We talked a small bit about influence last month, but, as you can imagine, that post was the very tip of this topic’s proverbial iceberg. There’s much more to be hashed out and cleaned up around influence, especially in connecting influential actions to outcomes, and we’re going to give it a go here over the next few weeks.
Please leave us some of your thoughts (we got some good feedback this last time around, both here on the blog and out in other parts of the social web) so these ideas can fully develop and flourish and we all walk away feeling confident that can identify those within our company’s circle of influence and get them working on our behalf.
Okay, so, now that the scene’s been set, let’s dive in. To truly understand how influence works you need to know what it’s made of, right? We’ve identified four of the most important elements of influence that aren’t just ethereal concepts but tangible pieces that you as an organization can (and will need to) develop when building any sort of influencer program.
It’s the foundation of any solid relationship, and it’s something you need to build with your customers. Trust is especially important when you’re hoping to use the reputations and relationships of some of your most influential fans to build out your market. There can be no gimmicks or smoke and mirrors; you’ll have to create honest relationships to reap the best fruit from your labors.
How: Behave honestly and supportively with your customers. Provide ideas and resources to help them solve their problems, be truthful about any mistakes you make, and openly recognize their commitment to your company and brand.
This is not about openly dictating the moves of your customers; this is about being a smart and trusted advisor to them. As individuals, we turn to our online networks more than companies to seek out smart information, whether it’s about a specific product or service or about a problem we’re trying to solve or subject we’re trying to learn more about. Companies have the opportunity to share the lessons they’ve learned from the inside with customers and become part of that roster of resources individuals turn to for help and information.
How: Create and make available useful information and ideas to your customers that tie into your market(s) and products. This shows that you not only want to help your customers, but that you also know what the heck you’re doing and talking about. For example, specialty retail grocery store s has created a “Cooking With Trader Joe’s” blog and multiple cookbooks. Note that this tack not only provides tasty recipes to the company’s customers, but it also showcases how well the folks at Trader Joe’s know their stuff, literally and figuratively.
“What’s in it for me?” is one of those questions commonly asked (if not out loud) by people when they’re interacting with a brand or company, and it’s a question we encourage you organizations to reflect on from the customer perspective. To get any one person on your side you must give them something of value. Whether that value is tangible or not doesn’t matter — it has to be there to be to move people to action.
How: Make sure that what you’re doing is always solving your customers’ problems, satisfying their needs, or entertaining them. This includes actually putting customer feedback to use to improve your products, producing a few “extras” every now and then to help them even when they haven’t asked, and delivering information about your products and services in interesting and fun ways.
Of all the elements we’ve shared, this one is probably the hardest to solidify. How can you create a true connection between your company/brand and your customers? This is where your brand and all its promises really comes into play, because the reality — as harsh as it may sound — is that your brand will connect with a certain group of people, it won’t connect with everyone. That brand holds the beliefs of your company, and it will resonate with people who hold similar beliefs and employ them in their everyday lives.
How: Rather than try to conquer the world, dedicate time to mapping the personas or “avatars” of your customers to identify what truly matters to them. Once you have those mapped out you can plan how you’ll meet and connect with these people through things like your website, online social networks, and in-person events.
There are more nuanced pieces to this influence equation, but the big bits are here for the taking. How do you build these characteristics or elements into your customer relationships and what have they helped you accomplish? Would you have been able to accomplish those same goals without them? Share your thoughts — the comments are yours.
Dig deeper by downloading our ebook, Defining and Measuring Influence.