Networking is a great way to trade information and create beneficial relationships in the industry. Many businesses have paved their way to success through strong networks built over time. The crucial thing to remember while networking is the kind of people you choose to network with for your business.
When we talk about branding, it is all about the idea or the image that comes to mind when we listen to the names. This image is built through strong marketing and brand image. Let us talk about some of the advantages of branding and networking for businesses of all sizes.
Why is networking important?
There are many advantages of networking when it comes to growing your business; here are a few:
- Networking is essential in generating new leads and expanding your customer base.
- Learning from the decisions of other business owners is an excellent way of utilizing your network.
- By building your network with other businesses, you can get ahead of new business trends, which gives you an advantage over your competitors.
- To boost the growth of your business, you need to have good connections in the industry.
- Getting a new perspective on your business through your network and discussing new ideas with other business people to get a fresh view
- By bonding with like-minded individuals, you can look up to them for guidance and learn from their experiences before making crucial decisions.
- Long-term relationships with other people in your network are essential to building the right relationships in times of crisis.
Now that we have discussed the importance, let us understand why branding is crucial for any business to grow.
Why is branding important for any business?
Branding might not seem crucial when it comes to a business, but the branding of any business is essential for creating the right brand image in people's minds. Your brand is not the logo or the color your business uses but the image people have of your brand.
- More people can recognize your brand and differentiate it from your competitors.
- Branding helps generate a sense of trust when considering investing in your products or services.
- With better branding, it becomes easier to advertise and attract new clients.
- Better branding helps your employees get the recognition they deserve for not just working for your company but considering it more significant.
- When people know your brand, they tend to be loyal to your brand and would prefer your products or services over your competitors.
- Customers tend to connect with a company through branding.
In conversation with Ramon Ray on Networking and Branding
Ramon, could you start by telling us a bit about who Ramon Ray exactly is and what you do?
Yeah, I’m a lover of small business success; that’s the bottom line. I work with large brands and help them better reach small businesses.
We have a community of thousands and thousands of small business owners who follow me on various platforms and, ofcourse, on our company Smart Hustle.
Still, I do that through education, so I do a lot of public speaking. I’ve written separate books, many blog posts, and many IG stories, as you said online. So that’s a little bit about me, spreading motivation and inspiration mainly to help people start and grow successful businesses.
What do you exactly mean by personal branding, and how does one get started with it?
Yeah, you think about a great company like Wishup, for that matter, Wishup is a corporate entity, you think of a company like Coca-Cola, you think of Starbucks, big brands like that Tesla, right?
These are corporate brands that many of us generally don’t know and don’t care who the founder is or even the team; it’s about the corporate entity, you know, two degrees, the color or things like this.
But I think personal branding Crispino is really about the individual, and that’s where I, the business owner, and me as a leader, how do I sound? How do I speak? What do people think about me when they think of Ramon? What comes to mind? Some people think of happiness and excitement or Bert pancakes! I like pancakes too! So thinking of personal branding for the smallest of small businesses.
We, as business owners, are the best asset I think to help grow the brand it’s you know, the law firm, the advertising agency, the pool cleaning company you know even for that matter the business owner can be on panels.
The business owner could do podcasts; the business owner may have a book, which helps build personal branding. One thing I want to add is that I often build a community of fans to nurture towards a sale or ask for a smile before you ask for a sale. That’s kind of the essence of personal branding.
Do you think this applies to all forms of businesses & industries or only a select few?
No, I think it’s all. Now, I think Let’s say you take somebody who says, “ I wanna build the next hundred million dollar company,” you may start as the founder. But, still, as you grow, that’s really about the individuals that are part of the team to grow the brand.
Still, in all businesses and sectors, whether in finance, medical, or whatever it is, you can leverage your personal brand to grow the business when you're a smaller company.
Rather than wasting time in the wrong circles, how does one find the right network?
Let’s say, for example, that I landed, pretend I landed in India, and I didn’t know anybody in India at all, and then I met Crispino. So I’m making this up now, and let’s say that I’m going to make it very difficult; let’s say that I’m a chef and landed in India.
