Generating and sustaining long-term sales is about something much bigger than branding and marketing.

In entrepreneurial circles, we hear a lot about branding and marketing. We are told that if we have a great brand and effective marketing, we'll drive all the sales we need. Of course, both branding and marketing are indeed important. Our business does need sales in order to survive.

But we can brand and market ourselves all day long . . . and still see no return from our investment of time and money.

Generating and sustaining long-term sales is about something much bigger than branding and marketing.

Something that both of these disciplines were actually designed to create.

Put simply: we need influence

Influence is the "social currency" that actually allows us to generate sales in the long run.

It also allows us to be perceived as experts in our discipline and gain wider opportunities to lead and guide others. A great example is your favorite TED speaker. S/he has influence in abundance. Influence was the "currency" that allowed him/her to get onto that stage in the first place.

Thinkers like Brene Brown get amazing opportunities and grow their business because they understand how to nurture and leverage influence.

If we have no influence over our market, then we won’t be able to meet our sales goals in the long run. Beyond that, we won't be able to carve out a niche for ourselves that stands the test of time.

The problem is, it's hard to wrap our heads around what exactly influence is.

After all, we can point to our website and say, “See, I updated my brand!” Or look at Twitter and say, “Well, I sent out 50 tweets this week. So I marketed myself.”

Maybe you did. And maybe you didn't. But you felt like you did, because you can see what you did.

Influence is a lot harder to measure. But there is one sure-fire way you can know you have it.

When your words and your actions directly shape the habits of your audience, you are on your way to becoming an entrepreneur of influence.

Influence is all about driving action. Branding and marketing are important tools in nurturing that influence . . . but they are not magical cure-alls. Influence is bigger and more intricate than a refreshed website or social media presence.

So how does influence work? Here’s a quick overview of the stages of influence:

Stage 1: Attention

Influencing someone’s behavior starts with getting their eyeballs. If you can’t gain attention for your work, even for tiny snippets at a time, you’ll never gain true influence. Branding and to some extent marketing is a way to stand out from the crowd and begin gaining the attention you need to be truly influential.

Stage 2: Interaction

Once you’ve gained attention for your work, if your marketing is effective, you should start generating interaction. Instead of just tweeting, you’ll actually get replies. Instead of just sending out your newsletter, you’ll start to get messages back. Interaction enables you to develop a conversation and find out more about what’s actually bothering or frustrating your audience, and how you can solve that need.

Stage 3: Influence

Once you’ve developed a robust and far-reaching interaction with your audience, you’ll start to see influence in the form of action. People actually will buy what you have to offer. They’ll come to you for advice. They’ll model their behavior after yours. This is both scary and exhilarating. Scary, because you’re now a role model. Exhilarating, because you’ll see all that branding and marketing actually pay off in the form of sales, speaking engagements, creative partnerships and other valuable opportunities. 

As entrepreneurs, it’s tempting to focus solely on the sale. But gaining a sale requires so much more than just one a one-to-one input-output.

Long-term sustainability of your business is about creating and nurturing influence . . . and influence is bigger than any one branding or marketing campaign. 

As you read the three stages, where do you see yourself? Are you still working to get attention for your work? Have you generated attention and turned it into interaction? Or are you at the stage now where those interactions are actually beginning to affect your audience’s behavior and the kind of opportunities (sales or otherwise) that they offer you?

Knowing where you land on this spectrum can help you plan your next move. It also helps us reframe our marketing efforts as something bigger and more wide-reaching than just our next Tweet or our next blog post.

It’s about a long-term, sustained strategy for multiplying our influence in the world and actually shaping the behaviors of those we want to serve—inspiring them to take the actions that will positively impact their future, and ours.

You can brand and market yourself more in 2016. Or you can start building your long-lasting influence.

Until next time, speak freely.

What does "influence" mean to you? What is your plan for growing your influence through your business? Share below!

Ready to expand your brand and your audience by crafting a more powerful message? Schedule your FREE 1:1 consultation here.

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