratitude program (such as writing thank you notes) to reinforce someone’s connection with you?

9. Memorable slogan. Every integrated identity initiative must have a slogan.

Personal brand: What’s in your word garden

Written Appreciation

Written appreciation, when sincere, is powerful.

Though great for quickly communicating with people anywhere in the world, emails and even texting sorely lack the in-person aspects of communication that have become so vital to how the human species shares ideas and opinions. This simple absence is enough to make even the most harmless email appear aggressive, even if it’s sent with the full intention of serving as a “thank you”. Because of this, it’s up to you, the sender, to make sure your texts always seem genuine and always get the message across correctly.  Written appreciation, as long as it’s sincere, is often the most valued and most memorable form of appreciation.

Grammatical Errors

Thank you’s mean more if you include the person’s name. It’s a quick, simple flourish that really sets the tone to be more intimate and personal than some generalized message not denoted to be for anyone specific. This is why it’s so important to triple check that the name is spelled correctly. A misspelled name, instead of promoting intimacy, puts the reader on the defensive since you clearly aren’t courteous enough to respect a name they’ve had since birth. This goes for all other words in the message. Correct spelling, grammar and punctuation are absolutely important for a message that you want an individual to take seriously. Let these mistake slip through, and they’ll take the thank you as callous and insincere.

Generalizations

Don’t write to the individual thanking them for the “lovely gift” or the “time spent” with them. Thank them for what they did for you specifically. Name the gift and expand on what they did with you during the time you had together. These specifics work to not only make the note more enjoyable but reminds the receiver of who you are and the good times you had together. In short, it inspires comradery should they not immediately remember what happened. This then translates into positive feelings that are now associated with both you and the note. It helps you set a tone without being able to do so physically, and that is your greatest hurdle with emails and texts.

5 Ways to Communicate Appreciation in Networking

How to truly show appreciation to colleagues and clients

Appreciation in business when you’re a solopreneur

Length

No, longer thank you’s messages are not inherently better than shorter thank you’s. In fact, the longer versions are often skimmed over and ignored immediately after.  When it comes to written appreciation, brief and sincere is most valued.

Remember, this is not a day and age where letter writing is a way to pass the time. This is a time period where time is everything. The longer something is, the less engaging it tends to be. In addition, you are not a trained writer. Your long notes will not be beautifully crafted diatribes that evoke tears. They’ll be awkward and end up repeating the same idea ten times over but with slightly different language.

Stick to what you know. Be concise. Thank them for exactly what you want to thank them for. Throw in a hope for the future. Wish them success. Be on your way. They’ll feel much more special that you both took the time to send such a message while still respecting their time.

Timing

As a rule of thumb, send your thank you text or email within 24 hours to 48 hours after an event, the gift or the meeting.  Yet, do know that a sincere thank you is appreciated anytime it’s received regardless if it’s even a month later.

Customer appreciation gives business owners the advantage

The burden of timely thank you

The human side of your brand is the most costly

Personal

People do business with people. The more personal a note is the more genuine and valued it is.  That doesn’t mean getting into personal or inappropriate stories – remember, the note (or email) is about them (what they did, specifically and what it meant to you).  A thank you note is not an additional sales piece or a chance for you to promote yourself.  The only kind of promotion that you might put in a thank you note is business card and this is really more from a standpoint of reminding them who you are or how they know you.  This is not a time to ask for referrals or even to ask for their business.  This is about sincere appreciation and not about any ulterior motives.

Appreciation in Business Cannot Overcome Toxicity

Everyone seems to really like you. You’re always supportive, never negative and never stop expressing your appreciation for the work that goes on around you. Whether your role is boss or employee, you understand that making your coworkers feel great is a necessary component of a healthy business. Yet, things aren’t great in the office. People talk behind others’ backs, apparent cliques now exist, HR seems on edge, and favoritism is running rampant. Though you try your hardest to promote a happy, healthy environment, no one can respond because of the severe level of toxicity wiping away your attempt at appreciation.  Toxicity kills any opportunity for appreciation in business.

Toxicity is a fear of every work environment. It’s something that can be sparked by an action as simple as a bad hire, leading to a snowball effect where resentment and frustration slowly build up into a boiling point, making productivity decline and good workers quit. Possibly the worst part about it is the fact that it drowns out any positivity that tries to steer things back on course. You could be the most appreciative employee to have ever existed, but without a healthy environment to express that in, your actions won’t be realized. In the end, sometimes the best form of thanks is to stop toxicity before it starts rather than focus on appreciation.

