Growing up, the very idea of networking seemed to me indecent. Often, networking seems to imply a degree of schmoozing, of inauthenticity, of trying to get ahead when you don't deserve it.
In some circles, that may be the case, but the networking I am a proponent of is about building relationships with people; connecting.
I want to discuss networking, namely
- Why it is important for your business
- Results from my own networking to grow this blog
- How to REALLY network and get results
- Outlets to network in your everyday life
- Additional resources to help you network like a champion
- Giveaway - read to the end so you can win!
The Business Case For Networking - Why It Is Important
For as long as people have been talking they have been networking or connecting with one another. No wonder that even with all the changes the world has seen in the last few centuries, networking still holds a top slot when it comes to getting results.
Consider the following:
Opportunity - 70% of jobs are found through networking according to the U.S Bureau of Labor statistics and cited on Yale's Undergraduate Career Service Website.
Growth And Referrals - Across all stages of a person’s purchase cycle, word of mouth is the primary driver of a purchase decision. It influences 93 percent of consumers, according to a survey by RewardStream, a loyalty platform solutions provider.
Happiness - Relationship building is one of the fundamental elements of being happy. Many people attribute being happy to having a sense of community.
Clearly, whether we're trying to grow our business, or simply feel a bit better day to day, connecting with other like-minded people needs to be a daily practice.
My Own Results
Connecting with others has been one of the fundamental factors that I attribute to this blog's successful launch.
Had I not spent the last year and a half networking with people on and off the web, I would have had virtually no one to tell when I published my first post.
On the contrary, the blog has received over 10k pageviews and 800 social shares in its first 30 days. Let's look at the ways I've benefited from relationship building.
The first bump in traffic is when I launched my blog.
I emailed over 100 people who I had connected with over the last year. These were people who had commented on my travel blog, people who had taken the online course we offered, people I had helped via email, people I had met on my travels, and many many more.
Additionally, I invited another several hundred people to my check out Facebook page, which, in turn, brought hundreds of visitors to my blog in the first week! The second bump is from a guest post on Matthew Woodward's blog, which I was able to get on account of the relationship Matt and I have (we have actually met each other in person, twice, in two different countries).
The blog has been shared over 800 times, and this is not just because I stuck a scrolling flare bar on my posts. If you want people to share, you have to give them a reason, and sometimes that reason is flat out asking them (or hinting at it, as I will show later).
Features and Guest Post Invitations
I previously mentioned my guest post on Matthew Woodward's blog. In actuality, this is just one of several features that have come my way in the last 30 days, largely due to just being out there, connecting with other people, and leveraging existing relationships. Here is the full list.
- Guest post on Matthew Woodward's blog
- Guest post on Cloud Income
- Guest post on Fluent In 3 Months
- Guest post on Sean Ogle's blog (upcoming)
- Guest post on Blogging Wizard (upcoming)
- Guest post on RamboRuiz.com (upcoming)
- Guest post on Jan Koch's blog (upcoming)
- Podcast on Income Society (upcoming)
- Podcast on successharbor (upcoming)
- Interview on Rank Tactics (upcoming)
- Magazine Feature In The Paperless Entrepreneur Magazine (upcoming)
I should note that only three of the above were the result of direct request to guest post on my part, the others were offers that I received.
How To Network Like A Champion
You may be wondering how I was able to garner all of these relationships such that it resulted in so many positive benefits for me and my site. The answer is simple, but it is so often overlooked it's painful.
Are you ready?
Add value for someone.
Let me explain.
If you really want to build a relationship with someone and solidify it, you have to find a way to add value to their everyday life.
The more influential the person is, the more value you have to add. A lot of people fail at this very step. They think that simply communicating with someone is enough to get their attention and be remembered.
Actually, this can have the opposite effect.
For example, quite often people decide they want to connect with another person, perhaps someone who is influential. So what do they do? Well, they assume that there is no way they can add value to someone who is so influential, so they resort to the nasty fallback of asking for value for themselves.
They might email the person and ask a question, ask for advice, or just ask for something that THEY NEED. I'm fine when someone asks me a question.
I try to help and I will try every time, but I never feel like I am building a meaningful relationship with someone unless it feels two-sided. When I approach someone I don't know that well who I am trying to connect with I ALWAYS lead with a way that I can help them.
