Here’s how the digital version of you can help you achieve more confidence in your real-life interactions.
“If you get a hit three times for each 10 at bats, you’ll be in the Hall of Fame.” This adage from professional baseball offers such great perspective, doesn’t it? Even if you fail 70% of the time, you’ll still be considered among the best to ever play.
This same philosophy applies to every one of us who owns a sales number. We know our activities determine our outcomes, and with so much rejection, the business development grind is a battle that occurs primarily between our ears. Our self-image affects every interaction between us and our prospective clients.
As in baseball, those of us in sales need to have short memories. Fail, and your next at bat is just around the corner. Unlike baseball, though, there’s an additional dynamic at play—your online persona as a supplement to your in-person activities. Is there a way the digital version of you can help you achieve more confidence in your real-life interactions?
Your personal brand—a term that has grown to become an embodiment of your online and offline reputation—is simple to build through deliberate, consistent steps. Unfortunately, most people struggle to build their personal brand because:
• They don’t know what to do
• They don’t know how to do it
• They don’t know to measure the effectiveness
These struggles lead to a vicious cycle of starting and stopping. Share content on LinkedIn, and your next post comes 10 days later. Contribute to an online group once, and forget to log in again until a month from now. Attend an in-person networking event in September, and show up again in January.
Doing new things (novelties) are fun and exciting, but extremely ineffective.
How about this approach for personal brand-building instead? I’ll share 10 options for you to choose from, and you only need to do three of them consistently. Try each one, see which works best for you, and you’ll see demonstrable gains in your persona.
1. Public Speaking
There is no better way to be seen as an expert in your field than through public speaking. Whenever you’re on stage, regardless of venue or topic, the audience is thinking, “If they’re good enough for the organizers of this event, they’re good enough for me.”
Here’s the easiest way to get speaking gigs: go where a need already exists and ask to be of help. Every organization that has in-person or online meetings has a perpetual need for speakers. Think to yourself, “Where is my ideal audience already attending events?” Reach out to those who run the organization and offer to share your expertise. You’ll hear, “Yes” to your requests more than you expect.
Okay, maybe speaking isn’t your thing. What’s another great way to build your reputation with your target audience? Find a publication they’re already reading and offer to contribute content.
How did I get this regular column in NAPA Net the Magazine? I asked to write for the NAPA Net website in a subject area I work in every day: applying technology to business development.
What’s especially great about an online publication? It’s infinitely easier to share a digital copy of your content with your audience instead of mailing them physical copies.
For an especially effective one-two punch, use your articles to help you get speaking gigs. Write the article, have it published, and ask to “perform” your content for the audience. Why do I get to speak at the NAPA 401(k) Summit each year? I have multiple pieces of content I’ve already written for the publication you’re reading right now. “Performing” one of them is a natural extension of serving the target audience… you.
This is the lowest-tech version of the personal branding approach. Real-life events, now that most COVID-related restrictions have eased, are probably the most impactful to your business development goals. After leaving the NAPA 401(k) Summit, there’s a conference afterglow, isn’t there? Nothing online can replicate it.
Let’s face it, though, moving your body from one place to another is limiting (opportunity cost in choosing that over doing something else) and expensive. How can we ensure your investment is worth it? Build your online brand to precede your physical presence at events. And between these events, remind people about yourself and what you do.
This approach consists of sharing your journey of progress. Startup companies often refer to this as “building in public.” Instead of shrouding your growth, share what you’re figuring out.
In an industry as sensitive as financial services, this always requires a little caution. Of course, you shouldn’t divulge client information or anything else private, but you can readily share your accomplishments in solving problems.
How did you optimize your time in the office? Which video setup makes you most comfortable when doing your meetings from home? Exploring cryptocurrency and its implications for retirement plans? Share what you’re discovering and help others benefit from your efforts.
This tactic is a little like problem-solving with a twist. This is where you get to show off a bit. Share what you and your team have accomplished. Pass your NAPA CPFA? Let people know about it. Did a member of your team get their MBA? Brag about them.
