Viral word-of-mouth networking
As a supporter of using social media, I absolutely believe in the benefits of building one’s profile by becoming a respected Subject Matter Expert. You can do this through a “back to basics” strategy: good old organic viral word-of-mouth marketing. Self-employed professionals often use this strategy to attract the perfect client that fits their unique methodology and style. The same approach can be used by job seekers to attract the ideal employer.
Here are some tips to start your viral word-of-mouth networking.
Start your core network
Assemble your “posse”: a relatively small group of people, who have some of the same expertise that you have – so there is enough overlap for you to really understand each other and add value quickly. Your posse trusts you and you trust them. People in this inner circle can be a great source of positive word-of-mouth to their own personal and professional networks. To understand the posse concept in greater detail, read Lynda Gratton’s The Shift: The Future of Work is Already Here in which the author identifies 32 key trends that are shaping the future of work.
Expand your network
Broaden this narrow network to “centres of influence”: professionals with whom you interact on a personal basis such as your hairdresser, accountant, lawyer or dentist. Each has their own broad network of clients who share their stories with them. Professionals in your centre of influence hear needs that they cannot address in their business. If you educate these influencers on what you do as a professional career practitioner, they can then recommend you when they hear a need for your service.
Extend your network further
Extend your network even further to include professionals that operate in complementary spaces. For example, if you are a career coach you might want to connect with psychologists, social workers, infertility counsellors, naturopaths, wellness coaches and personal trainers. Educate them on your offerings and learn about theirs so you can cross-refer. This can happen organically and/or through a variety of formal networking meetups. The important part is to move beyond colleagues who do the same thing as you and cross into fields where individuals may need your support.
Give support through your network
Perform research to identify opportunities for “getting out there and doing it for free or at cost” so that members of your target audience get the chance to experience your strengths first hand. A few examples from my personal experience are:
- I created a workshop on interview skills for students graduating from Masters programs at the University of Toronto. After the workshop(which I charged out below market value to accommodate a small academic budget), I generated incremental business from students seeking one-on-one counselling. So I’m being set up on campus for a short time in a mini “career centre” to meet the students’ needs.
- I’ve begun volunteering with a group of moms, all professional women who have been out of the workforce for a significant period while their children were being treated for cancers and other life-threatening diseases at Sick Kids Hospital. Their lives have changed dramatically and I am helping the group to clarify the next phase of their career journey. While I have taken on this role altruistically, individuals are now asking me about paid one-on-one counselling outside of the group.
- Soon, I will be facilitating a panel discussion with women who have already gone through a successful career transition at a special networking event for women currently in career transition who are dealing with low self-esteem, fear, and uncertainty. Again, I’m doing the event gratis but with the support of great promotional material and a solid opportunity to generate clients from the group.
Get endorsements from your network
Get word-of-mouth testimonials by asking satisfied colleagues and clients to be your ambassadors. If they truly appreciated your support, ask them to endorse your online profile or talk with friends and colleagues about the work you did.
Talk proudly and shamelessly about what you do in your work when both friends and strangers ask. The passion that naturally comes out of doing the work you enjoy is infectious, and you’ll find that you will quickly reach your career objectives through viral word-of-mouth marketing.