Whilst it is easy to rock up and claim you are the person to listen to, it is up to the influenced to decide if you are influential.
Just because you can hold your head high and look wised up that you can set a high fee for a course, consulting, product or service, it doesn’t mean that someone else is willing to pay it.
People are quick to regard themselves as influential, without the graft of sharing their knowledge over a period of time.
It is easy to believe you can take the lead. Today, people behave like brands and brands behave like people. We are all looking to create something authentic with a goal for people to trust us. Five years ago this thing of influencer marketing wasn’t on anyones radar, at least according to Google Trends.
In the B2B world you can’t just step up and regard yourself as influential with a belief that is how you get noticed.
However, today there are zero barriers to entry. If you want to say you are a ‘top 25 influencer in (name of industry)’ then you can, no one is stopping you. To many people, in their eyes, it makes them look important. In the words of Geraint Holliman from an article called, ‘Marketers Mess Up Everything They Touch,’ he said, “we’re always seeking to justify our positions and be relevant. We are like magpies constantly picking up the latest shiny bauble in an attempt to deflect attention away from our struggles with accountability.”
Geraint added, “We don’t have the confidence or the standards, the barriers to entry to the Marketing ‘profession’ are so low virtually any numpty can call themselves a ‘Marketer’.”
“If you want to be a Lawyer, Accountant or Surveyor then be prepared for five or more years of studying on top of your day job – and only THEN can you start at the bottom of the ladder.”
If you want to consider yourself as influential you can, no one is stopping. However, it is not you that sees you as influential.
Just because you can add the word ‘strategist’ or ‘influencer’ in your profile on LinkedIn doesn’t mean that other people see it the same way.
In My Eyes, It’s Great
Here is an example where I see something that should be worth huge amounts, but in reality it is paltry.
I have a heap of AFC Bournemouth programmes from the 1980s and bubblegum cards that were my dad’s from the 1960s. I have so much old school football memorabilia I will never get rid of it. Want to read about the preview to the 1990 Word Cup, in Shoot magazine, just let me know!
In my eyes, these are priceless and worth a premium. However, in reality, they are probably only worth a few pound. To the hardcore AFC Bournemouth fan and memorabilia enthusiast this might have some worth and something that resonates with them to pick up and add to their collection. Lets be realistic though, apart from a few people who might like them, it probably would only just pay for an evening at the cinema, not flights and accommodation to the summer World Cup.
Just because I think it is worth a lot of money, does not mean everyone else does! Worth is seen in the eyes of those who think you are worthy of their time, money, space. That’s where we are today. To be seen as someone who has something to say of worth, it has to be believable, useful and from a place of resonance.
When it comes to building influence, it can’t be the empty stories of self importance, but the ability to provide real value, over and over again, that a group of people see something consistent that they want to be a party of.
What Happened Last Week
Cigarette giant Philip Morris, have just made a 2018 pledge with an ‘ambition to stop selling cigarettes in the UK.’ A leading seller of tobacco is looking to influence 8m Brits to stop smoking?
If you were cynical you could look at it as a PR stunt. On the other side you could look at it as a brand that accepts responsibility for others and provide alternative routes for people to still adopt and spend money on Philip Morris products.
Profits will be generated from e-cigarettes and £2.5bn has been spent on research into smoke-free products, intended to be less harmful to someones health. There is still a market to lean into, but Philip Morris is approaching it from a different way of providing information and alternatives to persuade smokers to look at alternatives (that will still make the company money). Can Philip Morris be seen as an influential source that helps reduce cigarette sales? Only time will tell.
The point I am trying to highlight, with this example, is that when it comes to being seen as influential, it is about understanding a place within a marketplace and taking on board a responsibility and not wanting to be loved or seen as popular.
This is an example where influence is not about numbers ie. more visitors to your site, more social followers, but creating a change of habit ie. stop smoking cigarettes and looking at alternative products and a willingness to educate.
Creating a shift of behaviour has to come from a message resonating with someone else. This has to be where true measurement lies and real influence has its role to shape, change and adapt.
What About You?
The determination to be influential is not yours to make. You can’t try to be influential, but over time be seen as valuable where your message resonates with others.
If you want to be seen as influential, it comes down to this one question to ask, ‘do you have a product or service that other people care about?’ Are you prepared to go ‘all in,’ maybe not on a £2.5bn scale like Philip Morris but one where you are not going to deviate?
A goal for what you create and the audience you build has to be to get them to make a change, reinforce a decision or instill a belief. To be seen as influential, you have to lead. In the words of Seth Godin (10th January), charisma also has a role to. Seth says, ‘Charisma doesn’t permit us to lead. Leading gives us charisma.’
I know it is quite crude way of demonstrating, but it works via this process:
Have a point of view (that doesn’t go in a bucket with everyone else)
People connect with it
You keep going within the channel you started ie. blog, podcast, video
Relationships and loyalty become built on trust
This is in a totally different space from looking to be popular and a quest for acceptance where volume leads, but what can hit home for others based on what you put in front of them. Resonance will always beat size.
You have to approach from something that you stand for and there is a marketplace for it, otherwise it just becomes a drain on time and resources. For instance, if a farmshop or deli, just highlighted recipes on their website, all they are doing is swimming in the same pool as every other recipe provider and many who have been doing it for years and have built credibility. If the narrative becomes deeper on the farmers they work with, the health benefits, the food we are eating and the seasonal mix of products, then the company is seen on a far more trusted level.
Lets Round Up
The impact that you make on others is determined via the narrative that you build and the two way flow of communication.
Chasing a term that you think you are or want to be, will guarantee that you never achieve it.
You can’t be influential from a few blog posts and throwing money at a Facebook campaign, it’s about mattering to a specific audience rather than everyone. When you get people to action, rather than the search to be everyone’s friend, you can build something where people look at you in a way different from the rest of your industry. The way you can get people to action is to create from an angle that aligns with what you do and for others to come along for the journey.
Maybe one day, everyone will want to buy my football programme collection, but until then, I’ll leave it in the box in the loft.