I don’t know any food no restaurants in India, but I met Crispino. He’s a chef, so one way to learn about the network is to remember that networks are made up of people. So we need to find together who are the people in your network who you jam with, who you’re sympathetic with, who you gel with, who are those people that you can leverage then they will introduce you to your networks.
My friend Amanda Holmes, her father, coined something called ‘Dream 100’, Often referred to in the sales context. Still, you can also leverage the powers of Dream 100 even for the aspect of networking in general, not even making a sale, and people can get that article you referred to; they just DM me on Instagram for better networking! By Instagram's @ramonraysmarthustle, they can DM me and find that article better networking on my website. Thank you.
So, it’s not just about your goals or what you want to achieve, but just networking in general to build your community, right?
Well, thank you for asking that. I think there has to be some strategy involved if you’re networking for just the sake of networking; to be a nice person, that’s good, but you may have people in your network who are not interested in building your business. So I do think the best business networking should have some strategy involved.
Maybe you’re networking to get people to buy from you; that is one type of networking, but as my friend Adrian Miller says, Adrian Miller of Adrian’s Network, she says, it's not just about people buying from you but also about who can refer you to other people, so that is important to get people to refer business to you as well, that’s important.
What do you say, Ramon, is personal branding and networking essential to building a community around your business?
Absolutely, very important, especially for the smaller businesses; yes, I think if you’re just worrying about the corporate brand, you’re of dis-service. But, still, I think networking; networking is essential to get out and ‘ Hi Crispino! Good morning, hello and shake’ now I’ll show you; I may have shown you before, but I’m so intent on networking, even my business cards right, their designs are for networking.
Some people say business cards are old-fashioned, but I don’t think so. On the contrary, I think in-person and online networking is also essential.
What are the advantages of building a community, and can you give some examples of how a community ecosystem can help a start-up grow?
Sure, the community is so important. I think that when you have a community, it's more sticky. When you have a community, people are more invested in your work. So let’s say I’m just Ramon Ray with no community; that’s okay.
I have people here and there who may like me or may not like me, and that’s okay, but if I have a community, Crispino, that means there may not be customers yet. But, still, they know me, the solutions I can provide, who I am, and refer their people to me, so the community is really important because that’s where the stickiness comes in.
So you take an accounting firm, and they have a community around them, a community of lawyers who can refer business, they have a community of customers every two weeks they get together for cheese and a drink, you know or something like that, that’s a community, it's making an experience, the community is about an experience and being a part of something bigger than yourself.
With everything going digital and the remote work and the whole scenario around COVID, how does one still continue to build a community in this age?
Yeah, I’ll tell you one thing I do, Crispino, Facebook alerts you when it’s somebody’s birthday; I do happy birthday to you messages.
Yeah! That networks with people, or WhatsApp, me just saying, “I just wanted you to know I was thinking about you. How are you doing?” also goes far in working with people.
So I think those are some things it takes when you’re talking about working with people and how you can network even if it’s not in person because people think pre-COVID everything has to be in-person, but what does networking mean? It just means reaching out and saying I care about you; how are you doing? So that's what it’s about.
What skills are required for entrepreneurs to scale their business to the next level?
You ask tough questions. I think one of them is the aspect of follow-up; if I’m trying to connect or network or sell somebody something in some way, shape, or form, it’s not their responsibility to follow up with me.
It’s my responsibility to follow up with them and remind them that I consider them, ‘hey, hey, I’m here in a good way, not an annoying way. So follow-up is important; I think two building with repeatable, scalable systems, so you don’t have to do the same things over and over again, building repeatable and scalable systems, and I think point three, do you have a good team?
If you don’t have the right team in place, If you have a poor team, that’s going to be a poor experience, and there’s only one person to blame YOU, meaning me. So I think those are three things I would say, the team, repeatable, re-scalable systems, and follow-ups.
