You may be a great manager, marketer, and innovator— but have you realized your power as an influencer? For small business owners, learning the small habits that lead to greater influence may prove the “secret sauce” to taking growth and awareness of your business to new heights. Here's how to be a more influential business owner.
Always Be Connecting
According to a research study by The Guardian influential people have many “loose” connections with a vast audience. If you run your business out of your home or from a small office, gaining influence may in fact demand that you intentionally put yourself in situations that expose you to people. Attend networking events regularly, be active within your local business community and neighborhood, share ideas on industry specific social networks and blogs, and make “inroads” at trade shows, and during travel. If you have an office facility or storefront, arrange your workspace so that you are in nearly constant interaction with your team. If you work from home, consider renting space from a co-working facility once or twice a week to ensure that you are poised to make new connections. Set weekly goals around how many coffee or lunch dates you'll have with others. Throughout your interactions, remember that building influence is about what you can bring to, and learn, from each relationship. One of the key hallmarks to having influence, according to Ed Keller and Jon Berry, authors of The Influentials, is being sincere, and trustworthy.
Pick Your Battles
As an entrepreneur, you're inherently passionate about what goes on in your business, but a key trait influencers possess is the ability to identify which issues are worth fighting for, when it's necessary to soften their stance, and when it's better to back off altogether. You may be passionate about many causes, but generally, there are a handful that are truly near and dear to your heart. Identify those you are authentically passionate about championing; shelve the others for a later time.
Be a Partner, Not a Promoter
Many small businesses use social media as a marketing tool—but not all realize a return on their time and energy investments. One key reason some social media campaigns work and others fail? They don't honor that the medium is founded on two-way communication, and connecting with others. Want more likes on your Facebook page? Try promoting the business or product of another person you believe deserves accolades. Instead of putting a picture of yourself or your team on social media, take posting snapshots of loyal customers who are deserving of recognition for some cause with which they are involved. Instead of email marketing messages about why you're products are great, interview respected partners in the industry and let them speak your praises in their own words. When developing an editorial calendar for your content, ask your customers and peers about the issues they feel are important, and write from a place of adding value for your audience, versus promoting your business.
Know a Little About a Lot.
Influencers are able to connect with so many different types of people because they seek out breadth of knowledge, allowing them to gain a more informed perspective about the world. Small changes to your daily information gathering habits can be powerful: Vow to read a section of the newspaper you tend to otherwise ignore a few times a week, or seek out the websites of interests and hobbies to which you may not naturally gravitate. The small bits of information you gain may prove critical in understanding people with whom you'd otherwise struggle to connect.