3 Important Habits for Building Influence that Matters

I am mostly offline, attending a business conference. I have asked several bloggers to post in my absence. This is a guest post by Jeff Goins, who is an author, speaker, and blogger that lives in Nashville. You can read his blog, follow him on Twitter, and check out his eBook on getting published. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

Last year was crazy. In six months, I received a publishing contract, started speaking for live audiences, and launched a writing career—all without having to quit my day job. How did it happen? I built a platform. But what does that mean?

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/mediaphotos

If you want to find and lead your “tribe,” you are going to have to be intentional about the process. The first place to start is with building relationships. I’ve cultivated three important habits that have helped me do this.

Habit #1: Make Connections

A platform is not a website. It’s not your Twitter feed or speaking schedule. It’s people. Plain and simple. You may use a tool like a blog to connect with your audience, but this is simply the medium for your message. It’s a means to an end. And the end is relationship.

Realizing this changed everything for me. Instead of cold calling or emailing strangers, I looked for ways to build real relationships. Instead of demanding to be heard, I took my time getting to know people.

This isn’t like typical “networking,” where your goal is short-term, selfish gain. It’s about showing people they matter. It means taking someone out to coffee or going out of your way to say thank you. It’s about dignifying relationships, not commodifying them.

The best “networkers” are good at what they do because they care. Making connections means building relationships that lead to friendships. It also means helping friends connect with other friends. It’s not always easy, but it’s a whole lot more fun than trying to sell yourself.

Habit #2: Find Patrons

Every struggling artist, author, and entrepreneur understands the challenges of trying to survive in a competitive market. If you rely on your creativity to make a living, you will struggle with this, too.

The problem is we hear stories of overnight success, of people “making it happen” all by themselves, without any help. But the reality is there’s no such thing as a self-made man or woman. We all need help — someone to show us the ropes.

Every success story is really a story of community. Without the Medicis, Michelangelo never would have painted the Sistine Chapel. Without his friends at Atari, Steve Jobs wouldn’t have started Apple.

You need patrons — people who will believe in you and help you succeed. How do you get them to notice you? Do something that matters. And then, ask. This is how I got Seth Godin to endorse my eBook.

Habit #3: Create Great Stuff

In this noisy world, we are all overwhelmed with too many messages. Our inboxes are cluttered, and our eyes are trained to skim. So how do you — someone with something to say — break through these barriers? You have to do something truly interesting.

What’s the best way to do this? Start by asking questions:

  • What do people want?
  • What do they need?
  • What’s causing them pain?

Find out their problems and solve them. This will earn you the right to speak.

The best way to do this is to make a remarkable product. Start a blog or a podcast, launch an online course or coaching program. It doesn’t have to be complicated; it just has to help.

If all you do is connect with people, but don’t connect them with something, you will limit your impact. You need to create something. And it needs to be amazing.

If you are going to build a platform, you will have to give before you get. The best way to begin is by earning attention through being generous. As your influence grows, build stuff that solves problems, and good things will come.

So what does this look like, specifically? Here are four ways to get started:

  1. Email five people you want to meet. Ask them to coffee — your treat. No agenda, no big ask. Just reach out and see who responds. Do this with individuals and groups.
  2. Do something generous. Donate your services or time. Give away a free product, like an eBook. Make yourself available to others — be interruptible.
  3. Publish a manifesto. Create something with a message worth spreading. It should be good enough to charge money for, but don’t. Solve a problem, and do it for free. Watch as your idea spreads and your influence grows.
  4. Repeat these steps for the rest of your life. Keep connecting, keep serving, and keep doing remarkable things.

Question: Which of these habits do you practice? Have you seen others work? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Spec2williams

    I recently experienced #1 gone bad and it was a helpful learning experience.  I was invited to grab coffee by a young man who attends the church where I serve.  I am  3 or 4 years older than he is, but the difference seems a lot bigger than that.  He invited me to coffee with the sole purpose of “getting to know each other a little bit.”  That was cool.  We talked about each other’s journeys and current roles.  We talked about family and all sorts of stuff.  I really felt like this was a good first step in getting to know each other.  Things got weird near the end of our time together when he whipped out a huge envelope containing a support letter.  He repeatedly stated that this was not the reason he wanted to meet with me, but by that time, my mind was in another place.  The more he tried to make this clear, the worse it all seemed. I was thinking back over the course of our conversation, searching for any clues that this had all been a setup to raise support.  The way that he handled the last few minutes of our time together made everything that had happened previously seem shaky.  I’m very familiar with folks that need to raise support to do ministry or nonprofit work.  I give to these types of things all of the time; however, I have never felt that the purpose of getting to know someone was to prep the way to get something out of them.  I see this as a caution to those who would follow step #1.  Be genuine in your desire to connect with people.  Most people will eventually see what you’re all about., so just be yourself. 

