Think about the qualities that define industry leaders. They are knowledgeable, well-connected, credible, and amiable — among other things. And, because of these traits, they’re always in a position to help others in the industry. (Whether they actually do or not is another story.)
It’s this potential to help that contributes to a leader’s authority and credibility, and it results in something else: Helping others can allow you to differentiate yourself and naturally attract people to your brand in a meaningful way.
Three Benefits of Helping Others
By simply sharing your knowledge and resources, you stand to gain three benefits — benefits that will position you as an industry leader while also ensuring the longevity of your business.
1. Create Brand Advocates
You can garner valuable brand advocates by simply providing help where help is needed. We recently took this concept to heart and hired someone who is solely responsible for helping our partners. Whether it’s providing a press opportunity, a referral, or simply valuable information, it’s that person’s job to find opportunities to help someone out.
As a result of simply helping our partners, we’ve gained a community of brand advocates who consistently refer potential clients our way, bringing us valuable opportunities.
2. Decrease Barriers
When you make the effort to help someone, you are given the opportunity to form a meaningful relationship, rather than a purely transactional one.
Take my relationship with Scott Gerber, “super connector” and founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council. When we met two years ago, we could have rushed into a strictly business relationship, which wouldn’t have lasted long. Instead, Scott and I have made a meaningful connection over the past two years by giving each other feedback on projects and providing introductions. As an added benefit, we were recently able to make a seamless transactional deal because of the trust previously established between the two of us.
It’s relationships like this — larger, meaningful partnerships — that will differentiate you from competitors and provide you with the credibility to make similarly valuable connections in the future.
3. Encourage Employees to Do the Same
By helping others, you’re setting an example for your employees to do the same. This means employees will be more likely to go out of their way to help clients, resulting in higher customer satisfaction.
Consider the debt collection agency CFS2, for example. It has a simple strategy: help the people they collect from pay their debts. By helping people create résumés, coaching them through difficult times, and providing other resources, CFS2 is outperforming competitors by 200 percent. This strategy is great not only because it reflects the company’s goodwill, but by sharing its knowledge and resources with others, CFS2 positions itself as an expert in personal finances. If your brand can garner a reputation based on both amiability and expertise, you’ll have more than just a profitable business.
Five Ways to Help
Obviously, there are many ways to help your business partners and industry connections. If you’re looking for inspiration, below are five ways to showcase your expertise and networking abilities through helping others.
1. Recognize them. When you have the opportunity to recognize someone, take it. This can mean mentioning a partner’s good work in a thought leadership article or talking about a company at an industry conference.
2. Bring business their way. If someone asks you to suggest a particular product or service, give a potential lead or business partner an introduction. It takes about five minutes to look up LinkedIn connections, and the person you recommend just might return the favor.
3. Volunteer your time. Even the busiest people can make the time to help others out. Gary Vaynerchuk recently offered to help up-and-coming bloggers by doing an interview for their sites. Even if you aren’t as well-known as Gary, keep track of the people you can help and reach out to them.
4. Share knowledge. This is the easiest way to help if you lack a personal brand. Recognize some common problems people are having, and find a way to connect the dots for them. For example, a lot of people have told me they have trouble connecting APIs and Web services. Because I simply know aboutZapier and its services, I’ve been able to introduce people to a product that saves them both time and money.
5. Give feedback. Too often, people tell their peers what they want to hear rather than actually giving valuable, constructive feedback that could help them. If you provide feedback that could potentially improve a person’s business, that person will look to you in the future.
In a sea of aspiring industry leaders looking for quick transactions and easy credibility, it’s no wonder that business leaders can stand tall above the rest through the simple act of helping others. By helping your partners, potential business leads, or other industry connections, you not only win their gratitude, but you’ve positioned yourself as a person with knowledge, resources, and credibility — the makings of an industry leader.
John Hall is the CEO of Influence & Co., a company that assists individuals and brands in growing their influence through thought leadership and content marketing programs. Influence & Co., one of the leading providers of high quality expert content to the world’s top publications, is the creator of Contributor Weekly. Connect with John on Twitter or Google+.