Category: Personal Word of Mouth

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

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

With Great Networking Comes Great Responsibility

Networking Strategy MeetingsIt’s easy to be the one at a networking event littering the place with your business cards, belting out a chorus of “me, me, me”, and treating people as if they were things instead of people.

I recently witnessed it at a networking event.

It was conference and it was the welcome mixer.  Everyone was mixing, mingling, and there were occasional heartfelt reunions where you would see genuine hugging and laughter.  I had my own as a saw a friend of mine and fellow BRANDido (term of endearment of those who participate in #branchat – a Twitter chat all about branding).

Then, there was that guy.  You know – the one who wants to meet all the “important people”.

I didn’t have speaker on my badge. And, he didn’t recognize the business so he said his hello, how are you, is this your first time at this conference and quickly disengaged.

But, before he left he asked for my Twitter handle so we can follow each other (which is code for so you can follow me).

Then, he stopped where he was walking to.  Our digital manager pegged it first.  He leaned over to me and said, “he just read your Twitter profile and now you’re someone worth knowing.”

And, he turned around and asked me – so you are the head of #brandchat?

Sorry mate! Those kind of networkers are a dime a dozen.  Sadly, I don’t even remember his name to try to disguise it for this post.

They are the card collectors and the people who work through and use people.  If you’ve ever seen the movie, The Internship, he’s the Grant.

Don’t be that guy.

Top 6 Things Bad Networkers Do (And How to Not Be Like Them)

Eight Signs You’re A Terrible Networker

What Good Networkers Do… and Don’t Do

4 Places Where You Should Not Be Networking

Look at the person not the name tag

I have always said that you never know who someone is, who they will become or who they influence.

Then, I come across those networkers that are reading name tags, or follower count, fans or even titles to gauge if someone is “worth” talking to.

In order to make good connections, people have to have the opportunity to sample your character and competence and you must also take the opportunity to sample someone else’s character and competence.  This means getting to know them.

It’s also good to burn useless bridges, according to Gregory Ciotti.

“This skill is an absolute must to learn.

Eventually, you’re going to come across “leeches,” people who you’ve connected with but don’t see the relationship as give-and-take, more like, “How much can I get out of you?”

Networking is supposed to help you grow your business by meeting genuinely awesome people, not create a network of vultures who only reach out to you when they need something.

Cut these people off, and fast, you don’t need anyone holding you back.”

8 Networking Skills that Every Professional Needs to Have

Networking the Right Way: People Remember How You Make Them Feel

The 5 Keys to Networking Online Successfully

Be in the now

How many times have we heard that grunt of “uh huh” or that “oh yeah” that didn’t really have any meaning behind it.

At a networking event, if you’re thinking who this person could connect you with or what you can get from them, it’s tough to focus on the “now”.

When your mind is in the future, it is busy strategizing and you cannot hear and be fully present to the person that you’re with.

7 Tips for Networking

13 Things Mindful People Do Differently Every Day

Focus on Your Connection and Conversation

How can you help?

Do you know how you help others?  And, how do you deliver value to their lives?

When you network, if you help people in any aspect of their lives they see you as someone who can be helpful – regardless of the area of their life they need help.

It is the authentic desire to help that makes all the difference.

It is why when you network that quality beats out quantity.  If you can have a quality conversation with someone (one where you learn what they need help with our how you can help), and if you leave your “sales focus” at the door and focus on the person, you can not only develop the “know, like and trust” factor faster, you can solidify a relationship and loyalty.

It’s not givers gain

I’ve never liked that phrase.  It sounds like the motive is to gain something and in order to do that you’ll give something in exchange.

It seems very transactional and not relational.

Any networking event I’ve gone to when that’s chanted has felt like a group of people swarming others to find out “what makes them tick” and then to descend upon that information with the goals of giving something and expecting reciprocation in return.

It just never felt right.

In fact, it often brought to mind a question and answer lesson a good friend of mine, Jose Zertuche, would always share with me. He would ask, “What’s the difference between a salesperson and a con man especially when both can be so charismatic?”  His response, “intent”.  What’s your intent?

In giver’s gain, the intent to me seems solely focused on the giver with the focus (from the get go) to get that other to reciprocate.

