In the B2B space, the oldest rule has always been that people buy from people. This is absolutely true, the best marketing creates a platform for your sales teams or those professionals who are on the front line, to have conversations with your clients and potential clients. In the current COVID-19 climate, this face to face time is a lot harder to achieve. As we were plunged back into level 3 in Auckland, these meetings are either being cancelled or being moved to video calls.

So, with a need for one to one customer interaction, and with many businesses shifting to having larger numbers of people working from home, it will be more important than ever for those responsible for closing deals, to have strong online personal brands and to start employing social selling/social networking tactics.

How to develop an online personal brand

The basic foundations

For those people in your organisation who have bios on your company website, now is a great time to revisit these. It is quite likely they are out of date and could do with improving. The next step is to ensure that the key people have up to date and relevant LinkedIn profiles. It always looks good from a branding point of view if they all have a company banner visible on their profiles.

The profile itself should make it obvious from the get-go what these people do, and what potential value they bring to their clients. Their summaries should be written in the first person, it is a social networking platform after all. And you certainly don’t talk about yourself in the third person at a networking event. It pays to get your profile, and the key ones in your business, up to date and relevant. To get step by step advice on how to elevate and improve your LinkedIn profile, check out this short article.

Start an article sharing programme

Being passive on LinkedIn doesn’t work. So, to start building your own or your key people’s personal brands, you’ll need to start sharing some relevant content. It pays to mix up this content. That means you shouldn’t just push out your own company’s articles and material. Instead, share some relevant industry news and articles from similar overseas organisations, as well as your own company information. Once you get this balance right, you’ll start to get more views and comments on what you share.

Focus on creating and publishing content

I’m pretty sure all members of the Marketing Association are already onboard with the need for content marketing. There’s great advice on how to deliver client-centric personal branding in this Brainy Breakfast summary. When developing a personal brand, it is certainly effective. Whether you publish articles online, perhaps directly onto LinkedIn, or share updates using video, this is a key channel to help your target audience understand what you stand for, and who you help.

When working with your key people, it is essential that the marketing team assists with content ideas and delivery and creates a realistic delivery programme. Even one article a month, if consistently delivered, will start to build a following and create traction.

Moving into social selling

Like personal branding, this is a big topic, so I’m only going to touch on a few basics in this article to get you and your key people up and running.

Make new connections the right way

One of the main aims of LinkedIn is to make connections that are relevant to what you do, and to those people you want to meet. When doing this yourself, or advising others, make sure that you always include a message with your invites to connect, particularly if you’ve never previously met that person. Make it relevant to them. As a good guide, saying that you read one of their posts, and found it interesting because of x y or z (you’ll need to fill in the details here) and noticed you were in the same industry and thought it would be a good idea to connect, is usually a good approach.

Then, whatever you do, do not, repeat do not then send them a message with a cut and pasted sales pitch. That will make them wish they never connected with you. Instead, continue the conversation, and through asking questions build to a natural point where it makes sense to arrange a video call or meeting, to discuss how you can help them.

Join some conversations

It takes some time to explore the hashtags and groups on LinkedIn that are both relevant and active for you, or your key people to participate in. Then, start joining in some conversations. Agree with what the author of a post has posted, in a constructive way and also offer some different points of view, in a similarly professional and non-confrontational way.

Once you have successfully done this, you will then be able to start some conversations, and you can even share the occasional article from you or your organisation, on the proviso that it is informative and will be valuable to those in the group who read it. Don’t share ones that promote products, services, or offers.

Start now for the long term pay-offs

It may be the case that you are catching up on this. The recent lockdowns may have made you realise that you need to have a better online presence for the key people in your organisation. The advantage is that if you do put a firm plan and strategy in place, you will start to see some benefits in the short to medium term. In the longer term, it is likely that for the sales teams and key hires in your organisation, your personal branding and social selling programmes will likely become an essential part of their onboarding process. That really is a huge value that any central marketing team can deliver to the business, as these activities.