How to Quickly Build your Social Authority

Posted on July 28, 2016 at 8:51 AM Comments comments (1)

LinkedIn, Twitter, and a blog are the main components of my social authority power triangle.  This is an important strategy to understand if your goal is to quickly develop a thought-leadership or expert reputation within your industry.  In fact, this power triangle works like compound interest because each platform accumulates benefits making it possible for you to be found by your customers and prospects when they are searching for a solution you can help them with. In addition, you can proactively find your target audience by using those same search features.   And finally, you can then directly engage your target market with messages and content crafted from a position of leadership.

Your blog might be part of a (corporate) website that you wish to drive more traffic to.  Use your blog posts to showcase your knowledge and personality.  Don’t sell, but use this platform to tell engaging stories that demonstrate your unique understanding of the challenges faced by your target audience.  Offer practical advice and short helpful antidotes that can be immediately implemented by your readers.
Use your Twitter profile to build and nurture your targeted audience.  Spend time searching for and following profiles that match your targeted personas.  If you follow first, many will follow you back and that is an important key to building a targeted audience.  Think of yourself as a “publisher” on this platform.  In other words, build a large targeted audience; supplying them with content that is useful, can be consumed quickly, and is narrative in nature.  Of course, tweets that contain links to your blog posts should be part of that content feed.  In that way Twitter will become a major source of referral traffic to your website.
Finally, LinkedIn is used to quickly establish your industry credibility based on the professional material contained in your profile.  Your Twitter page should also display your LinkedIn URL in order to make it easy for your Twitter followers to quickly validate your professional background.  LinkedIn also has a feature that allows you to post articles.  Don’t hesitate to post your blog on both LinkedIn and your website.  There is nothing wrong with a “write once, post many places” content strategy.
With these three platforms working together it won’t be long before you will see your “expert” 
reputation grow. 

Does Your Message Contain the Big Red Flag?

Posted on March 24, 2016 at 5:29 PM Comments comments (0)

“I thought I’d reach out.”

In the business world it’s a casual phrase that’s tossed around all the time.
· I thought I’d reach out to tell you a little bit about our company.
· I thought I’d reach out to see if we could set up a time to chat.
· I thought I’d reach out to give you one of our new white papers.
· I thought I’d reach out to introduce myself and make sure you understand my company.  And then you can buy something!

OK, that last one was over-the-top.  But more broadly, "to reach out" means to initiate contact with someone, with the implied implication that the contact will be helpful or beneficial to the person being contacted.  The problem is your targeted audience doesn’t believe you.  They’ve been conditioned to understand that it’s not going to be beneficial for them because those messages typically result in the one-sided outcomes they’ve experienced time after time.  In fact, in all the many ways I’ve been “reached out to” I remember very few occasions where the implied purpose of a first meeting was to listen and learn about my situation.  Too bad, because shifting from “me-focused” to “you-focused” is not that difficult, and it yields a much better first impression.

Just how might a “you-focused” message sound?  Probing statements or questions that open people up and eventually enable you to answer the ultimate thought that every prospect has on their mind; “what’s in this for me?”
· I’d really enjoy hearing about your company.
· I’d really enjoy learning about your career and particularly your work at XYZ Company.
· I’d be interested to see where your application fits in the various markets.
· I’d be interested in any background information you can share about the changes facing your industry.

Wait a second Alan; those aren’t typical qualification questions.  How can those statements be helpful to my lead generation strategy?  Also, why should an executive feel compelled to bring me up-to-speed or educate me on her career or company?  Really, I just want to immediately work through my BANT process:
1. Do they have a BUDGET for a project?
2. Does the person I’m speaking to have the AUTHORITY to sign the deal.
3. Do they have a NEED for my solution?
4. Have they established a TIME FRAME for their decision?

Yes, I know the example above doesn’t necessarily reflect the order or all the questions that you might want to know for your particular situation.  But the point is you’re currently trying to jam every encounter into your sales process and have dismissed the thought of nurturing prospects to tease out important information and to build a trust-based relationship over time.

I hate to break the news to you, but your prospect is just not that into you.  If you’re hoping your prospect is “struggling” with [blah blah blah] and that they’re losing sleep and will instantly anointed you as their “trusted advisor” … well, as they say, “hope is not a strategy.”