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.

5 Things You Need to Stop Doing Now to Create Strong Connections in 2015

I know, I know – the year’s just barely halfway through and now I’m writing about next year’s activities.  You can start now to put the foundation and resources in place so that you’re one step ahead of everyone.

Making Connections Work for Your Brand (and more importantly for you, it’s important to create strong connections)

You probably have heard the expression “people do business with those they know and trust.” It’s true. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with sales pitches, sales offers and an endless stream of online updates and messages, it’s the people you trust and have personal connections with that are likely to come through for you.

Ask any senior level executive, industry leader or even politician which skill plays a big part of their success – and a large majority will say making connections/networking. If you want to grow your brand, making the right connections is crucial.

As you embark on making meaningful connections, you realize that not everyone in or associated with your brand might have the same networking skills as you do. People are different, and where you might excel in communicating with others, some of your team members might not do so well. As a brand, you want to portray a unified front, so identifying members who may need a little work on their networking skills is important.

Do you need to develop your connection skillset? Here are some helpful articles for you to develop a foundation for online and offline connections:

The Importance of Connections

Why is making connections so important?

For starters, no man is an island. You need people around you to help you grow, learn and to share information with. But further from the team that helps your brand grow, you need people that will buy into the strategy and vision you have set out. For this to happen, a connection has to happen first.

Meaningful connections will share the vision that you have, and through word of mouth communicate it with others they interact with. A positive word dropped here and there works wonders for your brand. Also, it is through such connections that you start establishing your business contacts.

Through connections, you are able to understand the best practices and trends in your industry or area of expertise. Attending conferences and meetings allows you to interact with thought leaders and experts, and by making connections you learn the best methods and resources to use to deliver results effectively and efficiently.

The importance of developing relationships around your brand:

1.  Stop trying to look big

Be real, be human

Let your brand portray a human side. Be real and genuine in your messaging and approach. Know the target audience you cater. You are a good starting point of the ideal audience, so think what would appeal to you. How would you like to be approached?

It’s all about engaging with people and making meaningful, genuine connections. Listen and learn, and you’ll be on your way to creating the kind of connections you want.

Small business owners, this is where you excel.  Keep from wasting that by trying to look big and putting large business practices in place that encumber your responsiveness.

To Do Item:  Remain agile, responsive and human in your interaction. 

2.  Stop acquiring more connections than you can cultivate

Earlier I wrote that you need Stop Meeting People to Be Known and Get Referred and that’s a practice that you need to put into place before 2015.

Superficial connections, huge lists of contacts, and putting everyone that we meet into our database only becomes problematic, unmanageable and stressful to us.  It also takes away from the great connections that we could possibly make with others since all of our energy is often squandered away in trying to manage everyone we have contact with.

To Do Item:  When it comes to relationship building, less is more.

3.  Stop thinking it’s a numbers game.

It’s important to be strategic in our connections and in order to do that we have to know what it is we uniquely deliver to a connection.  When we know what it is we know or uniquely bring to any connection, then we can begin to develop relationships with others who can be a part of our support network, referral or information network.  Variety trumps quantity.   Developing stellar connections, means looking for others who have additional information or perspective that can lend itself to our growth and understanding.  It’s not about seeking others who speak from the same beliefs or even same knowledge background.

To Do Item:  Know your unique skills and perspective to strategically seek others who can complement us.

4.  Stop developing boundaries around your roles

When you have a variety of connections that can be helpful to others, you are in a perfect position to be a “hub” of resources to your connections.  Stop separating your resources by roles.  A great event planner at your church could be a stellar connection for customer in need of some ideas or connections on planning an “open house” event for their business.  A great volunteer you connect with at a non-profit who knows all the ins and outs of a word processing software, could be a great resources or even trainer to your team members (or connections) on knowing all the shortcuts in using this software.

To Do Item: Reach across the many roles you play in your life from PTA parent to member of the board of directors – bringing people together across a variety of roles is a valuable skillset.  

5.  Stop guarding your resources

In a minute you can Google most anything that you want to know more about so the days of keeping a resources or piece of information “top secret” are fleeting. When you can recognize problems or opportunities, and provide solutions you elevate your value in someone’s mind.  I’m not saying to “give the farm away”. What I’m recommending is when you find a great tool to help someone solve a problem, then share the information with them.

