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.