“I thought I’d reach out” or “I just wanted to touch base” messages are best sent once you’ve earned trust.  Otherwise they are viewed as just another gimmick to try and gain attention.


What causes you to remove a connection?

Posted on March 21, 2016 at 8:31 AM Comments comments (0)

Have you ever removed a connection on LinkedIn? Unfriended someone on Facebook?  Blocked a Twitter profile?  It’s a rare event, but on occasion I do severe relationships.  I don’t do it lightly because it’s hurtful.  Yes, it’s true that social rejection activates the same part of the brain that physical pain does.  It hurts most of us to be rejected.  In fact, I also feel bad when the role is reversed making me the rejector.  That means I don’t like to do it if I don’t have to.  But recently I received a direct message from - what I’ll call - a “weak ties” LinkedIn connection that resulted in my terminating the relationship. It read as follows:


If you haven’t already, please review my profile page and utilize my service as a resource. Also, in an effort to improve my ranking I would ask for your endorsement in several key areas of my services:

1. Endorsement Area Request 
2. Endorsement Area Request
3. Endorsement Area Request
4. Endorsement Area Request
5. Endorsement Area Request
6. Endorsement Area Request
7. Endorsement Area Request

Thank you again,
Name of removed connection
As you can see, I removed the particulars to protect the identity of the sender.  I’d like to believe they were only being temporarily self-centered at the time.  But the message felt like they were giving me a direct order for purposes of taking advantage of my social capital, and I just didn’t feel compelled to give them a second chance.

In fact, it makes me sad that I even accepted their original invitation.  For me, it’s a lesson learned concerning connection requests that come from total strangers who are also outside of your field of interest.  No matter how well you try to vet these weak tie types of invitations it’s a situation that’s going to present a degree of risk.  For those of you who are LION’s, your willingness to accept social networking risk at these highest levels escapes me.
I was in direct sales long before I became a marketer, so my tolerance for risky, assertive and even aggressive type personalities is very high.  But the nature of the request above is simply no way to win friends or influence people on social media platforms.

I know there is plenty of research out there that states “if you want to be retweeted, just ask!”  In short, that research suggests that it is OK to impose a direct order for assistance from your social audience.  So, by all means, ask for the demo meeting immediately, just make your demands known by telling your social capital exactly what you want them to do.  Join the conversation and “like our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, and read our blogs!” For our social media ROI sake please heed our “call to action” so we can justify our jobs!

I suppose five years ago, before anyone with one or two social media profiles and a hundred followers could become a “social media expert” that research seemed reasonable.  Social audiences were smaller then, and still trying to figure out how communication and engagement should work on those platforms.  But I believe most people have figured out that if you wouldn’t make that type of request directly to their face then you shouldn’t express it through a social media message.  Now, not all bad behavior results in unfollowing or dropping the connection.  Sometimes you just ignore the request, hit the delete button and go on with your social engagement strategy.  But I’ll admit there is a part of me that now wants to stop rewarding bad behavior by totally disconnecting the relationship without feeling guilty.

OK, I’ll get off my high horse.  Perhaps I need to develop an even thicker skin.  Or perhaps I’m not pushing my own social networking strategy to the degree that I should?  How would you have reacted to the request above given the limited amount of background information I presented?

Want to Grow Your Business? Look for Personal Brand Builders.

Posted on February 29, 2016 at 9:04 AM Comments comments (0)

Do you truly understand the value of your own personal brand?  The strength of your personal brand plays a role in, and impacts the strength of your social network.  And the strength of your social network contributes value to your employer.  Your personal network isn’t a tangible asset, but it is social capital that vests immediately.  And it's portable, meaning you can take it with you.  Have you ever thought of it that way?

I’m often surprised that many organizations don’t consider the power their employee’s hold in this regard.  There is always conversation about “brand value” as an intangible corporate asset.  But accountants would be quick to point out that value is not derived from rolling up the individual sum of each employee’s personal brand.  But how do they justify separating the value of the corporate brand from the efforts of the employees whose personal connections and know-how made their company brand success possible?

If one or two of your most influential employee’s left the company what would happen?  For many smaller organizations that event could be very damaging.  It doesn’t necessarily mean the end is imminent, but the loss of those connections and the related social influence could take a long time to recover from.    