In positioning people who are experts in their field, you often here this statement, “identify the problem before they even know about that problem and you’ll be seen as an expert.”  The same belief applies here. Identify a solution or resource before they even know where to begin seeking assistance and you’ll be seen as a valuable connection.

To Do Item:  What resources have you been using, that you could inform someone about that would assist them? Start getting into a habit of reviewing your resources and sharing how people can acquire the resource for themselves. 

3 Practices That Elevate You as a Leader in Intelligent Connections

This past week I participated in a Community Manager Hangout and enjoyed learning more from fellow community developers.  It was a learning moment along with lots of affirmation of practices that I myself actually do along with practices that I train/coach others on. As I listened to the other panelists, I kept wondering why the title they’ve been given for their profession is community “manager”. After all, a community is created of individual people.  And, for a long time, I’ve tried to live a life engaged with others with this thought in mind, “Manage Things; Lead People”. 

This amazing group of individuals don’t just “manage” their community – they lead, nurture, care, feed, encourage, inspire and motivate their community members.  Why chance managing people and leaving them to feel like numbers, unimportant and mere statistics to a business?  A beautiful practice that was mentioned on the Hangout to increase their own creativity in their own community development was to continually people watch.  In dealing with online relationships, it’s easy to forget some of the basics in human interaction.  After all, you’re dealing with a realm that interacts at the speed of thought, the anonymity of behind the screen conversations and first interactions that are often complaints and concerns.  When you engage in watching people interactions in the offline world, it helps remind you of some of the nuances in relationship building that are second nature for us in face-to-face interactions but not easily read or shared in keyboard interactions.

As you strive to make more intelligent connections, along with people watching, here are some great articles to help you focus on using your online and offline resources to strengthen and build relationships:

Here are three practices to implement immediately to strengthen your connections:

  1. Know Your S.O.A.R.

We often hear of the S.W.O.T. analysis in business.  SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.  While this is widely used as a way to assess many business situations, I prefer, when you’re making connections, to not give life to the negative.  Sometimes when you look for the threat you often find it or even inadvertently develop the circumstances that create it.

I, personally, focus on a S.O.A.R. analysis.  SOAR stands for Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results.

It’s imperative that you know your Strengths. This is your unique promise of value that you alone deliver to each and every situation and interaction.  It doesn’t matter the environment – that’s your strength area and deliverable.

Then, it’s also your job to know and seek your Opportunities.  What’s available to you now? What current networks are you already involved in? What connections do you already have that might need to be developed?

Aspirations are your goals. They are what you want to accomplish coupled with the “why” you want to accomplish them.

And what Results do you want? What’s the end game? What’s the definition of success for you and how will you know you’ve achieved it?

I could go on but my colleague, Peter Sterlacci, does an excellent job covering the topic completely and here’s another article that also focuses on your S.O.A.R.

For you to make the best and strongest connections, ever, you will need to S.O.A.R. first.

  1.  Empower others and build community with them

When you empower and encourage others, their sense of belonging to a community and being a valued member increases.  I’m not asking you to be a community developer, but I am recommending that you act as a community developer.

If you are the hub of information, resources and support, you become a valuable resource and ally to others.  Understand that being that hub must come from a place of sincerity and if it doesn’t then it will be the opposite of empowering and actually demotivating to others.

How can you empower others?

  1. Let go of the reins and let them steer, provide input and feedback.
  2. Encourage opportunities for sharing thoughts and ideas.
  3. Listen actively. This means listening for feeling and not just the words.  The best advice I ever received from someone about communicating in text mode is to:

Read first for the words and the content; Read second for the feeling and the context. (tweet this!)

  1. Know when your own personal idiosyncrasies or frames of reference might be getting in the way of you fully providing credence to someone’s thoughts.
  2. Be coherent to your own values.  Consistency is often thrown around as something you want to be (I’ve used it myself).  Yet, I recently learned that being coherent allows you to adjust and grow while still utilizing your values as a guidepost and the very essence of who you are. They are still your non-negotiables but they are not stagnant.