Identify
If it seems pressure is rising in the office, the first step is to identify where it’s coming from. Is it one person? Was it sparked by an event that resulted in unresolved feelings? Finding the source is an integral part of diffusing the situation. It alerts everyone to the problem, giving the entire office a cause to rally behind, once again unifying the culture. Just be sure this unification doesn’t go too far and result in a witch hunt. Over aggression when trying to find an answer tends to be just as harmful to the people involved as ignoring the situation at hand.

Help
Assuming the problem is emanating from an employee or group of employees, it’s time to practice empathy. Sit them down in a private setting and discuss the situation at hand. Much like identifying where the toxicity was coming from in the office, steer conversation toward figuring out why the employee was acting so negatively in the first place. While it would be a wonderful world where people could immediately identify and deal with their emotions, many individuals simply don’t understand how to analyze what they feel in such a way that results in determining why they’re feeling the way they do.

In addition, be patient through this process. Many times, toxic behavior stems from a personal place, and the employee needs time to trust you enough to open up honestly about what is going on. Sometimes, the problem isn’t even work-related but they haven’t had anywhere else to go about their life stressors. If it isn’t emotional and the employee simply lacks the maturity to properly handle various situations at work, it could very well mean some sort of disciplinary action is required.

Purge
It’s not fair to your other employees if one person refuses to change their toxic attitude. Though acceptable to give the person a chance to change the problems discussed with them, it’s not acceptable to keep them on when they’ve clearly proven their unwillingness to change. After you’ve spoken with them and highlighted exactly what they’re doing and why it needs to stop, give them time to adjust. If they don’t, it’s time to let them go.

I’m not a human resource expert so I’ll leave the next step to those that do have that expertise.

Kerri Pollard, past president of Commission Junction, stated at a recent Affiliate Summit keynote, “Don’t tolerate the brilliant jerk. It will cost you too much in teamwork.”

She is so right.

Manage
Occasionally, the source of the negativity doesn’t stem from an employee but upper management. It’s in this situation where controlling and stopping the bad habits is essential for company survival. Everything done by upper management trickles down, affecting every single employee no matter their position on the ladder. Do your best to manage upward. Ask good managers with influence to help stave off the toxic behavior. This can even be as simple as keeping them removed from any and all meetings and filtering their messages to the staff.

The flip side of this situation is that senior staff usually doesn’t face any kind of threat even when told about their behavior. This then leads to a system lacking accountability where those in power can abuse their position. If they won’t change, the answer then may be to move on to a company that prides itself in a healthy culture and respects those that show appreciation.
Improve

Other times the source of frustration comes for poor internal processes. If, for instance, the process for ordering a new part for a machine in a manufacturing company is long and complicated resulting in a decrease of production the part orderer gets yelled at for, it’s understandable that a level of resentment would build up over time.

This is arguably the easiest form of toxicity to deal with as it’s not a person causing the issue. All it takes to fix is a reform of how requests are processed, something that can be implemented in days.

No matter how kind you are to others and no matter your rung on the corporate ladder, your appreciation cannot break through an office muddied by toxicity. This is why it is of the utmost importance to keep the culture happy by knowing how to deal with the different types of negativity that can arise. Keep this under control, and your employees will finally feel the full weight of the admiration you hold for each and every one of them.

Networking Tip: Pushing the Pushers

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Selling ourselves and our brand is all about presentation. Sometimes this means giving a speech in front of a crowd of interested parties, other times it calls for a cold sell to someone you’ve met mere minutes ago. While the art of selling is a great ability to have, there are those that take the effort too far during networking situations. In conversations, they are extremely pushy, refusing to let you get a word in. In front of groups, all they can talk about is how wonderful their brand is. Though these individuals can’t be avoided,  here’s the first networking tip so they can be out maneuvered so long as you know how to approach the situation.

Listen

Immediately brushing a pushy salesperson aside can swiftly open up the door to unwanted return visits. They’ll mark you as possibly interested until they get to explain the entire scenario. In order to keep your time with them to a minimum, listen to the pitch the first time. Worst case scenario, you don’t like their brand. At this point, feel free to hand them a firm “no” and be on your way. In many cases, this will get the person to move on, as they don’t want to waste their own time, either. This is because, to them, the pitch is everything. If it can’t convince you, nothing else will.