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      So true!  The same thing happened to me a couple of months ago with a twenty-something who had been trained to use this “bait and switch” technique by his missions organization! 

      The first 50 mins of our one-hour meeting went great, as you describe about your meeting.  Then he got real uncomfortable and tried to “hard close” me to support him.

      I let him know that I believed in him and his ministry (because I did) and that I was going to support him.  I mentioned that he seemed uncomfortable and asked some questions about his training.  He explained a three-day fundraising training course that he went to that taught him this technique!  

      I gave him some tips on how to do this better.  He was extremely grateful.  I think it really helped him and his ministry.

      It may be that some missions organizations need to re-evaluate how they are training new missionaries.

      • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

         As someone who raises support for a living, I can attest to how awkward this is. Interesting to hear the other side. Thanks for sharing. Sorry you had that kind of experience; it’s not fun.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       I can relate to how much difference in age a few years ca make. Love these tips. Thanks!

  • http://krisandraili.blogspot.com/ Krisrobbie

    Serving other people with pure motives. This is life worth living.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      indeed.

  • http://ignitechange.net/ Craig Morton

    Hi Jeff.  I think what you said about it being about people rather than a website or feed was a great perspective shift for me.  That behind those lines of text are real people that are wanting to build connections as well.  I’m relatively new to this game, but have enjoyed getting to know the people who show up as text on my screen.  
    I also really enjoyed your Manifesto in it’s content and style.  Very well done.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Craig, you are so right about focusing on relationships.  

      I once had a mentor who said that we are a transaction-based society instead of relationship-based, as we were created to be.  He challenged me, instead of going an inch-deep and a mile-wide with a transaction-based mindset, to go an inch-wide and a mile-deep building fewer and deeper relationships.  I took his advice and made that change.  It revolutionized my business!  The deeper relationships were what I worked on and the transactions happened as a natural result.  I generated more revenue with much less effort and REALLY enjoyed my work much better than when I was chasing the transactions!  

      • http://ignitechange.net/ Craig Morton

        Hi john. I like that analogy a lot and it makes sense. It’s sort of like twitter. If you had 100,000 followers who you don’t even know anything about or 1000 that you spent time really cultivating relationships, the work becomes the people rather than the transaction. Thanks for sharing that. It really helped.

        • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

          Right on, Craig!   Casting a wide net through a medium like Twitter can help initiate great relationships (Michael taught me this and I’m still working on casting the wide net), but it’s a means to an end.  I think that real relationships are the end objective.  

          • http://ignitechange.net/ Craig Morton

            It’s interesting how technology can cloud the vision of what service providers are meant to do. If it was all done in person, then it would be like you said, a inch wide and a mile deep each relationship. However, with technology, people forget about the relationship and often charge forward in switch to the mile wide/inch deep ideology and then have very little to show for it in the long run. Hope you have a great day John.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Thanks, Craig!

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  • http://themarriagechecklist.com/ Dr. Ann

    Great post Jeff – I’m saving this one!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Dr. Ann!

  • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

    Great post today, Jeff!  You’ve challenged me to be better in each of these areas.  

    I bought into publishing the free manifesto when I read this idea as described by Seth Godin.  However, I couldn’t quite get my head around an idea for the right one for me.  Though, today after processing your thoughts above, I’ve now got an idea for the right one.  I need to keep processing, but you certainly helped me today!

    P.S. – I love following your blog … thanks for writing great stuff!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      awesome! thanks, John.

  • http://lesdossey.com Les Dossey

    Jeff,

    I just became a fan and a subscriber

    Only the Best,

    Les Dossey

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       thank you, Les!

