by Heather White

Creating champions

In case you have not come across this expression before, a champion is someone who really rates you and is very happy to say positive things about you behind your back. Word of mouth marketing is just that, people talking positively about you behind your back.

If you bring together everything you have read about networking so far, this is the bit ‘when the rubber hits the road’. This is what you have been working towards.

Existing champions

Well, some champions simply create themselves. These are people you already know and who already admire you and or your work. There is perhaps a chemistry between you – a sense of trust and understanding. These people will already be championing you anyway.

Now that is great and you may want to stand back for a minute and see how many people are in this camp... Depending on what you do, consider how many people, both inside and outside the company, think you are great. Think about your peer group, senior executives, suppliers, clients and so on. Do you even know who might be a real fan of yours?

In order to get this notion into perspective, why don’t you write down everyone who you champion – consciously or not? It is important that you realise how it feels to be a fan of someone.

If you don’t champion anyone, you need to ask yourself why this is so. If I am not championing someone, then I would not expect anyone to do that for me either. What comes around goes around.

Who else?

After doing this type of quick audit, maybe you are left with some gaps. This could be because

  • You don’t know who might be a fan of yours
  • You may not have fans across all the relevant areas mentioned above.

If you don’t know who your fans might be, then you need to go and find out. How would you do this? Well, listen and watch those around you at meetings, socially and chatting to colleagues. You will pick up a lot through their non-verbal language and their throw-away comments.

If you want to deliberately nurture champions, carefully consider who these people might be. What is your desired outcome? Is it to deepen relationships inside a client company or develop your career within your company or perhaps to leave and find another business?

Here are some suggestions as to what you could do:

  • Map out the key people who may be able to take you towards your goals
  • Categorise these people as influencers, connectors and experts
  • Ask around to find out their reputation – are they on the up and are they respected?
  • Naturally, do a Google search on each person – the more senior they are, the greater the chances of finding out stuff; also check out LinkedIn, Viadeo, Xing and Facebook
  • Attend events they maybe attending and simply get to know these people

And as do you do that, re-read the other information in this topic on networking, and it will all fall into place. It is important to say that it’s my personal belief that you should aim to develop relationships with people that you think you can get to like, because it is easier and it will be genuine.

On a last note here, see what I mean about creating your brand? As you are researching your possible champions to find out if they can help you, so others (might even be the same people) are doing this about you. This stuff is going on all the time, and if you don’t help your ‘brand’, then someone else will say it for you – and it might not be the way you want.

So get in there and make it happen.