The only time you should feel free to immediately stop the pitch is if you know it’s a product you do not nor will ever need. A coffee shop owner, for instance, would find no reason to ever purchase a fancy line of staplers, so why even waste time listening to such a spiel? During this type of situation, cut the individual off immediately, explain why you don’t need to hear anymore and feel free to move on. They’ll appreciate your honesty and respect for both of your schedules.

Exchange Information

If, during this networking event, you are strapped for time, it’s far more advantageous to get around to as many people as possible rather than get bogged down with a pusher that won’t take “no” for an answer. If you’ve found yourself stuck, ask for their business card and feel free to hand yours over as well. This will offer the potential of further communication outside of the event so both of you can go on to take further advantage of the event. For salesman, this means a possible avenue. For you, this means offering a better venue to hear the sales pitch at, one where there are no time limits.

Remember that once you are in the virtual arena, you exert a bit more power over the conversation. If you never want to deal with the email address again, block it or delete the email. If there’s a bit of interest, you’ll have time to read an email with all the information you need to make an informed decision. While it still may end up that there’s no interest on your end, moving conversation to a more personal level is appreciated by any brand.

Cut the Act

If you’ve ever had to sell anything, you understand that pitches are typically rehearsed and memorized down to the last punctuation mark. This preparation shines through the pasted on smiles of someone that has set their sights on you. Before they launch into the extended version of their product’s praise, catch them off guard. Joke about seeing how they’re ready to start their spiel. Remark on how prepared they look to perform what they’ve rehearsed for so long. This typically forces the salesperson to break character, leading to a real conversation rather than a canned stint.

Knocking them out of their rhythm my sound negative, but it’s a tactic that doesn’t have to end up in bruised egos or hurt feelings. If you are genuinely interested in the brand itself, getting them to drop the sales routine is the quickest way to have a serious discussion without all the fluff. You’ll get the answers you need, they’ll get to talk about what they want to talk about and no one’s time will be wasted as they try and hook you in with an obvious charade.

Use it to Your Advantage

At the end of the day, the pushy salesman needs to make sales in order to have made a success out of the networking event. Whether it’s a definite deal on the floor or bringing back an enormous collection of business cards to the office, these individuals are severely goal oriented, putting up blinders to virtually every social cue. Instead of trying to evade an insistence that will quickly overpower your passive avoidance, use it to your advantage. They sell something you might want. So do their competitors. How can they make their offer more enticing? Poke and prod to see just what kind of a deal you can strike.

Never be against window shopping. Typically, there will be four to five other brands selling similar products with each offering their own pros and cons. Be sure to spend some time perusing the various sellers to build a list of options being offered to you. Then, bring the offers around to the other brands to see just how far each company is willing to go to match the other. They can also help you pinpoint cons about one another that would not have seemed obvious to you at the start.

Salespeople can’t be faulted for wanting to grow their brand. It’s a desire each one of us has. Unfortunately, this means there are quite a few that willingly ignore societal cues in order to get one step closer toward making a sale. If you find yourself up against one of these pushy individuals at your next networking function, do what you can to make the most of the situation. Just because they’re annoying doesn’t always mean they should be ignored.

Keeping Your Personal Brand Professional in a Shark Fight

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The higher you climb, the more fans you get. Subsequently, the higher you climb, the more people are there to point out flaws in your arguments. Openly calling someone out for misinformation has always been a practice. Whether through poetry as was popular in the 1700s or through the internet as is popular today, you can’t amass an enormous following without amassing watchdogs there to make sure your ego doesn’t climb too high.

The Set Up

Such is how it recently happened in an exchange between businessman Mark Cuban and writer Amy Vernon. In a recently published article for Inc., Vernon targeted Cuban’s new bid for wealth, an app known as Cyber Dust, systematically pointing out all of the flaws in Cuban’s argument as presented in an exclusive Inc. video. In it, Cuban paints the picture of the privacy breach we’re all scared of. After all, everything we post online is accessible by everyone, can be screen captured by everyone and, according to Cuban, will be used by companies to profile potential hires. This means who you follow, who you retweet and everyone you come into contact with online is a potential threat. Immediately following this, he goes on to describe his new app and how it will protect your information when “30 seconds after they [the receiver] open it, the message disappears.”

While a great idea in theory, Vernon caught on to a few mistakes in the video and wrote her article breaking apart the weaknesses piece by piece. In it, she’s quick to point out that “Cyber Dust absolves itself of any responsibility if a message is not removed or deleted” in addition to the company not being responsible for screen captures. She also brings up the argument that Cuban’s advice to delete past tweets is a poor decision because “if you delete them and someone has a screenshot and doctors it, you have no way of proving it’s doctored.” All in all, it was not a slanderous post so much as a warning to those quickly jumping on to an app that purported to do things it cannot.

