I am in the early stages of creating a digital-marketing consulting brand. I know what services I want to provide and to whom. However, less than a year ago I was working for a large financial institution, managing projects in a field completely unrelated to the one I am in right now.
My network of people was provided to me by the company; whenever I was working on a project, I knew the subject matter experts from every department with a stake in it—legal, finance, management, operations, engineers. But if one member left the company, it wouldn’t take long for me to get a new name of someone who could cover that gap.
As far as my network outside of work: up until now it has been dedicated to family, and people I made friendships with, whether at work or social gatherings. Although this circle overlaps with those who have helped me professionally in some capacity, for the most part it is unrelated to my business.
I have Facebook and Instagram pages. However, they have pictures of my trips, my kids, as well as funny memes and videos that I post infrequently. I enjoy the friendship of many and the company of few; branding myself as an individual online hasn’t been a priority for me. Until now.
I have been working on a strategy to present myself as a brand, in a way that portrays a cohesive mix of the skills acquired during my former career, and those I am learning to prepare myself for this transition.
My next step is to rebuild my LinkedIn page with this content. I must admit I have neglected the platform since I signed up for it a few years back. People need to see what I have done, and if someone looks at my LinkedIn account today, they will not have a clear picture of my current skills and objectives. So this is top of the list in my networking strategy.
I have written close to a dozen articles about branding and marketing and am putting together a blog with this content. I want a place where people can visit and read about my thoughts on subjects like organic reach, content optimization, ephemeral content, customer service—to name a few. As a marketer, I think it is important to build trust by not only allowing people to see the quality of my work, but also have a window into my character and where I stand on these topics.
I signed up for Meetup earlier this year and joined a group of start-up entrepreneurs. We meet weekly and talk about the challenges that we face in our own journeys. I find these meetings very refreshing; I enjoy hearing about the same issues that roam through my mind, from someone else’s perspective—there is almost always someone in the room who has the answer. I even found a new mentor with a solid business background! I’ll write more about her, and these meetings on my next article.
To listen for conversations that other marketers and freelancers have online, I built a Netvibes dashboard. Often I land on Reddit forums to listen and ask for advice on trends, market pricing and freelancer services. There is a big community of people on this platform with whom I could collaborate on future projects. I am still scoping this landscape and doing mostly listening at this time, but I intend to contribute actively to these conversations in the near future.
Within the next three months, I plan to have a solid image as a professional brand online—a crisp website with my brand’s statement, the services I offer, my bio and blog. As far as social platforms, for now I will start with a LinkedIn page that matches the look-and-feel of my site, paired with a Twitter handle to promote my content and communicate with partners and customers.
After building this presence, my next step will be to ramp up social interactions while I continue with my listening strategy. This will be an ongoing practice.
I will sign up for larger local Meetups and other gatherings where I can interact with local business owners, marketers, designers, programmers, writers, photographers, and anyone else who aligns with the goal of bettering business brands, creating stunning content, and engineering a remarkable customer experience.
As an effective way of closing conversations: I need a business card that stands out, with a memorable domain—that aligns with my Twitter handle—and phone number.
Through listening, I will continue to target forums that will spark content ideas, where I can participate with questions and advice and share my articles.
The goals is to attract people to my site with useful content that is relevant to the conversation, where they can subsequently read about my brand and its services—the blog content will provide the vision, and my services tab will back it up.
In regards to publishing, the focus will be on quality rather than frequency, but I will maintain a consistent editorial calendar to make it predictable. I will begin by posting an article on my blog twice a month and grow my subscribers list.
Producing and promoting content is a complex strategy but as far as building a professional network goes, I will use my current list of family, friends and acquaintances to start. For the most part the audience on my Facebook page does not align with my brand, but there are a few people who could be interested in subscribing to my newsletter—or following me on my business platforms (LinkedIn and Twitter) where they can also access my articles.
Collecting people’s information, both online and at in-person events, will be essential to future communications and campaigns. To manage this data, I intend to use Mailchimp and have my email list organized by: clients, prospects, partners and collaborators. This will allow me to target an audience about a particular topic that is only of interest to them.
I have learned that networking is likely the most powerful tactic in growing your business. It is not only about finding clients—surrounding yourself with talent and resources empowers your brand to deliver an even better product. Interdependent relationships can create a win-win outcome that can be replicated and improved every time.
Word of mouth has always been powerful, but nowadays it is everything. Your customers and partners must vouch for your services. They must be the ones to tell others that you are not just a stunning website or an impressive resume.
Ultimately, your brand is only as good as its image over time, and social media puts your reputation on centre stage. So in order to be successful, you must have social proof. In effect, networking is at the heart of you getting your community’s approval, and thus their business.
How do you network? What techniques do you use when meeting people? Let me know, we can chat, maybe we’ll end up shaking hands one day!