In the B2B world we do business with people we know, like and trust.  And individuals, who are known, liked and trusted are generally effective at building influential social capital.  What statements often describe social capital builders?

  • They often follow consultative selling approaches.
  • They have the ability to manage complex political relationships.
  • They can tell a story and build a vision that is unique and compelling.
  • They have passion, courage, and confidence to get things done fast.
  • They have credibility and knowledge that fosters rapport and trust.

In short, they know how to build trust-based relationships and add-value to their network, not just drop names and quote prices.  If your business wants to grow, look for more than just “industry experience,” seek out individuals with strong personal brands who have a track record for building social capital.  They are often natural rainmakers.

Use Different Connection Strategies for Each Social Platform

Posted on February 28, 2016 at 11:13 AM Comments comments (0)

LinkedIn’s advice on sending connection requests reads that you should “only invite people you know and trust.”  The number of requests I receive from individuals I’ve never met (and therefore have no basis for trust) leads me to believe there are a lot of people who are not following that rule of thumb.  Or, perhaps it suggests their “trust” in certain profiles is deep enough to overcome their fear that they’ll be rejected because they don’t personally “know” their desired connection.  Research shows that social rejection activates the same part of the brain that physical pain does.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t like pain.  So, I generally don’t like taking on a great deal of risk in those situations.
LinkedIn connection strategies can vary from one extreme to another.  On one side you have the LION (LinkedIn Open Networker) who is open to both receiving and sending connection requests to people they don’t know.  Apparently they don’t feel pain.  On the other extreme are individuals who will only connect with people they personally know and would professionally vouch for.  Those individuals probably tend to be risk adverse.  I’ll admit that when I first joined LinkedIn I followed the suggested rule.  I had to know and trust you, and I followed that strategy for several years.  In the past couple of years I’ve found myself being less strict, but still nowhere close to the LION strategy.
The world is flat and we live in a 24/7 global economy.  If you have a passport and a website you’re a worldwide citizen, right?  It seems like the best practice for that mindset and environment would be open networking.  The big downside with that strategy is that you get approached by hundreds of individuals with ideas, products and solutions that are not remotely connected to your interests, needs or desires.  In short, it quickly starts feeling like endless spam.

That’s why I found it useful to leverage different networking strategies across the various social platforms.

Twitter:  My approach on Twitter is the most open.  Most of my Twitter content is focused on marketing, sales and management theory and my strategy is to connect with as many other like-minded (English speaking though – yes, I’m handicapped by only understanding one language.) individuals as possible.  Twitter is a great real-time news source and a fantastic business platform for driving traffic to my website and LinkedIn profile for deeper engagement.
LinkedIn:  As I mentioned earlier my strategy has shifted over the years with LinkedIn.  I still don’t attempt cold connections in the LION fashion.  If I’m interested in networking with an individual I usually try to establish the relationship first through an introduction via a common friend or try to build a solid relationship with them through other social media platforms (Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, etc.).  And I always customize the invitation to connect letting them know why I’m reaching out.  When approached by someone I’ve never met or interacted with on other platforms I asked myself one question; what would connecting with this person do for me?  Yes, I know that sounds terribly self-center and has no “pay-it-forward” vibes.  But down deep it is what we are all thinking, so we might as well get it out in the open.  Now, of course that question leads to several other questions that I often can’t answer.  Like the following:

1. What does this person think a connection with me would mean to them?
a. Do they want to sell me something? Why do they assume I would be interested?
b. Do they see mutual value in our connecting?  If so, what is it?  Because I can’t read their mind!  That’s why connection requests that are not customized with some amount of content that explains “why” they are reaching out drives me crazy.  You should not assume that just because you are a LION that your motives are crystal clear.
2. Do they focus in geographic areas or solution areas that are important to me?
3. Does their job title and current position suggest they are a major player that I would be foolish to ignore?
Facebook:  I save my personal Facebook account for family and old school chums.  If you don’t fall into one of those categories your chance for a personal connection or a “Like” is basically zero.  Yeah, I know Facebook has a billion users or something like that.  But guess what, I found out very quickly that my family and old school friends don’t want to constantly see my business stuff.  Therefore, I separated church and state.  I have a personal Facebook profile and a business page, and the two never meet.
If you were to dig down deep I’m sure you would find that most individuals in your target markets have different strategies for each platform they have a presence on.  They probably can’t even verbalize why they do what they do.  But they’ve found out what works for them.  And what works for them is what you need to be mindful of because it’s not about you or your brand.  It’s about your customers.

