How to Leverage Your Personal Network to Grow Your Brand.
By Ayandola Ayanleke
One of the mistakes many startups make is that they compare themselves with wealthy entrepreneurs, forgetting that it took years for these entrepreneurs to get to where they are today. For instance, Jeff Bezos started what would become Amazon today, in his garage. This is what many entrepreneurs are missing; they are trying to start with what they should instead be aspiring to. They fail to see what they should see in their immediate environment. For instance, all you need to be a tailor is a sewing machine, you don’t need to rent a shop, you can start from a corner of your home. If you are waiting till you have enough capital to rent a space, you might never start.
In the same vein, many business owners are not leveraging their personal network enough. The first people you should think about discussing your ideas with and marketing your business to should be your personal network. Your business has a higher chance of growing with word of mouth than any other marketing strategy you might employ at the first instance. So, how do you leverage your personal network to grow your brand? That’s the purpose of this post.
Build Your Network
This has to be done before you even need them. Imagine the difference between talking about your business to someone you are meeting for the first time and telling someone you have known for a while about your business. It will definitely be easier with the latter because there is already an established relationship. If you are yet to start a business, now is the time to build a network; don’t expect to manufacture one when you need them.
Attend conferences and other events, especially in your niche and talk to people; and be approachable when people approach you. This might not come easily to introverts but you have to step out of your comfort zone or at least, leverage social media. Social media helps you interact with people without that discomfort that introverts experience meeting people for the first time. Also, remember not to put people in your life just because you feel you will need them; they will see through you. You have to genuinely build a relationship and offer value to the relationship as well.
Life is largely about give and take. You can’t expect to get things from people when you have not invested in their lives as well. Although that could happen, you have a higher chance of getting help from someone you have helped in the past and it doesn’t have to be something major. Also, be sure not to offer value for the sake of getting something back. You have to genuinely care about helping people to get helped. Certain people can sniff out insincerity and you don’t want to be called out as insincere by people you hope are a part of your network. There is no way you can leverage your personal network like that.
Identify the Influencers
You can separate your influencers into two groups; people in your network who have a personal relationship with you and will be naturally inclined to help because of the relationship between you. Your family and closest friends fall into this category. Get these people to work by talking to their networks about your business; sharing and retweeting your social media posts. Then, you have the other category of influencers who have the numbers; they could be social media influencers or they know a lot of people or they know strategic people that could help. Identify these people and reach out to them to ask for their help. If you have one or two people in the first group, even better. However, if they are mutual friends, a part of a larger group such as your school, church, alumni, professional organisation, that shouldn’t stop you too; they are also a part of your network.
In conclusion, make sure you specify what you need from each of them. As you start your business, you should identify your goals and where you will need help. Then identify where each category of your network comes in and let them know exactly how they can help, so they don’t offer help where you don’t need it and neglect where you do need help. This way, you can properly leverage your personal network to grow your brand.