Ofcourse there are so many really important things, you know the purpose values missions, and by the way, that reminds me, you may have seen it, Crispino, my little guide. These are all free, but I have a guide called Solo, a guide to building a solo business. People can also DM me on Instagram and the word Solo, which is a free guide on Solo with many of these principles.
What is your take on the new technology available to us? Web 3.0 has gained a lot of momentum, and it’s being accepted globally, so how does one adapt to this sort of move in technology?
Sure, I think there are a few things to understand; we are still in the early adapter, or even if there’s one before that stage of Web 3.0, Metaverse, Crypto, NFTs, Blockchain which is slightly different things, Web 3.0 is slightly different or part of Metaverse, and that’s different than ofcourse NFT which is built on blockchain technology.
Then you have crypto, which is a part of the blockchain, but the point being is that we’re still in our early stage, so there’s a considerable number of loud people who are in it right now, but my point is I’m trying to get out is that one hand don’t worry, don’t go crazy and think ‘ oh no!
The world is falling. I will not be able to Tweet or use e-mail marketing anymore. It’s all NFTs.’ No, it’s not; however, depending primarily on the sector of business you’re in, I encourage you to think about how I can leverage the Metaverse to grow my business. How can I leverage NFTs to add more value to our community? Should I consider how to use blockchain to serve my customers better?
That’s the way to consider some of these newer technologies because they’re here and most likely going to grow; they’re not going to go away. So the question to ask yourself is, how can I leverage them for my business, family, and personal capacity?
What is your take on remote work and outsourcing in general? Do you think this will be a big part of the American work culture going forward?
Absolutely, I think for sure, already what is going to happen is that since in-person is still important, I think you can have people that work anywhere but fly to a location twice a year, three times a year, four times a year, I think those are some of the things I think that people are doing.
So I think yes, remote work and those are going to grow some people like us, I’ve been doing remote work for years before COVID, but I think that for many people who are like
"No! How can I imagine hiring 5000 people, and I don’t see them?” Well, guess what? Now you don’t have just to get talent in Hyderabad!
You can get talent in Austin, Iran, Australia, and Canada. So your company can still be anywhere, so I think we’re seeing that more, but I must say, Crispino, nothing does beats that warm in-person communication and talking to people that’s still important, and if you can’t be in-person, at least do a call like this where you can see some of these teeth and smile at them and say hello to some degree still.
What is your prediction on the future of work, and how do you see businesses operating in the next three to five years?
Yeah, I want to shout out to my friend Sofie Ved. I have another friend Cristine Washington and others who are really ‘work futurist experts,’ and here’s what I think about. I think the future of work definitely more and more companies are definitely aware of things like diversity and being more open to having fresh talent in mind. What people look like and how they speak, I think that’s one thing.
I think the future of work is for sure that people will; Seth Godin has talked about this for a long time in his book “Poke the box,” but the aspect that all of us working in companies, we need to be entrepreneurial inside the companies we work at, and that’s point number two.
And I think point three companies, in general, have to be nimble and more adaptive, and I think Wishup, am I right? You all are Virtual Assistants company, is that correct? So I think that’s part of the equation, the aspect of being nimble.
You can hire full-time employees, absolutely that’s good, but I’m all about the virtual world and virtual assistants aspect. I’m all about them, so I encourage, by the way, Crispino. I have so many resources on Instagram, so I keep referring to Instagram.
If people DM me information about virtual assistants, you know how it hires people, right? It’s about experimenting, exploring, being clear of the job description, and having the right fit, so even that aspect is important, but yes, I’m all about it; the future of work ethic is going to be one where large brands are going to have to be more agile and more aware of what’s happening around and read the market faster!
Could you give us an example of the adaptation that you had to do in the past couple of years?
Many of us know this story of going virtual, but I think the aspect that many of us only thought an event has to be in-person, but with a simple adaptation, many companies now realize we can stream events live! So it’s not the same experience for sure; there’s a cost trimming as well.
But things like this, Crispino, I mean me and you probably would have been in touch still, but it has opened the door that, Oh! I don’t have to fly from New York to Virginia or from New Your to wherever; I can do it differently, so I think there’s a way.