How networking can build your Personal Brand
Networking is essential for business, and has always been one of the most powerful and effective forms of marketing for many professionals. Even top-level Director’s take time out of their busy day to meet up and network with like minded professionals and industry leaders.
While we could say that this is a way of keeping the best contacts and connections on side with your business, it is also integral part of professional growth and development - both in the industry and through the eyes of customers. It is, in short, not just about retaining your position but bolstering and improving it.
But what about when it comes to establishing your personal brand?
Why your personal brand is so important?
People buy from (authentic) people - we hear it all the time, and it’s true.
If you were faced with a product you saw in an advert, and one recommended by a friend, you would opt for the one that was recommended by a friend.
Because of the instant personal connection, and the trust that your mind establishes as soon as you receive a positive endorsement from someone you know.
Your personal brand works in the same way but on a larger scale - giving contacts and customers a face to connect with rather than simply relying on your branding.
When you build your personal brand, everything you do supports the launch and marketing of your product or service.
Your network becomes your businesses network; your success is intrinsically linked with the success of your business; your views become intertwined with the business vision and morals.
In the world of business, your personal brand is what makes you and your business relatable and trustworthy. So, how do we use networking to build our personal brand?
Why is networking important to grow your personal brand?
Many business professionals shy away from networking through fear and pressure of having to walk into a room full of strangers, start a conversation with someone they’ve never met before, and try to develop a relationship without coming across too ‘salesy’.
However, as we have already established ‘people buy from (authentic) people’ and there is no better opportunity than in a face-to-face environment.
Furthermore, networking enables us to widen our physical reach, not just IN the room – but also THROUGH the room from people we meet who can introduce us to others in their wider network.
I’ve heard some horror stories of sales managers sending their teams to various networking events ordering them to return with handfuls of lucrative leads, and then berating them for failing to do so.
Networking is for the long game – not the quick win! It is a two-way process for making connections and building mutually beneficial relationships.
Ultimately, proactive networking will enable you to:
- AMPLIFY your personal brand
- REACH the decision makers
- WIDEN your physical reach
- BUILD TRUST with your target audience
- ENHANCE your professional credibility - gaining referrals, testimonials and recommendations for your work
- DISCOVER your next business partner or trusted supplier
- FIND your next big career opportunity – new customer or job
- SUSTAIN your business connections and mutually beneficial relationships.
How to use networking to your advantage
It all comes down to the way you present yourself and align yourself with others.
When your personal brand is part of your overall business marketing strategy, aligning and connecting yourself with like minded businesses and business owners immediately puts you in the same category as them.
Networking is about establishing and building connections, not only so that you can learn from those individuals but also so that your business becomes aligned and linked with their business and their success.
There’s a reason why businesses want to be seen at certain events, in the presence of certain business owners and entrepreneurs, and in attendance at certain award ceremonies - because it connects them to those individuals and their success rate. And that, in turn, allows their customer base and yours to become connected, interwoven, and one and the same.
Here are my tips to show how networking can build your personal brand
There is a plethora of networking opportunities available online and face-to-face. Trying to attend all of these events could be incredibly costly on your time, resources and more importantly, your hard-earned cash.
Experiment and attend different events at different levels within your industry.
This involves thinking outside of the box and inserting yourself into new, innovative, and often unexpected opportunities to create connections in different corners of the industry.
This may include conferences, exhibitions and trade shows. You never know when it might come in useful to know someone at a certain business or in a certain job role.
Do your research
Before your start your networking experience, consider your goals:
- Why are you attending this event?
- What do you actually want to achieve and with who?
- Is there a particular type of person you want to meet?
- What level of seniority are they – what responsibilities do they hold?
- Are you attending an industry specific event (such as procurement, HR or marketing) or a more generic networking group, where you will have access to a range of business owners from different sectors and interests?
Preparation is key to gain the most success from networking.
Punctuality, smart appearance and a generous handful of business cards, have always been the staple requirement for serial networkers.
In most cases you will be asked to ‘present yourself’ – an opportunity to ‘pitch’ who you are and the product or services you offer. This means more than just your name, job title and waffle about your work.
- Try and stay clear of job titles. Instead, consider your ‘positioning statement’ – how you solve your customer pain points;
- Share a story, anecdote or experience to support your positioning.
- Tell your audience who you have worked for and who you want to work with;
- Always finish with a referral request – someone you want to connect with or an organisation you would like an introduction too.
Building your ‘online’ network is just as important as your ‘offline’ environment
This became particularly important in terms of personal branding during the pandemic, with the most successful business owners and entrepreneurs being those who took to their social feeds and checked in with their networking groups regularly and consistency.
When you network with your peers and industry professionals, connect with them on LinkedIn and other professional platforms after the event or meeting. Make sure you send a personalised connection request, rather than the default ‘Billy Boring’ invitation.
And remember… Building your personal brand and forging valuable connection is a long game, and cultivating relationships takes time.
Show the real you in your online content
The whole point of personal branding is to put yourself front and centre of your brand, and so displaying and showcasing the real you is what will make you the more relatable and trustworthy version of yourself.
Some things you can do include insight into behind-the-scenes footage from your office or workplace, sharing information on how you spend your free time, giving followers detail they might not know about you, and sharing more about your experiences and your brand story.
Be someone who is reliable and who presents regular value - rather than someone who pops up every so often and takes more than they give.
Remember, you are trying to build trust in your personal brand.
Meet new people, learn from them, and attract new audiences!
Networking is not just a small part of personal branding - it is, in essence, what will connect and link you to the most valuable, insightful, and personable contacts you can hope for in business.
Whether you are just starting our on your journey to build a personal brand, or are established and looking to expand your connections and customer net, networking is a way to meet new people, learn from them, and attract new audiences.
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