Theres nothing complicated about being successful in business. Its simple and it goes like this: Its all about making a name for yourself. Thats it, self-promotion. Getting known.
Whether its finding and impressing prospects, keeping current customers or moving ahead in a career, volunteering has long been the platform for gaining visibility. For some, its serving on company committees and taking on extra assignments, or having a reputation as the get it done person.
In the community, self-promotion ranges from sponsoring or coaching youth sports teams, working charity fundraisers, belonging to a service club or fraternal organization, serving on non-profit boards, chairing special events or helping with alumni and civic projects.
Awards and commendations help, too, along with photos in local, business, alumni and online publications. For added visibility, pursuing elected local office and moving up from there raises the bar even higher, while Facebook, LinkedIn and other the social media can ratchet up the getting well known possibilities.
It boils down to getting as much consistent exposure as possible, and hoping there will be a worthwhile payoff. But, that takes work lots of it. And theres no guarantee that the payback, if any, will justify the investment of energy and time.
While this may seem like a bleak picture, fraught with too many hurdles and not enough assurances, theres another way to look at it, a different perspective that acknowledges being known is an essential component in achieving success.
At the same time, trying to get there can be like driving at night without headlights. Because of this, many who attempt to become well known make a fatal mistake.They assume that getting as much visibility as possible is what will get them there. Unfortunately, others find such behavior off-putting and negative.
The question to ask
Yet, being known can have immense value by letting the spotlight shine on what you do, not who you are, and that means always asking one question: How can I help?
In other words, with the proper focus, marketing or selling yourself can lead to success without going on an endless ego trip that alienates others.
Heres how to do it. Pushing aside the absurd self-made man myth and currently popular bootstrapping, the unavoidable fact is that we all need help in reaching our goals. Think about it. Whether its getting a latte on the way to work, choosing what to wear for a special event, deciding on a dream home, doing a better job managing money, having career mentors, or simply figuring out a home improvement project, we need help.
What we dont want is hype. In fact, we reject it. The immense success of online peer recommendations makes it clear that we trust our friends, associates and neighbors far more than we do sponsored endorsements or the slick and senseless words of clever copywriters.
It goes even further much further. We reject anyone who tries to sell us, including those who try to sell themselves. We refuse to be told how to think, what to buy or how to live.
And our customers want exactly what we want: they want helpers, even if they dont come across them very often. Yet, we know them when we see them. They respond to those who are skilled at identifying problems and crafting workable solutions. And theyre more than willing to plunk down their dollars for what makes sense to them.
If there were ever magic words in business that express exactly what customers are waiting to hear, here they are: How can I help? They totally change the agenda by announcing that someone is willing to listen, learn and share, not just get.
When How can I help? becomes the mantra, something remarkable happens. It makes people comfortable so they are more open, rather than wary and doubtful. Theyre also more willing to tell others about their experience.
Thats the way it is with a long-time central Iowa builder, who says, I love to serve. I did my own punch lists on my homes before turning them over to my customers. If I can serve you somehow, let me know. He gets it.
When a young, capable financial analyst was asked if he could be interviewed, his response was immediate: Im glad to help. He gets it, too. He doesnt waste time and effort trying to sell himself. People are drawn to him because his focus is on what he can do, not who he is.
After Condé Nast Traveler named XV Beacon in Boston the No. 1 hotel in the country, The Boston Globe interviewed several guests. One said, Everyone knows me by name, everyone understands my preferences. I dont have to even ask for things. They just magically appear. This is why 50% of the guests are repeat customers. Its not magic. Like the builder from Iowa, and the young financial analyst, the hotel staff gets it. They love to help.
How to do it
Serving and helping are the way to get referrals and recommendations. People become your ambassadors and are eager to talk about how you have helped them, rather than what you sold them.
Its helping that attracts and keeps customers. Here are some suggestions for engaging customers in a helping way:
1) Focus intently on what customers want. Note the little, seemingly insignificant, things that make them smile. These make the difference, so keep track of them.
2) In the same way, keep a record of dislikes, the bothersome things that can add up fast and create discontent.
3) Put yourself to the test by asking if a proposed solution will really help your customer or prospect reach their goal. If theres doubt, reject it.
4) Express appreciation. Say thank you for the opportunity to help.
5) Keep customers and prospects top of mind by always being alert for helpful ideas to share with them.
6) Respond promptly to all messages, not just the ones you think are important. People want to know you received the message they sent. Its a unique way to help.
Nothing contributes more to success than helping. It sends a clear message that you know what has value to your customers.
Graham of GrahamComm is a marketing and sales strategist-consultant and business writer. He publishes a free monthly eBulletin, No Nonsense Marketing & Sales. Contact him at email@example.com, (617) 774-9759 or johnrgraham.com.
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