Last year I wrote a couple of articles about influence. The first was for AMEX Open Forum on why influence matters and the second detailed 10 ways that you can build your influence online.

Influence was a hot topic over the last couple of years. Fast Company played around with their own “Influencer Project” where they attempted to identify the most influential people online by simply tracking clicks on links. Don’t ask me how, but I actually ranked 21 out of over 30,000.

There are also several apps that launched to measure influence. I’m not going to clutter your brain with any of them except for Klout — which seems to have gained the most traction.

But there is so much more to influence than getting your name out there and being ranked and scored online. Today, I thought I’d highlight some timeless elements that actually create influence and give you some tips on how to incorporate them into your marketing strategies.

  1. Have an opinion.? I can’t tell you how many times people say that they aren’t “qualified” or they aren’t an expert in something because they either haven’t written a book or they don’t have the right college credentials. That is a crock. All you need to have to become influential is an opinion — a strong one. When it comes to buying products, services or ideas — it’s a strong opinion or point of view that wins every time.
  2. Be committed to something.? This is one of my favorite and most telling questions — What are you committed to? I know it’s a BIG question, but if you take the time to think about it, you’ll find that the things that you are committed to are what drive your joys and your disappointments. Here are a few examples:
    • I’m committed to being on time. If you’re committed to being on time, you probably have systems and processes in your business and your life that get things done on time and get you to places on time. You live your life around being on time. When people are late and things don’t show up on time — you go BANANAS — because you are committed to having things be on time.
    • I’m committed to fitness. You know the people who are committed to fitness because they take their workout clothes and their running shoes on a business trip. Maybe they ask if the hotel has a fitness facility. They are always on the lookout for opportunities to be fitAnother thing to look out for around commitments is the things you SAY you are committed to compared to the things that your behaviors and actions say that you are committed to. Influential people have strong commitments that are aligned with their thoughts, actions, behaviors and outcomes.

      So, if you’d like to test yourself, create two column on a sheet of paper and label the first “What I say I’m committed to” and label the second “What I’m really committed to” You’ll be surprised at what shows up. For example, I say I’m committed to being healthy. But when I see that cream filled donuts are on sale and I grab one — I’m clearly committed to “Eating whatever I want”. See the difference. In this case, if I’m marketing health and fitness products or services — I can’t expect to be influential if my stated commitments don’t line up with my actions.

  3. Pick a message and stay on point — always.? If you’re going to be influential on a topic, you need to pick a point of view, a philosophy and always be talking about it. Take the opinions that you’ve generated or your commitments and then write blog posts, tweets, books, articles, presentations and have conversations with THIS as the focal point. It’s going to sound?repetitive and boring to you — but remember, you are speaking to hundreds of people at any given time and they will have only heard it once or twice. You’ll know that you’ve succeeded when people come to you to speak about a specific topic every time.
    • Imagine that you’ve been asked to speak at a massive seminar of your ideal customer. What would you talk about? What do you “know for sure” about how things are?
    • Create a list of 7 topic areas that are related to your commitment, position or brand and ALWAYS talk, write or speak on one of those topics. If someone approaches you with a loose link to a topic – either refocus on your point or let it go. You can’t afford to dilute your message or what you want to be influential about.
    • Create modules of stories and presentations around each of those topics so that you can be prepared to get on your soapbox about them at a moment’s notice.
  4. Tell your story.? I need to really clarify this point. Telling your story doesn’t mean bragging on who you are. It also doesn’t mean telling your business war stories. These stories are all focused on you and how good you look. People buy stories ABOUT you when they offer a benefit to them. Just watch any infomercial and you’ll see countless great examples. Notice how the person that has developed the product or service has a compelling story. The story may describe a life circumstance that was exceedingly difficult — when you hear that you might think “WOW — if he can do that, I can do that”. Your story has to give the reader or audience a resonating connection between what you’re selling and what inspired you to go from wherever you were to where you are today. They need to SEE THEMSELVES in the story in some way.
  5. Help people do what you do.? Take Rachel Ray for example. She knows how to make a tasty, healthy and gourmet-looking meal in 30 minutes or less. This is what she’s known for. She has a story to support it and she can help you do what she does. She is influential in the world of food. Dan Kennedy and Jay Abraham are influential in the world of direct marketing because they have systems and processes that help people do what they do. They also have ridiculously strong opinions on what works and what doesn’t work.
  6. Tell people that you are an authority on your topic.? This might seem crazy or obvious, but you need to tell people that you are influential on a specific topic. Say something like “People come to me when______” or “I’m an expert on __________” ?Just tell them what you want them to think or know about who you are and what your business is about. Make it a point to tell at least 5 people per day that you are an expert or an influencer on your specific area of expertise.

I’ve just given you 6 practical ways that you can become an influencer and now I’m going to give you a BONUS on top of that. NOMINATE yourself or your business as a 2012 SMBInfluencer! ?This is the second annual SMBInlfuencer Award that is founded by Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends and Ramon Ray of SmallBizTechnology.

As part of THEIR branding and influencing strategy, they wanted to recognize ALL those people, companies, organizations, journalists and applications that influence the world of small business. Their commitment is to expand the visibility of the hundreds of small business influencers who AREN’T big time CEOs or fortune 100 companies – but who do their part in helping small businesses be successful.

Nominate yourself or nominate those companies, people or organizations that influence YOU and help you become successful! Nominations are currently open – just click here and fill out the nomination form. http://influencers.smallbiztrends.com/nominate. Just as an FYI, all nomination submissions are moderated – so you won’t see your nomination pop up right away. But don’t worry, we’ve got it.

Feel free to nominate AS MANY companies, and people that you’d like — as long as they fit the criteria. Nominations are open until July 15.

Here’s another marketing tip — After you’ve nominated someone — be sure to LET THEM KNOW that you nominated them — it’s great marketing for you and great visibility for them.

Also be sure to follow @SMBInfluencer on Twitter and follow the discussions with the #SMBInfluencer hash tag.

I’ll be keeping you updated here as well.