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In the last post I outlined some basic tactic for injecting humanity back into your business.  If you are anything like me, when you saw the list of sales tactics, you likely chose “Get someone to refer customers to your business for free.” The first step to generating human (and effective) referrals is to establish a relationship with the influencers in your field.

So what exactly is an influencer?

Oprah & Ellen.  Madonna & Lady Gaga.  Kanye & Jay-Z.  And yes, that momma duck.

Extreme examples, yes.  However, they illustrate the basic structure of an influencer.

1) An influencer has a larger fan base than you.
2) An influencer has an effective way of reaching their fan base.
3) An influencer is influential … they can subtly or radically influence their fans’ choices.

These are real people who effect, impact, help and/or sway real people.
 

Who are my influencers?

Applying that model to my own business, I’ve developed a list of influencers who have a larger fan base than me, have established communication channels to that base, and greatly influence the purchasing choices of their following.  Here’s my list of marketing and small biz celebrities.

  • Seth Godin – his was the first blog I ever subscribed to, the first book I ever bought on business and marketing, and his advice was the first I ever truly took. “Interact First, Sell Second” anyone?
  • Gary Vaynerchuk – his keynote speech as the Inc 500 conference was legendary. His “Thank You Economy” principle has infected my entire business model in the best way possible.
  • Ramit Sethi – the master of the side hustle.  Ramit imposed a methodology on a skill that helped me survive during the lean years while Small Biz Triage was growing its legs.
  • Jason Fried – his article in In magazine led me to his excellent book Rework which was less about marketing and more about how to *really* run a business. His advice (and 37 Signals flagship product Basecamp) saves me thousands of dollars a month.
  • Derek Sivers – the best of the bunch.  His ebook “Anything You Want” is required reading for any that work with me.  A lean and genius story about how he skillfully transformed his lifestyle into a wildly successful business – WITHOUT selling out. This post is a great companion piece on influence and crowds.
  • Francisco Rosales – the most recent entry. Without any hesitation, I can say that Francisco is the only guy who truly understands social media and knows how to teach businesses to use it the right way.
A few others of note are Anita Campbell the CEO of Small Biz Trends, and John Jantsch from Duct Tape Marketing. Admittedly, I don’t subscribe to all of their advice, however, their reach and influence cannot be rightfully ignored.
 
Please note Every one of these human beings has had an impact on me AND my ideal customer base
 
Not one of them hides behind a brand name
 
Every single one of them has spent time in the trenches as small biz owners and helping small biz owners.  And I have received no compensation for publicly praising them.  Jason may actually get another sale or two of Basecamp, and Gary may sell another copy of The Thank You Economy.
 

How do you find your influencers?

This can be a bit tricky.  Most small businesses only sell to customer that are local.  And it is doubtful that any local influencers have been featured in the New York Times (unless of course you live in NYC).  I say start with the basics.

1) An influencer has a larger fan base than you. – in the small business world this can be as simple as someone have more customers than you.  If you have 100 fans of your jewelry shop, then your influencer can be a local clothing store (that doesn’t sell jewelry) with 5,000 loyal customers.

2) An influencer has an effective way of reaching their fan base. This one is tricky.  Many established businesses in small town America rely purely on word of mouth, which though ridiculously valuable, makes it harder for them to help you.  Instead seek out folks that are connected to some form of a media channel.  Some business owners host a show on their public radio station.  Some are active on whatever the social media platform of the month happens to be (Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook, etc…).  Others may publish a popular mailed newsletter (i.e. Trader Joes).

3) An influencer is influential … they can subtly or radically influence their fans’ choices. I’ve seen many people with large fan bases and active media channels to reach them, that really don’t influence people outside of their own product/service offering. Take a look at their public communication. Have they ever given a shout-out to another person or business?  Do they publish/speak about anything but themselves?  If not, move on, and find those that do.

I’ll dig into how to use some cool forms of digital wizardry to root out the true influencers in your space in the next post with some real life examples.

Until then, I’d urge you to start building a list of your influencers.  Just get them down on paper, and try not to self-edit too much.  I’ll help you find, rack and stack them in the next post.

Have any questions, concerns, hoorah’s, or f#$% you’s?  Drop them into the comments below.

 

photo credit: Bob.Fornal via photopin cc