The Exchange

The ball was now in Cuban’s court. As much of a personality and figurehead as he is, it would be poor PR to simply ignore the holes poked in the argument he presented for his app project. What came next was a very simple personal branding lesson on maintaining professionalism during such socially broadcasted spats. The same day the article was posted, the response war began in earnest. Amongst truly interested parties and diehard fans of both names, the two engaged in a battle of words and facts. By the time the dust settled, it became clear that Vernon was the real winner.

While frustrating to both sides, Vernon maintained a calm, collected voice for the debate, never slipping into emotionally charged comments. She didn’t respond much on Twitter but did so when good questions came up. All in all, her main focus remained on the questions she had raised, nothing more. Her opponent, on the other hand, did his best to provide answers but ended up taking a childish route, insulting Vernon with, “Amy the next time you do any actual research on this topic will be your first time”.

amy

The Lesson for Your Personal Brand

Arguments will inevitably happen. Not everyone can agree on everything and that’s okay. The most important thing you can take away from this exchange is the fact that professionalism is the key to protecting your brand through anything. Though Vernon’s article was not inflammatory and merely brought inconsistencies in the presentation of the product, you may very well find yourself against far more slanderous opponents unopposed to writing articles that are derogatory in nature.

Keep Your Cool

The person who gets emotional about it loses the respect of those looking or listening in.

exchange-of-ideas-222789_1280In your business or work environment, keeping a calm demeanor will be beneficial to you.  Often, individuals try to rally the crowd especially when they feel the other person is wrong.  Yet, if you try to do that by being negative or insulting to the other person you will end up losing.  That negativity clings to you and ends up tainting what ever you are saying.  When you get personal with direct attacks, it reflects negatively on you, personally.

Utilize Your Resources

Using facts, statistics and quotes can help support your findings or “side” and if you’re not an expert on the topic then do bring in resources who are and can speak to it.

Bringing subject matter experts into the conversation, causes everyone to listen carefully.  Instead of listening to reply, they are truly listening to each of the points of information shared.

When you can use logic and known experts or expert resources to support you, then not only do you elevate the discussion, you elevate your personal brand.

Keep Communication Open

Communication and debates between two people lend themselves to keeping the lines of communication open since each person involved in the conversation is trying to convince the other person and share enough pertinent information that they may concede their point.

When the argument has an audience, on Twitter, or other social sites, then the theatrics of belittling your adversary can come into play.  Keep them out if you want your personal brand to be viewed as professional.

Ridiculing your adversary attracts the same reaction as name calling and in the court of public opinion can quickly categorize you as a “bully”.

Whatever it is you’re up against, always go back to Debate 101 rules. Stick to the facts, apologize when necessary and never, ever resort to emotions. When all eyes are on you and how you’ll react to a challenger, everyone, whether they support you or not, is waiting for you to slip up by getting emotional. Through denying this, you deny your opponent any leverage against you, making you the victor. Those watching will see the person offending you as being in the wrong, and you’ll be able to continue onward without having lost support. And, you’ll keep your personal brand professional.

Works Cited

Vernon, A. (2015, 11 June). What Mark Cuban Gets Wrong About Social Media. Retrieved from Inc.: http://www.inc.com/amy-vernon/mark-cuban-is-wrong.html

Appreciation in Business: A Crime against Words of Affirmation

A Crime against Words of Affirmation

Appreciate you! Thanks bunches! Grateful man! Thank you very much!  Thanks for all you do!

Meaningless. Droll. Lifeless words that are crimes against affirmation.

This is what we see as common place phrases that are used to convey appreciation in business.

Are you guilty of these types of words of affirmation?

Have you been on the receiving end of one of those standard thank yous?

Would you much rather hear nothing than to receive this kind of thanks?

There are many who would agree with you:

And, then there are those that are more about action as opposed to words.

Would you rather hear someone’s appreciation or would you rather see it in acts and deeds?

Regardless of the delivery, for appreciation to be heard with the true intention that was meant to be delivered with it – it must be genuine.

Fake it and you’ll be dead in the water.

After reading Dr. Paul White’s and Dr. Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Languages of Appreciation, I’ve been on a mission to learn about how these are applied in business and more importantly how they are applied by the people who are face-to-face with customers and clients.