Be Well-Trusted and You Will Never Want

Posted on September 23, 2015 at 8:10 AM Comments comments (0)

“Be liked and you will never want.”
Willy Loman – Death of a Salesman


If you’ve spent any time in personal sales you know that Willy’s philosophy that anything is possible as long as a person is “well liked” is not going to close every deal. To influence someone about an important idea, you need to be more than just liked. A successful, persuasive personality that projects a positive selling image focuses on building rapport, reducing risk and has the substance that comes with having credibility. In short, their calls to action are answered because they are well-trusted.

Professional sales and marketing people have to consider not only face-to-face and over the phone encounters, but also digital platforms. In fact, digital may very well be todays default communication channel. So, how do you establish rapport, build credibility and reduce risk in order to develop trust in today’s digital environment? The following might help.
How to Establish Rapport Online:
1. Look people in the eye and smile. Online that means use their real name when you can. Everyone likes the sound of their name. Drop the automated direct messages and @replies. Respond real-time letting them know you are not a social bot.
2. Adapt. We feel comfortable and relaxed with people who are like us. Synchronize your profile with your targeted personas in order to facilitate immediate connection.
3. Capture their imagination and tap into their emotions by using sensory-rich language and pictures. If you’re not talking to the emotional side of the brain you are not talking to the decision maker.
4. Listen more and talk less. Encourage them to talk about themselves. Talk in terms of their interests. 

How to Build Credibility Online:
1. Positional authority is one source of personal credibility. Your profile bio should reflect your experience in a professional tone.
2. Expertise and knowledge. You can demonstrate your expertise and knowledge through your content. Blogs, articles, discussion forums, white papers and video are all excellent content artifacts.

3. Personal integrity. The history of your online behavior allows others to see your personal qualities. If you’ve been highly recommended and followed by other credible sources a lack of positional authority can be mitigated.

How to Reduce Risk Online:
1. Transparency. Yes, just as brands need to be more transparent with consumers, we need to be more transparent with each other. Make sure your motivations are sincere.

2. Empathy. Try honestly to see things from the other person’s perspective. Different points of view appear obvious to the observer.

You’re Always Both the Messenger and the Message

Posted on June 30, 2015 at 1:39 PM Comments comments (0)

For your entertainment; a short knock-off skit based on the Drew Carey TV series “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”

The Host: Welcome to “Whose Content Is It Anyway?” Where the quota is made up and the revenue doesn’t matter. Our first skit is called, “Your marketing content sucks.” Mr. Sales VP, you’re very nervous; you’ve just examined your sales pipeline and discovered your team will not meet its sales objectives.

Ms. Marketing Rep, you are a super confident business development person from a marketing technology company ready to save the day.

Ready? … Action!!
Sales VP: Oh my! No wonder we don’t have a #salespipeline. We don’t have the support we need to nurture our leads and move them through the #salesfunnel.
Marketing Rep: I know #whatkeepsyouupatnight. You have a #contentmarketing problem! Our #robust #scalable #cloudbased #revolutionary #unique #endtoend solution helps business #engage with their prospects so that they can #buildprofitableloyalrelationships and #closedealsfaster!
Sales VP: I’m glad you called! I’m so lucky you just happen to come across my #LinkedIn profile and decided to reach out! Our #marketingcontent is terrible. Is there any hope??
Marketing Rep: Never fear! Although your pipeline is practically nonexistent, we can help. We can quickly implement our solution and you’ll be #fillingyourfunnel in no time!

Sales VP: Oh thank you!! I’ll sign the #orderrightnow!

Content is the Totality
Can you relate to the skit above? Of course not, your quota may feel like it was just made up, but you know revenue always matters! OK, on a more serious note; did you notice that marketing was thrown under the bus? The “what keeps you up at night” situation was described as a “marketing content problem.” But what if the social profiles of the sales force is the real content problem? Content is the total picture. And that means you’re always both the messenger and the message. Your message may contain great content concerning your product and your company, but the receiver is still going to check your personal credentials. Yes, they are going to look you up on LinkedIn and will probably Google your name. The question is; are they going to find someone they believe is capable of adding value to their day, and allow you the opportunity to develop their trust?
Making a Good First Impression 
There is no room for error here. Does your profile brand you as a professional?