Consider this email, which I sent to Pat Flynn about his site FoodTruckr.com (if you're not interested in reading a long email, just skip over this part)
Let me first congratulate you on an awesome redesign - I really like it, and seriously, I'm not just saying that. I've seen a lot of people redesign their site and quite often it's for the worse and I think "what are they thinking?" But yours is really solid.
I also purchased your book last week, and enjoyed it, the quick read that it was. Thanks for putting it together and pricing it reasonably so I didn't have to think twice about getting it.
I'm writing to give some two cents about the niche site duel. I'm guessing you're a rich man now in two cents given to you so I'll be as to the point as I can and just state beforehand that I am in no way expecting or requiring a reply - I figure you get enough of these emails day to day and I'd be quite pleased just to think that you read what I wrote.
1. Time - If possible, please keep track of the time that you invested. Money too, obviously. Time and money are really the two most important things (aside from family, love, god all that stuff, you now what I mean lol), and I suspect that some of your audience falls into the camp of having enough money to undertake these things but being low on time. At least, that's my camp, and when I think about ROI the I is time, so if you can keep track of how long you're putting into each task (for example, when you wrote 2.5 hours for sending out personalized emails) that would be great.
2. I'm a little bit surprised that you already revealed the site to your readers after only a month. I get it, I suppose, people want to see it for themselves and you want to point things out to them as you go along. But man, if that doesn't taint results I don't know what does. You have such a dedicated following, shoot, I've already shared it with two friends when in theory none of us should even be aware of its existence at this point. If this doesn't muck up results I don't know what does, and I think the most important thing you're going for with this case study is reproducibility, no.
3. Monetization - I'll be honest, I'm a bit skeptical here. Not to say I don't think you will pull it off, on the contrary, I'm almost sure that you will on account of your dedication, knowledge, and resources that you can draw from. In general though, I think this is going to be a real nail biter when it comes to monetizing that site.
I feel the audience splits into two groups - those that have a food truck, and those that don't that might be interested. The latter is a tough one to find, certainly it's going to come primarily from search traffic which is exactly what you're going for, understandable. But then what, sell them a food truck? I'm guessing information products is your best bet (some sort of guide to starting/running a food truck with a series of case studies, interviews, etc drawn from your contacts that you were able to find. That's pretty plausible, I suppose.
As for the former, I imagine the main thing these people are looking for is basically more customers. Connecting customers with food trucks, that's the value prop - but that's a hard thing to pull off on account of
1. The transitory nature of food trucks and relatively low volume of customers day to day
2. The low margins with every sale
3. The difficulty in accurately measuring the value you are providing, the incremental sales
Anywho, that wasn't as short and to the point as I as hoping and I'm sure you've thought through much of this, but...
How did I attempt to make Pat feel like he was someone I wanted to connect with and not just exploit?
- I sent him a detailed email that I hoped would provide value for his project based on my experiences and impressions from following the case study.
- I let him know that I was a long time follower, that I read his most recent post, and that I bought his book.
- I made it clear that he was under no obligation to respond - that's the difference between pure, altruistic value and alterior motives.
Pat wrote me a nice response BTW. Not all my emails are that long, sometimes they're rather quick, for example, here's an email I sent to Spencer from NichePursuits when I launched my blog.
12 Game-Changing Business Books (Spencer's year wrap up)
They're part of a new blog I just launched on Business and Entrepreneurship. If you have a few moments come on over and check it out.
Thanks again for producing awesome content, and you can bet I'll be following the software business case study!
This email was a lot more self-promotional than the one I sent to Pat, but I still added value to Spencer, on a small scale, but linking not only to his Post but also to Perrin's post and CCed them both in the email.
The result was this:
If you want to be a bit less self-promotional about it, you can ask the person's permission to share the link with them. Groove did this and found 85% of people said "Yes".
How To Network Without Annoying Someone
Now, clogging up someone's email is never a good idea.
I certainly don't email people all the time, multiple times, to try and build a relationship. You have to be versatile and most importantly you have to take appropriate measures based on the amount of value you are adding. For example, when I emailed Pat, I had a lot to say and a lot of valuable advice to give.