I’m interested in that intersection where knowledge becomes powerful – when it’s applied.

To assuage any possible association with these current crimes against affirmation in your appreciation:

  1. Be specific

This means that it’s more than just an “appreciate you”; “thanks bunches”; or even “muchas gracias”.

Specifically describe what it is the person did, said or a character trait about them that you are grateful for.

For example:

  1. Something they did:

“I appreciate you staying late and helping that customer with their questions.”

  1. Something they said:

“I appreciate you sharing your thoughts about our new signage.”

  1. A character trait:

“I appreciate that you take ownership of our workspace and care about if it’s kept clean and safe.”

When you’re specific, your appreciation is more terrific.

Okay, it may seem corny but it’s true.  When you can take the time to specifically list what it is that you appreciate, then the fact that you noticed and that it has some impact is communicated just by the mere fact that you mentioned it.

  1. Personal

“Thanks all y’all for everything you do.”

That’s pretty general. Very vague. And, feels like something that someone is just checking off their list of things to do for the day.

Yes, it’s also a little Texan. (And, I am Texan and feel comfortable in saying y’all – even professionally).

However, whatever regional phrases you use – Make sure your appreciation is very specific to that person.

Before you communicate your appreciation answer these questions:

  1. What did this particular person do or say that you are grateful for?
  2. What’s the best way this person likes to receive a genuine ‘thank you’?

Remember, some people like to be thanked publicly.  Others do not.

Some appreciate gifts, gift cards and even tickets to activities. Some do not and lose the cards or tickets. Or, they bury them away.

Some really like a little extra time to be heard and to make a difference.

Some like plaques and certificates. Some see those as a waste of time.

Do you know your team members or the people you connect with enough to know the best way that is meaningful to them to be appreciated?

  1. Focus on how it matters or makes a difference to you

All of us want to know that we’re valued and that we matter.

Do you want to ignite someone’s productivity, motivation and dedication? Let them know in all sincerity how they’ve made a difference in your life. For business, you might want to focus more on your “work life”.

Knowing this, you know that saying thanks – even as specific as possible – is not enough.  You need to share not only what you’re thankful for but also share how that’s made a difference in your life.

  1. Share how it matters or makes a difference to the company and your customers

How their action has made a difference to you as an individual is important. But, it also matters that they know how they make a difference to the company or to customers.

Here’s an example:

I appreciate that you took the time to help that customer with their individual questions.  It takes a load of my plate so that I can focus on growing the business. And, I know you make sure our customers feel heard and helped. Thank you!

Let your appreciation do more, mean more and be received by the person you’re giving it to with the same meaning and sincerity of the intent.

Do It Yourself Thinking is Wrong for Networking Effectively

Do you remember the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”?   There’s a story in the book about a team that was making tremendous progress in their efforts of cutting down a forest.  When the leader of the group alarmingly shouts out “wrong forest”, someone instantly hollers back “be quiet – we’re making progress.”

I come across a lot of DIYers (do it yourselfers).  When you’re dealing with budding entrepreneurs, they are often doing many things themselves.

Do if yourself is the wrong way of thinking for networking

Imagine you were setting out to network with people today.  Let’s do the math. If you allot 30 minutes to connect with someone (imagine ordering a coffee or making it through a parking lot, building and a receptionist – none of these activities all in all can be done in less than 30 minutes each).  Then factor in travel time.  How many people would you be able to connect with today?

No. I’m not oblivious to social media.  Even then, imagine you’re attending a twitter chat, connecting with people afterwards on Twitter or another social network.  How many people can you meet, connect with and really converse with in one day?

And, even though each person on Facebook is said to have, on average, 229 friends, there are less people that we actually influence even when we are well connected online.

When you make networking with others a “do it yourself endeavor” we lose the exponential benefits of other people’s influence and other people’s credibility.

When we can borrow from another’s credibility (which is essentially what happens when someone edifies you as they introduce you to a connection of theirs), we meet at an elevated level of know, like and trust which shortens the time necessary for them to sample our character and competence.

Review these tips and insights to help you shorten the connection process and make friends and influence people:

Be the expert at what you’re an expert at

If you try to do everything yourself, you’ll be mediocre at everything.

That was an early lesson for me in my business.  Like any small business owner, I started as butcher, baker and candlestick maker in my business.  I admit. Some moments – I’m still that.

