Tag: networking

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

5 Ways to Communicate Appreciation in Networking

Communicating genuine appreciation has been on my mind lately.

And, it’s a good thing since I appreciate any opportunity to focus on the good and the good things of connecting with other people

In networking with others, it is about forming friendships and alliances.  It is about seeing who is a good fit with your values, your business and your business goals.

Realistically we know that good networking takes work.

When someone’s taken the time to meet with you, converse with you or carry a conversation further than a mixer, how do you communicate appreciation in a way that meaningful to them and therefore more valuable?

#1 – Write your appreciation to them

A handwritten note still speaks volumes and is valued more than a quick thank you email, text or even a voice message of thanks.

Why E-Mail Will Never Replace the Handwritten Note

The Forgotten Power of Handwritten Notes

Some things are not meant to be simply digital.

When writing out your appreciation, it doesn’t need to be lengthy it just needs to be specific and personal.

Identify what it is that they did that you appreciate.  It’s not enough just to say “I appreciate you” or “Thank you”.  Take the time to be specific and identify what it is they did.

Then, go into how it helped you and then in the last sentence how it made a difference.

The structure is this by each sentence is:

  1. Thank them and state what you are specifically thanking them for
  2. How that has helped you.
  3. How it has made a difference.

For example:

“Thank you for taking the time to chat on the phone with me today.  You really helped me to understand what the holidays mean for your business.  Your insights really give me a better understanding of your schedule and give me some ideas on how I can help save you time.  Thank you for your help!”

#2 – Spend some quality time with your contact

All though handwritten notes are by far the most popular and meaningful way to express sincere appreciation to a networking connection – they are not the only way.  And, they are not always the best.

For some, having someone spend some uninterrupted quality time with them can say “thank you” more than any note could.

This could happen as a group like at a sports game or event. Or, even a group of connections going to lunch together.

Or, it could take place one-on-one as a meeting or even over coffee.

For some, just having someone slow down long enough to hear them and to value their time or company, is the highest form of appreciation they could ever receive.

Nothing says “I appreciate you” more than an investment of your time, especially because everyone knows how busy you are.

#3 – Do something that they want done for them in return

Have you ever heard the term – words are cheap?

Or this one – actions speak louder than words?

Those come from someone who would feel appreciated when someone provide an act of service to them to helpout.

Imagine that a networking contact of yours who has truly been helpful to you is completely swamped with work and cannot even get a chance to check a sporting schedule or potentially a great restaurant s/he would like to take the family to.

What if you went ahead and research the schedule and sent it to them?  Or found some great reviews on family friendly restaurants and sent that link to them or even provided them a contact name/phone number of someone at that restaurant.

Sometimes those kind acts of service are exactly the language of appreciation that someone would here.

Recently, I spoke at an event and was in the buffet line with a fellow speaker who within our 10 minutes in the line provided such a wealth of knowledge to me that I was genuinely grateful.  I then asked him what he was working on that I might be able to help with because I did appreciate his willingness to help me and answer my questions so thoroughly.  He responded that he was working on his first book and provided me some details.   I sent him a book on how to get started and the name of a book writing coach and publicist that could help him.  He called me and said what I provided him just really showed him how grateful I was for his help.

#4 – Gifts can show them how appreciative you are.

Not everyone is excited about receiving gifts.  But for those who are, be sure that the gift is specific to them. Sending golf balls to someone who doesn’t golf, is not a great way for you to show your appreciation and value for them.

If you send them specialty coffee and they’re not a coffee drinker, it could potentially hurt the relationship mores that it would nurture it leaving them feeling like you really don’t know them and you haven’t really been paying attention or listening to them.

The Problem with Gifts of Appreciation

#5 – Attaboys, Fist-bumps and Pats on the back

These are normally spontaneous but remember to give someone something like these after you know what they prefer.

Extending a fist bump to someone who’s not familiar with a fist bump can be quite awkward.

Fist bumps can’t replace handshakes: Your Say

Keep these five ways that your appreciation can be heard and received with the gratitude that you intended.

Any others’ that you’ve come across not mentioned here?

Please mention them in the comment section below.

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.

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!

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.