28/01/2011

By Mike Southon, FT columnist

Last week I wrote about turning a good idea into a great business, with the key issues being the ability to generate revenue and then build a team, starting with a foil, someone with the opposite set of skills to yourself.

Then, it is only about doing simple things well, by understanding your target market and consistently delivering on your promises. If you do these two simple things word of mouth will spread, and you will then find yourself selling to people outside your immediate close circle of friends.

Early stage businesses are usually developed around the reputation and personal brand of the company founder, so the next stage is to see if you can turn yourself into a key person of influence.

This is the title of a new book by Daniel Priestley, a successful entrepreneur who has built several multi-million pound businesses in events marketing and public relations. He has identified five key elements that will help you to establish your reputation in your in your chosen industry.

The first and most important part of the process is to identify not just a niche, but ideally your own micro-niche. The more specialised you are, the easier it is to establish yourself quickly in that area. So, while being an accountant in London might be a good niche, an accountant specialising in small retail businesses in London would be even better.

The outcome of this first part of the process is to define your perfect pitch, and Priestley draws on the expertise of Mike Harris, who has developed several multi-billion brands from scratch, including Internet banks Egg and First Direct.

Once you have identified your niche, the next stage is to be published. This might eventually be a book, but in the early stages you should demonstrate your thought leadership in the specialist trade press of your chosen area, using weblogs and articles.

Priestley then advises you develop information products, including CDs, DVDs or Internet downloads such as eBooks. This allows you to share your ideas with more people and even earn money directly from your expertise.

The next step is to raise your profile on-line to be near the top of the Google search rankings. Learning how to use key platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Ecademy and Facebook will enable you to grow your personal brand online and connect yourself to other thought leaders in your chosen field.

The final element is forming the right partnerships, which can provide significant leverage if managed correctly. Priestley himself provides this expertise, gained from many years’ spent developing affiliate programmes for his events business.

I was initially sceptical about this process, as my first impression was of the Internet-based get-rich-quick schemes, which encourage people to leave their experience behind and pursue new and unfamiliar territory. These web sites promise much but generally deliver little genuine value for most people.

But Priestley stresses that there are no short cuts; you should first carefully examine your experience in your chosen field and then to take specific steps to establish your personal brand.

Priestley explains that influential people draw on the minimum of ten thousand hours that they have devoted to something they are genuinely passionate about, as recommended by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers.

This gave me much more confidence in his process, as I remembered all the eager and ambitious people who have asked me for advice on starting a business over the years. All of them had great ideas, but only a select few had the willingness to put in all the hard work required to really learn their craft.

Key Person of Influence by Daniel Priestley can be found at http://www.keypersonofinfluence.com

Originally published in The Financial Times: http://www.ft.com
Copyright ©Mike Southon 2011. All Rights Reserved. Not to be
reproduced without permission in writing.

Mike Southon - Co-author of The Beermat Entrepreneur & Business Speaker - http://www.mikesouthon.com

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