This is part four of a five part series of the importance of personal branding in garnering positive word of mouth. In our hyper-connected society, word of mouth has become “world of mouth” and recommendations truly craft your online and offline persona and value. It makes all the difference between positive or negative word of mouth about you, your service, or your business.
In discovering our personal brand, we found out what the perception is “out there” about us. We also extracted what made us unique, what we felt our strengths were, what others felt our strengths are and crafting a way to help those we connect with know exactly how to speak positively on our behalf. Read Personal Brand and Word of Mouth, Part 1; Personal Brand and Word of Mouth, Part 2 and Personal Brand and Word of Mouth, Part 3 – to catch any of those components you might have missed.
We are all connected. Most of us, on average, according to Sandler Sales Institute, know 200 to 250 people that we have some sort of influence over. They could be contacts such as immediate and extended family members, co-workers, and team or committee members. They also include people in industry associations, social service groups, volunteer activities and past supervisors. Yet, it extends even further to whose your child care provider, the realtor you bought/leased your home from, where you buy your office supplies, where you take your dry cleaning, your dentist, optometrist, tax preparer, eye doctor and the many professionals in their field that you purchase services from. That study doesn’t even include the many online centers of influence that are now “your connections” through LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.
So, what are your critical connections? Critical connections make a difference in the Three Ps: Personal Life, Professional Life, and your Profitability
Step 1: Take an inventory of the people that you know
One of the areas, when I work with people on making SMART connections that they don’t understand is Step 1 – you must take an inventory of the people that you know. Just like inventory in a business your connection inventory makes a difference on your personal profit line. Whether or not you own your own business or if you’re an executive or an employee with a firm or organization, who you know is an important part of your social capital. So, who do you already know? That’s the questions to ask and the point to start in identifying your critical connections.
Often I’m asked, “Maria, who do I need to know? What do I need to do? What networking events do I need to become involved with?” Start with first things first, go back into your database of clients, customers, contacts, employers, fellow employees, co-workers, people that you know in groups – review or resurrect that list. This list represents people that you have direct contact with. Key question: do you have their information and do you have current information?
This is what I call a “database cull”. When someone reviews their database, they realize they have people at positions they haven’t been at in the last 4-5 years, wrong phone numbers, old email addresses, wrong cell phone numbers. People have even passed away. On the average, there’s about 5 to 8 people on your database that have passed away and you have them currently on your database. Clean up your database. Discard and delete those people from your database that are no longer alive. Keep those who are and begin taking steps to find out their current information. It could be a past coworker and they’ve left the company that you both worked at. Work to find out current information and put a plan to get reconnected. Your social inventory is important and costly. It is where you’ve invested time already – time that can neither be retrieved or recreated. Are you willing to just throw that time away?
You might ask, “do I really need to stay connected with this person?” If it’s someone that you feel strongly about steering clear of, then of course the answer is no. Yet, if you’re not sure and there was no significant event that drove your apart then why not at least find out their newest contact info. You may be able to do that fairly quickly through LinkedIn, Facebook or other mutual contacts. If you’ve already built some rapport with someone, no matter how long ago, if they’ve had a chance to sample your character and competence and you have some level of “know, like and trust” with them and they with you, then why throw that connection away? Too much time is spent in “grip, grin and graze” events or networking activities where you are starting from scratch having to build all of those things in a series of connections. Be sure to look at “who you know”, chance are you already have some of that built with people that you’ve lost touch with. I’m of the mindset that – you never know who someone is, who they will become or who they influence. Review your database.
There’s a whole process to how to rank your database that I walk clients through that yields a strategic plan to connect with your “18 Critical Connections”. The most important part of that process is to have a clean, active and up-to-date database.
In general, you’ll review your database four times, each sweep looking at:
- Who knows you by name
- Who enjoys spending time with you and you enjoy/enjoyed spending time with them
- Who has some sort of idea what you do and you have some sort of idea what they do
- Who has recommended or referred you to others
In the last installment, I’ll cover what a good social inventory looks like and the best zone to help them speak positively on your behalf that moves, touches and inspires others to action.
Maria Elena Duron is chief buzz officer, coach and speaker with buzz2bucks.com. Buzz2Bucks | a word of mouth firm serves as the community manager around your personal or business brand online and offline, and coaches community managers on how to be buzz-worthy. Buzz2Bucks is known for the talk that yields profits. She is author of the book “Mouth to Mouth Marketing” and the ebook “Social I.R.A.” She’s been quoted as a marketing and word of mouth expert by Entrepreneur Magazine and contributes to several publications and is the creator of #brandchat, a weekly twitter conversation about all aspects of branding. She broadcasts weekly as the business coach with CBS7. Duron will speak at the 2009 Massachusetts Conference for Women.