Friday, October 7, 2016
5 Influencers Share How They Used Networking to Grow Their Personal Brands
Your personal brand is how the world perceives you. With that in mind, it’s smart to control the way you build your brand so nothing is left to chance or interpretation. As people begin to recognize you based on your interactions and the content you share, they’ll be able to identify your brand with a certain level of expertise.
The challenge is getting your brand to the point where it’s immediately recognizable and your name is spread through connections without your direct influence. There are a number of ways to build a personal brand, and one of the most effective methods is direct networking.
Networking, whether in person or online, is one of the best ways to improve your brand perception and visibility while maintaining careful control over how you’re perceived by the public. It’s a valuable, one-on-one interaction that other methods lack, such as guest posts or community discussions.
Most professionals prefer networking over other methods of connecting with their peers and audiences: 85% of business professionals say that they are able to build stronger, more meaningful relationships during in-person business meetings and conferences.
Here is some great advice from five influencers who used networking to grow their personal brands.
1. Become a Connector
“The best way to expand your network is by introducing people in your network with each other,” writes Syed Balkhi of OptinMonster. “You will quickly realize not only does this help you improve your relationship with existing folks in your network, but the reciprocity factor of introductions will help you grow your network a lot faster.”
Growing the connections of others and introducing them to people you believe can bring them value shows that you’re interested in more than just yourself. Your connections will be far more likely to remember you, recommend you, and keep you in mind when they need work after you’ve helped them grow or provided a good contact in a pinch.
2. Don’t Spend All of Your Time in Industry-Specific Groups
“I attended an event where one of our prospective clients was speaking,”writes Gay Gaddis, CEO and Founder of T3, the largest woman-owned independent advertising agency in the country. “I sat on the front row and after his speech, I was the first person to meet him after he spoke, which gave me a chance to hold a meaningful conversation based on the speech he just gave. Within a week, we got a call from him and today his company is a major client.”
An industry-specific group is a great way to meet others who you could collaborate with, but don’t spend too much time there. Diversify the events you attend and go outside of your industry. There are likely other markets where your audience is waiting. When you get into those spaces, there is far less direct competition, which means you’ll have more opportunities for uninterrupted one-on-one engagement.
3. Consistently Work to Build Your Network
“A friend of mine used to work at a large research hospital; it was a sprawling institution with countless divisions and initiatives,” writes Dorie Clark, marketing strategist and speaker, and professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. “She made a simple commitment: each week, she’d ask a person from a different office or department to lunch. Often, she’d meet them initially at company meetings or through project work; if the suggestion to have lunch together didn’t arise naturally, she’d tell them about her project, and they were almost always intrigued enough to join her. Within a few months, she had begun to build a robust network inside her organization – on her own, quiet terms.”
Building a personal brand is an ongoing process. In addition to social engagement and online content production, you need to fill your calendar with a constant stream of events to attend. These can be huge events like the annual Content Marketing World, or smaller local and regional events.
If you can’t find an appropriate meetup or event to attend, then start your own to bring more attention to your personal brand.
4. Focus on Helping Others
“The most common rule in the book that we were taught when we were young is to be nice to everyone and keep your ego in the back seat,” says Kelly Krause, publicist for SXSW. “I truly take every meeting … I never go into a scenario thinking, ‘How can this person help me?’ It’s just keeping the person in your back pocket so that you can call them any time. You just really never know when you’re able to help somebody or when they’re able to help you.”
If you want anything from your customers, you have to give them something first. When you provide a lot of value to a customer or solve their problem, then they’ll shout from the rooftops for you. The same concept applies to building your brand.
Your focus should always be on how you can help your connections. Don’t just view them as potential sources of revenue or stepping stones to connect to other people. When people see that you’re more interested in helping them, then they’ll be more likely to put you in touch with others in their network.
5. Be Kind and Share Great Content
“You need to be careful, as you go up in your career, of how you treat people,” says Lorine Pendleton, angel investor and director of business development for Dentons. “I will talk to our receptionist or the person who picks up our trash…it doesn’t matter. It’s really important to treat people with respect because you don’t know where they are in the totem pole and people remember how you treat them.”
Pendleton also tries to step up the value she provides to her connections by sending or suggesting articles when she reconnects with them. The content is usually based on their interactions and conversations they’ve had: “I’ll say, ‘I came across this great article…can I pick your brain on this topic?’ People are pretty receptive to that.”
Sharing content is a terrific way to improve your networking outreach and make you more memorable. It shows your new connections that you’re really paying attention to them. It also speaks volumes about your character that you took the time to find content specifically for them.
The human connection derived from networking is extremely powerful. The growth marketing dinners that I’ve hosted have been immensely successful as part of my brand-building strategy. I’ve met amazing people and developed some great friendships along the way. Now, many of those people support my messaging and spread my thoughts and ideas across many channels.
You can only take your personal brand so far with traditional marketing and branding efforts. If you want to see real growth, you’ll have to take the time to nourish real human connections through networking.
Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.
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