Here’s where I heard about brand coherence and a few other great lessons:

  1.  Loyalty matters and goes both ways

It does. Stephen Covey said it well in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, when he said “retain the loyalty of those people in the room by not speaking ill of those people outside of the room.”

You solidify trust when someone has the opportunity to sample your character and competence and they see coherent behavior.  They develop an affinity for you when they see the sum of all your attributes is congruent with what you say.  Reputation is currency these days and it’s that currency that will finance third party endorsements and positive word of mouth.

If interactions do not feel personalized, then people will not take you personally to their personal circle of influence or provide their personal recommendations.

I extend this thought as you take online relationships and turn them to offline meetings. During the Hangout, I mentioned going to conferences for the sake of the “hallway conversations”.  Those hallway interactions are far more valuable than the content inside the meeting rooms. While I do value the training, if my purpose for going to an event/conference is to network.  Then, it’s my work to reach out to the people and relationships that I want to develop further.

It’s easy to be distracted by the celebrity hype at some of these events.  A huge name makes an appearance, a star/guru imparts amazing wisdom on us and there’s a book signing to boot! Remember, that the true value is in the relationships that you form and strengthen during the event.  The value is not in those one off selfies of you and the “star”.  It’s the selfies of you and the person who’s been your online supporter for the last three years (Gary J. Nix); or the person who created a loyalty program for your chat that’s become a foundation of your twitterchat (Gerald Moczynski, I’m In Stitches LLC); or the person that selflessly connects you with others and is a bright morning smile each and every day you jump online (Brandie McCallum).

Quick Tip: When going to a conference or face to face event, don’t just go “hoping” to meet people.  Go with a plan and be strategic.

  1. Invite people that are already in your online circle who may be going or be from the area to meet AFK (away from the keyboard).
  2. Look to see who the speakers, authors, presenters are and make a “hit list” of who you would like to meet and develop a relationship with further.  These people can be great allies along with provide cutting edge information since they are keeping a finger on the pulse of your industry.
  3. Look for the conference organizing staff’s names and other industry leaders and make it a point to be in those sessions, lunches, meetings, break times with them to develop at first awareness of who you are and then listen intently as you learn and develop relationship.

I made this video for a specific online networking group, but the practice I outline in it can apply to any face-to-face event.  Alignable Members Tutorial:  An Easy Way to Make the Most of Your Alignable Membership

I would appreciate hearing your own stories of how you take the lead in your own relationship and connection development. Please share them in the comments section!

4 Easy Steps to Crafting Your Vital Connection Story

The cornerstone of connections is the relationships we develop that compel others to connect us with their circle of influence and speak positively on our behalf.

The cadence of relationship building is tempered by the opportunities that someone has to get to know you and to sample your character and competence.  One of the ways to accelerate this is being able to tell a story in a succinct way that elicits emotions, creates a stronger connection with others and even inspires them.

Here are some solid posts about the importance and scarcity (and value) of those with great relationship building skills.

Brevity is key

It’s easy (and annoying) to be a lengthy story teller.  When you’re consistently singing out “me, me, me, me, me” you’ll quickly find people disconnecting from and even avoiding you.

Getting to the point or the interesting aspects is important in your story telling, your profiles and your social networks.

I coach and train on creating a solid core network strategy, developing next relationship steps. While many can make friends, many waste time or create as they go and don’t know how to develop a solid social portfolio.

Here are the four key components to crafting a powerful connection story:

Step One:  Give the Background (in short form)

This is your “once upon a time”.  It gives the listener a frame of reference and literally brings them to the same page where your story starts.

Imagine your best customer and be able to describe them demographically along with their wants, interests and networks and put that at the beginning of your story.

It sets the stage for your connections to understand the main character (what your best client looks like and sounds like) and aligns that character with their own hopes, anxieties and dreams.

Step Two:  Share the Conflict

The conflict in a story is the struggle.  It’s what suddenly happens that challenges your main character.  Picture your best customer or something that you recently accomplished, what is the problem you solved or it solved.  Communicate what that problem is in this section of your storytelling.

Be very detailed in this section (yet still brief!)  You want your listener to see themselves and their struggle in this character and conflict.