Effective networking is through and with people. In order to do that, it’s imperative that you give them the room to be the expert that they’re an expert of – which is their connections and contacts. After all, they’ve developed a relationship with them and they know what matters most to their contacts (more than you do.)

You, on the other hand, know what you know best. You’re the expert of your business.

Instead of developing the connections yourself, spend your time in creating a curriculum for your contacts on:

  1. What you’re best at,
  2. How you serve people,
  3. What you deliver and
  4. How they can best refer connections to you.

Too often, do it yourselfers, focus on driving the relationship.  To succeed at and maximize the return on your networking efforts focus on your expertise which is your business and the best ways to refer you.

Synergy creates serendipity

When you’ve taught your connections the best way to connect, describe and refer you, you develop a synergy that creates powerful introductions and referrals.

Here’s how to do this – develop a one page document and in it outline:

  1. Your goals and objectives for the year
  2. Who you serve best (your target market/client)
  3. Where to find this “best client” in large numbers (associations, conferences, events)
  4. What are some of the key phrases or comments someone will say that identify them as a great connection for you.
  5. Describe the best way to introduce you
  6. Make sure to have all your contact information starting with the first (and best) way to reach you.

For example, this is what my Networking Document would look like:

Goals and Objectives:  To develop a solid base of email newsletter clients (10 new clients each month)

Target Client:  Realtors, Restaurants and Renegades (Definition of renegade: solopreneur, independent professional, inventor, author, entrepreneur)

Where to Find them:

Realtors:  Board of Realtor functions, Chamber of Commerce events

Restaurants: Chamber of Commerce special events, charity gourmet galas

Renegades: Chambers of Commerce, SBA or SBDC events, blogs and Twitter chats

Key Phrases and Comments:  I can’t get any results from social media; What are you using to send out emails?; I don’t know if anyone’s opening or really reading our newsletter

Best Way to Introduce:  A virtual introduction via email sent to both of us; Or, provide their email address and please call ahead to them about me and to expect an email from me.

Do it yourself means less control

Know that when you are working with people who are making the connections for you, that you will not be able to control the speed or the flow of the connection.

Remember, the best way to incentivize someone to assist you is to:

  1. Do the same for them
  2. Appreciate their efforts

Others have done a great job articulating this:

It is average

I liken you doing everything in relationship building and developing connections to a person who is putting out an ad about themselves and calling everyone telling them how wonderful they are.  It just doesn’t work. And, it’s was the average beginner does.

Yet, if you can work closely with a team of people who are already advocates for you and teach them the best way and who to best refer to them – the opportunities are endless.

That third party endorsement from someone that they know, like and trust could be just the thing that someone needs to know before they would ever consider even speaking with you.

Focus on networking effectively.  It will expedite your connection and even develop your relationships at a stronger more meaningful level.

Meaningful Mentions for Meaningful Attention

Twitter has kept true to its 140 character feature, which places the burden of creativity on the user. Hashtags and tweet chats have only brought more appeal to the social site, and now more than ever, business entrepreneurs, executives, and organizations are taking note and utilizing Twitter.

Twitter used correctly is a creative way for you to personally connect with people that you wouldn’t otherwise have a direct connection with. It’s also a great tool to build relationships with acquaintances.
You can reach company presidents, organization leaders and influencers in your industry in a way that establishes rapport and a chance for them to get to know you. People do business with people they know, like and trust. Enter into true conversations with people on Twitter, and you can develop know, like and trust with them.

Create Conversation

When commenting on valuable content that has been tweeted, posted, or otherwise written, be sure that your comment is thorough and self-explanatory. What made it valuable to your specific area of expertise? Don’t just recommend it; provide a reason why it is your recommendation.

When re-tweeting, expand your material by adding in valuable commentary that can be linked back to you. Re-tweets are often limited to simply saying “what they said,” yet if your strategy on Twitter is to deepen relationships then it’s important to include why that tweet or information mattered to you. It gives the thousands of people eavesdropping on the conversation the opportunity to sample your character and competence. It also gives a start to a meaningful conversation with the person you retweeted.

Think of what you would do away from the keyboard? Would you just say “ditto” or “what s/he said” every single time you quoted someone or found someone’s information or insights interesting?

As a helpful hint, when acknowledging an article, mention the author as well (using their twitter account). This is far more likely to get the author’s attention than simply mentioning or linking to their article.

Communication is the Foundation of all Relationships

With Twitter, you have the ability to engage in real time, quality conversation with existing and potential customers, referral sources and employers. It’s a great place to showcase that you’re a great listener and that you’re attentive.