  • Profile picture: LinkedIn data shows that having one makes your profile 7 times more likely to be viewed, so don’t use your company logo. Profiles with photos receive a 40% InMail response rate. Enough said. Use a professional business photo. Sure, cell phones take pretty good pictures these days. But this is not where you want to post a selfie. On the other extreme I wouldn’t recommend glamour shots either. If you don’t keep it professional looking you are putting your first impression with the viewer at risk.
  • Headline: Be descriptive. How do you help organizations accomplish their goals? What’s your value-add? The headline must be compelling enough to persuade the viewer to look deeper into your profile. If your picture passed, but your headline fails engagement will never start. I’m not going to lie. An important job title as a part of your headline will help. Executives like to network with other executives and they are more likely to respond to individuals they believe to be their peers. That may not seem fair, but that’s how it unfolds most of the time. That means you should think carefully before sending your summer interns or most junior sales people after the C-Suite because the odds are not in their favor no matter how revolutionary you think your product might be.
  • Summary: Your picture and headline passed. Congratulations on making it this far. The pressure is not off though because you’ve only got a couple of seconds to impress the viewer enough to examine your credentialed experience. Tell your story, capture their imagination. But don’t wonder, stay on point. How does your “story” benefit the viewer? You can also use this section to post videos, blogs, white papers and other marketing artifacts that help establish your authority and your organizations credentials.
Social platforms, particularly LinkedIn, are ideal for business development. If used properly they can be a map of all your business contacts, and create a route to important prospects you don’t know yet. Just remember, you are both the messenger and the message.

How to Use Transparency for Power

Posted on May 27, 2015 at 11:57 AM Comments comments (0)

What does “transparency” in business actually mean? A lot of material has been written on that topic over the last few years in relation to social media marketing.  Most of articles deal with transparency at the corporate branding level although some authors provide commentary around personal branding.  I’ll admit that a few of my own blog posts touch on transparency; yes, in many cases authenticity, relevance and trust are also mentioned.  One business dictionary defines transparency as a “lack of hidden agendas or conditions, accompanied by the availability of full information required for collaboration, cooperation, and collective decision making.”
If we go with that definition, what might a transparent exchange sound like?

Of course transparency doesn’t imply being rude or cutting people short.  In the example above both individuals are showing a type of transparency.  The executive is asking very direct “what and why” questions.  Yes, the example may feel a bit abrupt, but according to G. Richard Shell’s bookBargaining for Advantageyou often get more by finding out what the other person wants than you do by clever arguments supporting what you need.”  On the other hand, the sales rep is not making any attempt to find out what motivates or might inspire the executive to move forward with a meeting.  He is circling around what would be a good outcome for him.
Information about what people want is power.  Are you using transparency to gather information?  Or does your transparency represent a threat to your prospects because it’s obvious you are only considering your own needs and perceptions?

Does Your Personal Brand Need a Picture of a Truck Behind It?

Posted on February 10, 2015 at 3:21 PM Comments comments (0)

Is a man with a truck sexier than a man without a truck?  According to the folks from Chevrolet the answer is yes.  Take 30 seconds to watch the video below and listen to their focus group discuss the matter.  So, how much do trucks costs these days?  After all, I might need to haul something!  I also found a survey by that states that women say that attractive men tend to drive black Ford pickup trucks.  While men reported that attractive women drive red BMW sports cars.

OK, you’re really not going for “sexy,” so a new truck or sports car is not the answer.  But, you’d still like to see your personal brand get noticed every now and then.  In fact, there is currently a content marketing arms race in play around this very topic.  Don’t believe me?  Can you answer yes to any of the following questions?
1. Do you feel like you are blogging for your life?
2. Tweeting to save the family farm?
3. Writing, shooting photos and video, and podcasting to demonstrate that you are the “thought-leader,” “trusted advisor,” “expert guru” and “growth hacker” for your industry?
Yes, I thought so, and features like “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” on LinkedIn provide guidance on whether or not your profile is being searched or reviewed by your peers as result of your efforts.  A new truck or sports car is going to cost tens of thousands of dollars.  The information below was recently presented at an American Marketing Association SIG meeting.  It will help you with your personal branding efforts without breaking your bank account.