  • http://dougmullin.ca/ Doug

    thanks, Michael, for having Jeff share on your site. thank you, Jeff, for sharing. I bunnytrailed off to your site, when you mentioned Seth Godin. and learned more about influence, expecially your thoughts on Dale Carnegie. I didn’t realize how simple building influence can be, and really didn’t think I was already doing it. Reading this post and the one on your site reinforced that I am already building influence, simply by trying to remember people’s names.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      the most sobering/empowering thought about platform is we already have one. what we do with it is our choice. thanks, Doug.

  • http://www.malindalou.wordpress.com/ MaLinda Johnson

    Platforms are definitely people, not services. Good one to start with and a good reminder!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       thanks, MaLinda!

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  • S Delemare

    I so liked this – especially the bit about giving stuff for free. I’d been told that one shouldn’t write for free, but I’ve been doing this for years – as and when I’ve had the opportunity to get my ideas out there – and I know people read it.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Excellent. It’s a touchy subject. I don’t mean that writers aren’t worth paying. Quite the opposite, in fact. But the reality is with so much noise in the world, the best way to get noticed is to be generous. It may be the only way. How else can you prove your talent?

  • http://www.paperandglam.com/ Paper & Glam

    Jeff, this post is remarkable per usual. Thanks for lending your guidance and encouragement daily. Would love to hear your advice and perspective on time management on the blog sometime.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Ack. I’m no good at it. For me, it’s all about tricking myself and doing silly routines.

  • Rachel Lance

    Thanks Jeff (& thanks for the great question Brent). This meets me write where I am on several projects. Time to build a new muscle – building connections.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       It can be a lot of fun, Rachel. Good luck!

  • Rachel Lance

    Thanks for adding that quote, Cheri. I’ll be mulling that over all week!

  • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

    Jeff,

    Fantastic stuff—simple and convicting!  I am working on emailing my 5 people right now!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      awesome, Barry! Hope it goes well.

  • http://darensirbough.com/ Daren Sirbough

    These are some great points. Unfortunately I don’t feel I have done much of these to a great extent. However, I’ll give this some thinking time and see who I can serve and who I can ask out for Coffee now. I agree with all the points listed above. I just have to do something about it now.

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  • http://twitter.com/scskillman SC Skillman

    Thank you for this post; it is so refreshing to read. For some time I’ve been wondering about these stories of authors who became successful “all on their own”, & I’ve known something was missing…  something they’re forgetting to tell us. The reason why I write is to be in relationship with my readers, through my characters & their dilemmas.  My desire is to connect with an audience, through my fiction. Now you have articulated in your 3 points what I know to be true. I will  put them into practice. Thank you again.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       You’re welcome, SC!

  • Drdavidpatton

    A really inspiring post that has prompted me to take action! Thanks. A great summary if some powerful steps to take

  • http://twitter.com/MusicPowerStrat MusicPoweredStrategy

    Jeff,

    I  needed this today!  It’s so basic but with all of the information and activities that may distract us, it’s easy to lose focus.

    Thanks for reminding me of what’s important!

    Have an awesome week!

    Greg

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       You’re welcome, Greg. Best of luck to you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mel.menzies Mel Menzies

    Great post, Jeff, and so true.  My mantra, and the whole purpose of my books, blog, website and speaking engagements, can be summed up as: Encouraging others with the encouragement with which I’ve been encouraged.

    Relationship is mandatory if  you are to know what encouragement people need, I’ve found.  You need to walk in their shoes; listen to their needs; feel their feelings.  This isn’t always possible face to face.  But having experienced a broken marriage, bankruptcy, a daughter on drugs, and bereavement, I find I have a meeting point with many people.  And being a published author for over 20 years, I’ve had the privilege of connecting with many of my readers who’ve written to me to share their stories.  For me, that’s worth more than anything that fame or fortune can bring.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       I love your generous spirit, Mel. Keep up the good work.

  • http://beckfarfromhome.blogspot.com/ Beck Gambill

    I’m slowly beginning to incorporate these strategies into my mindset. I see my blog and message as a stewardship issue, and generosity must be the hallmark of a good steward. After you put your manifesto out I took the leap to write an ebook. A simple handbook on mentoring. Sister to Sister; A Mentor’s Handbook is available on my blog for free download. This month a blog friend downloaded it, shared it with her pastor and women’s ministry leader, and the church used it at a women’s event to train new mentor’s. I was blown away and humbled. That one event stoked the fire in me to keep the momentum going and gave me courage to approach people I respect to endorse the handbook.

