By Jeff Beals
Here we are in the first month of a new year. This is one of those years where many professionals are feeling more optimistic than they were at this time 12 months ago.
That's refreshing. It's a much better feeling than we had at the beginning of 2010. But while the stock market has been rising, tax cuts have been extended and business is picking up, these are far from ideal times. High unemployment persists, and the economy still has a cautious, uncertain feeling to it.
Today's business environment remains somewhat perilous, but at the same time, there are great prospects for those who play their cards right. That's why it is so important for you to build your personal brand and create opportunities.
Whether you want more/bigger clients or a better career opportunity, make a commitment to market yourself in 2011. To get you started, here are 10 items to consider:
Live actively and focus externally - Be active and involved outside your home or office. Show up at networking events. Go out of your way to talk to people when you are in public venues. Remember that 75% of all jobs are never advertised and a similar percentage of big clients only come from relationship-building.
Determine what is most interesting - You need an "area of self-marketing expertise," something about your business or career that is fascinating to people outside your profession. Focus on this when you are networking or using social media.
Focus on results when networking - When you go to networking events, go in with a goal in mind. Sure, you should try to enjoy your conversations, but make it a mission to find a good lead or a golden opportunity.
Exploit social media - Don't just have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. Make sure you post material that is interesting and not just inane personal stuff. Use social media to strengthen your reputation by building on your area of self-marketing expertise.
Make people feel important - When you are talking to someone, make him or her feel like the only person in the world who matters to you at that moment. This will help you develop advocates, people you can count on when you need help.
Build your "Google trail" - Rest assured, that people are Googling you on a regular basis. A prospective client will probably Google you to know who he or she is dealing with before meeting with you. That's why a Google trail is so important. If nothing or very little pops up when someone Google's you, there's a problem - they'll assume you don't have much going on. Therefore, Google your own name on a regular basis. If you're not very visible on line, deliberately get your name out there to build an Internet presence.
Ask probing questions - Don't just chit-chat and make small talk during networking conversations. Ask some questions designed to uncover the critical information that leads to new opportunities.
Refresh your elevator speech - Does your 20-second intro speech need updating? You need to be able to say what you do quickly, clearly and in a way that captures a person's interest.
Listen to your clients and colleagues - When we get too busy, it's easy to start making assumptions. Those assumptions can cause you to lose opportunities. Instead, ask the important questions and truly listen to the responses. Don't just go through the motions. Let the other person's words sink in and make an impression on your brain.
Never let up - When things are good, don't let complacency stop you from perpetually marketing yourself. When things are going poorly, don't let discouragement be an excuse for apathy.
Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. You can learn more and follow his "Business Motivation Blog" at www.JeffBeals.com.