Step Three:  Describe the Turning Point

This point in the story is when things finally start to move in a different direction and it may not always be a positive direction. But, in your case and your vital connection story – more than likely it will be a positive turn for the better that you were involved in creating.

From here, things start to work themselves out in the story.

Step Four:  The Resolution

This is the solution.  It’s the “happily ever after”.  Describe what happened, how you helped and how this benefited your client.  Connect the dots for your listener.

Here’s an example:

Step One – The Background:  There was this entrepreneur who felt she was continually “making it up as she goes along” as she built and developed relationships.

Step Two – The Conflict:   Then, she started to get a few more clients.  Not enough to make a huge impact on revenue but enough to keep her too busy to market. When those customers left, she had no more customers and no more prospective potential customers to call on.

Step Three – The Turning Point:  I helped train her to create a strategy so that she was making the necessary connections of people who consistently refer business to her and coached her on developing those relationships.

Step Four – The Resolution:  Her business, for the last two years, has hit a consistent level of revenue growth making marketing simpler for her, easily do-able, more effectively and profitably producing results.

Your turn!

Please share your four step story below.  I look forward to reading them!

Stop Meeting People to Be Known and Get Referred

How often have you heard this – it’s a numbers game?  Or, it’s not what you know it’s who you know?  Follow this advice and you’ll be working harder not smarter.

If you want to be known and to be referred, you need to stop meeting people and trim down those numbers.

Listen to the whole truth – it’s not what you know or who you know, it’s who knows you well.

Too often, we’re racing for more connections, business cards, filling buckets of people that we need to get to know, counting likes and rejoicing at the thousands of twitter followers we have when none of that really matters.

What matters most are the people you connect with and having a solid and trusted relationship with them.  Relationships take time. It takes valuing the other person so much so that you’re not checking your phone for the text that came in nor are you half listening to someone as you scroll through your newsfeed.

The secret to getting referred and being known is to stop playing the numbers game and focus on the quality of your connection.

Here are some best practices in developing those solid relationships:

How Well Do You Know Who You Already Know

You’re already connected with people.  How well do you know them?

Are they merely warm bodies in your database that you know barely anything about? Do you have lots of fun together yet have no idea what each other even does for a living, cares about or even what you’re working towards?  Or, are they someone who knows you well but you don’t know them very well.  Do you know their hopes, dreams, desires or definition of success?

The quality of your relationships to the people you call “connections” on your list will determine the quality of your business.

And, yes, make every day, every connection and moment count.  In order to do that, you have to identify and know who you’re connected with, how to connect with them, and what matters most to your connections.

Identify Who You Need to Know Better

A big obstacle to making meaningful connections with those you know is that you don’t know who you know.  Or, you don’t know how to contact the people you know.

A clean and up-to-date database of your connection’s contact info is vital.  How can you reach out to someone or share a good piece of information (or even send a referral to them) if you have an outdated email address or mobile number?

Even though CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools are often seen just for “customers” they are not limited to that.  Staying in close contact with our connections is vital to our success whether we’re a professional, job seeker or a small business owner.

Create a Strategic Getting to Know You Plan

Maintaining relationships is key to your personal success.  How often have we made a connection and developed it and then failed to nurture it?

Often in my work as the Editor-in-Chief of the Personal Branding Blog (and it is a strictly volunteer gig), I come across authors who are really amazing individuals.  And, no matter the number of books they’ve written or how “famous” they may be, they take the time to personally care and get to know people they work with.

Recently, I personally chatted on the phone with Debra Benton and Beth Kuhel, both outstanding authors in their own right and wonderful contributors to the blog.  They each cared enough to call me and get to know who I am, what I do exactly and how they can assist me in making what I do easier so that we all experience success with the blog.

The late Maya Angelou said it best, “people will not remember what you did, they may not remember what you said but they will always remember the way you made them feel.”

Do you have a plan for connecting with others? Do you know their goals, activities, interests and networks they are already involved in?  Do you know what the next steps are in creating a deeper relationship with them?

Are they a warm body, a mere acquaintance, a good associate or a great referral and connection?  And, more importantly, do you know where they’re at in the relationship building scale?

If you’re interested in learning more about the Relationship Building Scale or Relationship Building System, let me know.  I’ll have a free webinar coming up soon that I can definitely share with you!

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