    One thing I have noticed about your advice on building a platform is that it’s a starting point. I have to tailor these skills and tips in a way that meets my goals and life situation, and that’s what I’m trying to do. Thanks for great advice Jeff.

    http://beckfarfromhome.blogspot.com/2011/08/get-copy-of-my-new-ebook-sister-to.html

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Definitely, beck. It has to work for you.

  • Laura Headley

    Readily applicable and practical- thanks for this relevant post, Jeff. I’ve found that as I’m building my business platform (still in its infancy), learning from business leaders/ thinkers like you has transformed my traditional J-O-B. Thank you for advice that has deepened the relationships I nurture with the teachers I support AND helped me build a solid business platform for myself. Blessings and abundance! Laura

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Thanks, Laura!

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    Thanks for the enlightening message this morning Jeff! I beleive that nothing in this world turns out to be an overnight success by chance. Intentions and consistent effort brings up positive result. Building influence is really an art. It requires good planning and focused excution from our end.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      You’re welcome. I share that belief.

  • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

    I think I do okay with #3 but struggle with #1 and #2. The two I struggle with are not natural for me but I am working on strengthening and bulding relationships. Even #3 isn’t where I would like it to be, but I kind of feel more at ease figuring that one out. Some days are better than others for all three though. Maybe it’s a confidence issue more than anything. Not sure today.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Kari, it may be. I would just begin. Put yourself out there and see who responds.

  • http://sidekickgraphics.com/ George Gregory

    Great, practical suggestions. I’m learning to connect and contribute. Relations are easy for me – I like people – but getting organized is a bit of a struggle until I find my stride. Work in progress…

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Thanks, George. Love that you’re trying to do this. In my experience, starting is much more important than strategizing. It doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to work.

  • http://www.peterglowka.de/ Peter Glowka

    Great post, Jeff. One point I don’t agree with is how you describe ‘typical’ networking. People who think in short-terms are no successfull networker and from my experience they are a minority.

    Today most People who attend networking events know that you build relationships when you don’t need them so you will have them once you need them. There is a lot of giving involved in this before you earn the right to ask for something.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Great clarification, Peter. Thanks. I admit this was my own prejudice. I appreciate the feedback.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/2NXXGADYZ4B2JRZT74ABQWM4VE Re

    Hi… such an interesting article.. thank you for sharing.. well.. I’ve done 1-3, but not in a large scale, active in several small communities, and if someone throw a question (such in linkedin), if I know anything about it, I will try to give my opinion.. :) and of course.. sincerely

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       Awesome. I’m glad it helped.

  • Pablo

    Thanks for the advice and the article Jeff. As a new author living in Israel I am far away from the people I would like to meet up with. I can do this over Skype which of course is not the same as a coffee face to face. What other ideas do you have that would help a new author like me wanting to build a tribe amongst English Speaking countries whilst not living there.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       You’re welcome, Pablo! I find that Skype is a GREAT replacement for face-to-face meetings.

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  • http://www.lynboyer.net/ Lyn Boyer

    Jeff, Thank you for sharing these very effective and important ideas. I know you will continue to be successful because you focus on the relationship and not on the product or even worse, just what you will gain. Whether you call it platform, foundation or process you have made some excellent suggestions. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

       You’re welcome, Lyn! Thanks for reading.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kare-Christine-Anderson/100000521862131 Kare Christine Anderson

    As well, Michael, I might add: 
    1. Step into their shoes: offer help that is, well, helpful
    2. Vividly, authentically and specifically praise others in front of those who matter to them
    3. Bring together diverse others who might not think they want to meet, citing a Sweet Spot of Shared Interest to get them talking. This strengthens the web of relationships

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      great points, Kare.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kare-Christine-Anderson/100000521862131 Kare Christine Anderson

    Oops, I meant to add my comment, writing to Jeff for his adept guest post, rather than Michael who was embodying the message of this post by having Jeff as a guest blogger on it, 

  • Deitra Brunner

    WOW!  Where have you guys been all my life?  This stuff is absolutely amazing!  Thank you so much for this…well, now I have to pray some more so I can get the wording for the platform, but at least now I know what to pray for!  Stay Blessed!

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