After you tell these stories the first time, are you done? If so, you’re selling your accomplishments short. If you’re active on any social network (connecting with new people, winning new followers), that fresh audience hasn’t seen your previous posts. Let them know via another post why the CPFA is important and what you learned doing it. Or share what that MBA-holding team member is working on now.
In addition to lauding the accomplishments of yourself and your team, this is your opportunity to highlight others. We’ve all been in a situation where someone introduces you to a friend or colleague along with some kind words. Makes you feel great, right? Your confidence is elevated and your new acquaintance has a reason to care about you.
Social media could be the greatest way ever invented to pivot the spotlight from yourself to other people. All of us are jockeying for attention online, and if you show generosity via posts about others, they’ll be eternally grateful.
Nothing is for everybody anymore. You and I (and everyone else) have niche interests, and through the internet, we can find people who share those passions. Participating in online communities is a simple way to engender trust with people who already believe in what you do. Do you love Stranger Things? Churros? Small-batch bourbon? Somewhere there’s a group for you.
This approach comes with a caveat: it’s a long-term play. Joining a group and shilling your 401(k) solutions in the first five minutes is—at best—a way to turn people off, and—at worst—a way to earn a ban from that group. Show others that you’re listening, and offer them assistance when they ask for help. Eventually, someone will ask, “So, what do you do?” That’s when the business-building can start.
If you check out my profile, you’ll see I’ve been quoted/featured in Forbes, Money, Entrepreneur and Inc. Magazine. All of that PR was free, and here’s how you can get the same publicity: Sign up for Help a Reporter Out (HARO)—https://www.helpareporter.com. It’s free, and when you register, you’ll start receiving emails each day from reporters working on news stories. These reporters are all working on a deadline, and they need an expert source to quote for their piece.
Simply answer their questions and include your contact information. As of last count, I’ve been quoted/featured 63 times in various publications from using this simple, free tool. Respond consistently, and you’ll get referred to as an expert too.
If you’re at all like me, you like to keep score of some things, but not others. I’ve been doing the same workout for 25 years, so I don’t record my gym time in a journal to keep me going. I don’t keep score in golf because those numbers would discourage me from hitting the links again.
Tracking the performance of other activities, though, furthers our desire to maintain those behaviors. This is especially true of anything we’re implementing for work. Once the novelty wears off on that shiny object, many people abandon it. If you remain consistent, though, you’ll win.
Once you find two of the tactics above that resonate with you, track how well they’re working for you. How many followers have you gained? How many people recognize you at in-person events without needing to look at your name tag?
As Ricky Bobby’s dad said so eloquently in the movie Talladega Nights, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”
“Spence,” you may be thinking to yourself, “I’m okay with where my business is right now and don’t need to grow.” Congrats! That’s a great, enviable position. What about retaining your current clients, though?
The nine tactics shared to this point are what your competitors are using to break your client relationships. Once they replace you as top-of-mind through their constant promotions, you’re playing from behind. Establish your “moat” by combining a protection stance with two of the aforementioned tactics.
Here’s a simple “choose three tactics” framework if you’re already comfortable with your AUM or practice size:
• Protection—establish a strategy of maintaining your current clients.
• Promotion—of nonprofits, charities, or causes you support.
• Presence—at real-life events of the causes you support. Simply take a photo at the event, highlight the good work they’re doing (the promotion tactic), and maintain first place in your clients’ minds.
Think about the combination of your current online and offline persona. If you’re not using at least one of the 10 options, may I propose that you go to the ballpark and get your at-bats? Once you’re there, you might as well choose 3 of the 10. Do these three activities consistently, and you’ll put yourself in the best position to enter the Personal Brand Hall of Fame.
Spencer X Smith is the founder of AmpliPhi Social Media Strategies. He’s a former 401(k) wholesaler, and now teaches financial services professionals how to use social media for business development. This column originally Fall issue of NAPA Net the Magazine.in the