Twitter is the perfect way to provide information that is mutually beneficial to both you and those you want to connect with. Deviating from the usual “self-promoting” material, an individual that gives its followers links, resources, and information that helps them in their every day journey is more likely to be viewed as a reliable and credible source of information than someone that doesn’t do the same.

What about Hashtags and Twitter Chats?

Hashtags are great tools to focus your conversation to a particular subject, industry or even group of people. Let’s be clear that this needs to be done purposefully. Merely hashtagging for attention can be detrimental to building relationships. Now that we can “mute” people on Twitter, those merely blabbering for attention as opposed to sharing something meaningful (to them or to their connection) will be the first ones silenced.
Remember, before you jump in, what is your message and what’s the specific group (or people) that you would like to reach/connect with.

Twitter chats are a great place to make connections. Research ongoing and upcoming chats to see which topics and which chat participants make sense for you spend time in. When you’ve done that homework up front, it makes your Twitter chat experience more productive and can build relationships, friendships, referral sources and even partners.

My Personal Twitter Story

In 2008, I jumped into Twitter to learn more about the platform. I quickly found #journchat (a chat of journalists and editors from around the world). My purpose, at that time, was to get to know these journalists so that I could submit press releases to them for my clients. It was in #journchat that I met Sarah Evans and Peter Shankman. I learned from their public relationships tips, found great value in learning of and signing up for Peter’s HARO (Help a Report Out) daily email blast of story and interview opportunities. The great value in the conversations, connections and resources (plus, the heads-up on who to avoid) were priceless knowledge that I, alone, would never have had access to.

It was 11 months later that I decided to create my own Twitter chat, #brandchat. The focus of #journchat was great but it did not fulfill my interest and focus on brands, marketing and my passion for learning and working with entrepreneurs who started a business on their personal brand and then evolved it into a company brand. It was shaky at first and there were more than a couple of times I wondered “am I just talking to myself?” We waffled between conversing about personal brands and company brands. It wasn’t until I became dedicated to the fact that #brandchat would focus on the company brands and the people who make up those brands that the chat started to grow.

Fast forward to now, we’ve been chatting weekly for five years strong! If it wasn’t for Twitter chats, I would not have met (away from the keyboard)  Sarah Evans at the PubCon conference (she gave me a book and addressed it to a fellow Twitter chat queen!); or Gary Nix (brandchat’s moderator and chief brandarchist); or Brandie McCallum (the connection queen) or Sam Fiorella (an amazing brand sensei), or Emily Crume (Social Media Examiner) or Debbie Miller (Social Hospitality) at the NMX Conference; or Monica Wright (MarketingLand), Amy Vernon (#SMEtiquette)  and Kevin Mullett (Cirrus ABS) at the SMX Conference.

Being able to meet and chat with people you want to know or aspire to connect with, and to know that they will respond to a tweet or email that I send, is exactly what Twitter as a launchpad could mean to your connectability.

One of my favorite quotes – “It’s not who you know or what you know – it’s who knows you, well.”

If you’re thinking about launching a Twitter chat, I can help.

I’ve added some of my best tips on my YouTube Channel. 

twitterchats

Are You Missing Important Steps in Making Connections?

You’ve done the proper research on your business, set up the appropriate social media networks to reach out to your audience, and even attended a few networking events in person, probably to get your name out there. Problem is, making connections seems harder than you thought, and so far your results are not something you want to talk about. Could you be missing something in your interactions, both on social media and in person?

Turns out, you actually could be doing some things wrong, or not doing them at all. Let’s see how we can remedy that:

On Social Media

A lot of entrepreneurs forget that social media was built for that same purpose: a place for social interactions. The more “marketing-minded” you are on social media, the less returns (sales, connections) you get from it.

The real value of social media, especially in terms of making connections, comes after you’ve posted a blog, article, video, or presentation for the audience to dig into. How you follow up after this determines the level of trust you build with others, which ultimately lead to better, valuable connections.

So, shift your mind from being “always about selling,” and instead look to build a community of loyal followers. Here’s how you do it.

1. Reply personally to every comment, update, or tweet

When you take the time to personally respond to clients’ (potential and existing) posts, they feel valued and are more likely to connect with you. Mention them by name when replying, and basically anyone else reading the post will leave with the impression that you value all your followers.