I certainly could not have tweeted that. But sometimes I just have a simple comment or want to send something someone's way, so I will try a few other methods such as:
Tweeting At Someone
My standard approach if I feature someone in an article is to tweet at them. It's not so in their face but it is on their radar, and it also is in close proximity to the action I am hoping for which is a social share.
Commenting On A Post
A lot of people shy away from commenting on posts, especially of major influencers, because it seems like they get so many comments and would never notice one by you. I had that opinion, but after reading this post on the ridiculous power of blog commenting I changed my mind.
The fact is, whether or not the person responds to every comment is irrelevant.
They still have to approve every comment, and therefore they are going to see yours. If it is quality, thoughtful, and value-adding - it will stand out.
And even more so if it points out a silly mistake!
Commenting On Social Media
I really think social media commenting is underrated. It's underutilized and therefore a great way to stand out. This post from Spencer got around 38 comments on his blog but I was the only one who commented on Facebook.
Who do you think he's going to remember?
Moreover, it's a great way to show the breadth at which you follow someone. I love to respond to a newsletter or a Facebook update to show that I am a subscriber and a "page-liker". Remember, that just because YOU know you are a subscriber, doesn't mean THEY know (or haven't forgotten).
Follow Up Emails
One of the best times to email someone unobtrusively is just after you had a positive interaction.
Messaging On Social Media
This is another great approach because it has the privacy/intimacy of an email without the intrusive nature of it. Personally, I like to couple things with triggers.
For example, I find it is a nice icebreaker to message someone on their birthday.
So that's what I do. Every day (when I can remember), I check my alerts to see whose birthday it is, and send them a message, asking them how things are?
It's a great way to stand out from all the wall posts they are likely getting and start a conversation with an icebreaker.
I find that one of the most potent ways to build relationships with people is to introduce them to someone else in your network. This is extremely powerful because it creates a strong web throughout your network.
Think of it like interlinking your internal pages on your blog to allow for stronger connectivity. For example, after seeing a post that Stuart curated I noticed that one of the other blogs I followed, ScrewTheNineToFive, was not mentioned, so I emailed them both.
Being Active In Forums
Some people have a forum on their website, for example, me.
I'd absolutely love it if people directed their questions there instead of to my inbox because it creates nice exposure for the blog and my brand. Right now I have an epic back and forth going with one reader about finding his blog niche, and I'm very glad that I am able to share it publicly in my forum as opposed to privately in emails.
Remember, it isn't just one or the other. All of these combine to building the foundations of a relationship with someone. This great case study from Groove puts it into practice - which leads me to my next point...
It's always a good idea to reach out to other attendees ahead of time who you'd like to get to know better so that you can schedule time to meet up during the conference.
If you're waiting for that introduction to come along that is going to pair you up with your mentor - stop. It isn't going to happen. But anyone can do it. Look at how Vincent Nguyen got Rand Fishkin and Michael Hyatt to shoot a video on his behalf! Take these actions and start building your network today.
- Start by making a list of people you want to get to know. Put them in some sort of priority ordering or rank them by influence
- Begin "stalking" them i.e getting to know them. In order to find ways to add value, you have to know enough about the person to know what they value. If you think it begins and ends with their blog, think again.When I want to add value to someone I look at their life holistically.
- What interests do they have?
- Where do they live?
- Where are they traveling to?
- What projects are they working on?
- Who do I know that could help with those projects?
- Begin being present using the above methods to show that you are interested in getting to know the person.
- Think ahead - relationships are forever and you never know when you are going to need a friend or a colleague to call on.
Now back then, I did all this myself. As business grew, I had to step back a little and hire other competent marketers (ones I've personally trained) to take on some aspects of the job for me. I still oversee everything and personally do the relationship building, but I'm able to outsource things like profiling and finding the right prospects I should reach out to.
Of course, it's still up to you how much of the process you're comfortable outsourcing. Whatever the case, the end goal should be the same: to find networking prospects whose interests and niche are relevant with what you're targeting, and whose needs are also relevant with what you can offer.
GIVEAWAY: Great Books On Networking And Human Relationships
I loved both of these books on networking. These are my two favorites.
- Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi
- How to Win Friends & Influence Peopleby Dale Carnegie
I'd like to help someone start their networking today