2. Gauge their interest

Sometimes, in your bid to sell your brand to potential customers, you go overboard and end up ruining your chances of making a connection. You have to be smart and gauge interest before deciding to open the floodgates and bombard customers with information. Just like in real life when you approach someone, don’t overplay your hand. Slowly learn the basics, like names and likes/preferences, before moving on to the deeper stuff, like if they would want to try out your product or service.

Conversely, know when to stop. If a potential connection tells you they need time before getting back to you, respect their decision.

3. Numbers are deceiving

Getting a huge following on Facebook or Twitter is nice, if you are a teenager hell bent on winning the daily popularity contests. When it comes to personal brands, quality and not quantity, matters. It is better to have a hundred loyal followers who would gladly show up to your next product presentation whilst shouting your brand from the rooftops, than a few thousand whose only contribution is clicking the “thumbs up” icon next to your every Facebook post, with no comment to boot.

Look to cultivate meaningful relationships, and not just grow numbers.

Be selective in who you go after, because not everyone is a great connection. [tweet this]

This also applies when you are looking to make a connection with industry leaders and influencers. Carefully do your homework about them, and start off slow by casually commenting on their posts. Keep the comments to a minimum at first, as you gradually build your profile as a knowledgeable person who would like to get one-on-one advice from the personality.

In Person

Basically, much of the tips mentioned above work when it comes to making personal connections. Research on your potential connections, and slowly look to make a connection with them. Because people will actually get to see the person behind the brand, make sure that you really convey what you say your brand is. For entrepreneurs, you are your business’s prime spokesperson, and people will judge you and the business at face value, especially when they don’t know you.

Know what you want out of making a connection. It helps if you have a clear goal in mind before you set out to meet someone. In business situations especially, you don’t want to appear aimless. Your goals let your potential connections who you are and why they should take the time to know you.

Categorize all the new connections you make. Some people you meet will be influencers and industry leaders, while others are bridges (they connect you with others who you wouldn’t otherwise meet) and links (mutual people between you and potential connections that can vouch for your credibility). When you have a clear idea as to how each connection can help, then your efforts are likely to be more targeted.

Making connections is not hard, both on social media and in person, you just have to know which pitfalls to avoid. Not having a clear goal when meeting new people will almost always doom your efforts, just as is being too “salesy” and pushy will scare potential connections away. Take the time to know people, and you’ll be rewarded with valuable, loyal connections that will be instrumental to your growth and reach.

The Secret to Making Networking Work

Some people love it while others hate it, but it can’t be denied that networking is an essential part of business and socialization. This is how you form meaningful relationships with other people, whether they’re your clients, business partners, colleagues or even your bosses.

But there is such a thing as networking the right way. You want to make sure that you network effectively, which means connecting with the other person in a good way. You don’t want to leave anyone feeling used and abused in your attempts to make that person a part of your network.

As you know, people remember how you make them feel. The interaction between the two of you becomes the basis for your relationship. Here are some tips to help you effectively network and connect with other people.

1. Be yourself

Don’t attempt to be someone you’re not. People are a lot smarter these days, and no one likes talking to someone who appears artificial or fake. In networking situations, remember that people typically enjoy being informal and relaxed. So you don’t have to have a script ready whenever people talk to you. What’s better is to be spontaneous and genuine – show off the real you.
Most people don’t really do business with just anybody – they would only do so with people whom they really know and genuinely like. So be authentic; show off who you really are, and you may be surprised that you are able to connect more with people.

2. Be friendly and approachable

The key to networking effectively is to be friendly. You don’t have to be the life of the party, but you should look approachable, introduce yourself to people, and listen attentively when someone speaks to you. When you make people feel good around you, then they will flock to you more.

3. Be interested in what other people are saying

Though you may be networking to increase your business contacts or clients, it shouldn’t always be about you. You should also listen and appear interested in what the other person is saying – don’t be one-dimensional.
The great thing about networking is engaging in two-way conversations with other people, so it becomes a win-win situation. So even if you’re promoting yourself, your business or product, make sure that you do this sparingly and within the context of the conversation.

4. Think quality, not quantity

Though the more people you know, the merrier you may be, when it comes to networking, quality is more important than quantity. Knowing and connecting with the few right people is a lot more important than creating less meaningful relationships with dozens of people.

When you network, whether for personal and professional reasons, it’s important that you be yourself, be approachable, be interested in what other people are saying, and think quality, not quantity. Sometimes, it’s not even about what you tell other people – more people will remember you by how they felt interacting with you, so make sure that you make them feel good and not used or abused.