Networking strategies for entrepreneurs aren’t quite as easy or straight forward as the networking strategies that apply to 9-to-5ers, are they?
When you work in the corporate world your employer pays you to attend conferences and you have a long list of previous colleagues you can email. You have an obvious, understandable-to-most-people job title and you interact with Real Actual Humans all day long.
But if you’re an entrepreneur you could very well work from home, in your sweat pants, by yourself. And when you try to explain what you do you’re met with blank stares or polite nods.
Even if networking as an entreprenuer is a bit tough, it’s still super important. Luckily for all of us, my friend Molly is here to help us. Molly’s new book Reach Out: The Simple Strategy You Need to Know to Expand Your Network and Increase Your Influence is landing on bookshelves and Amazon. You can read about all the preorder bonuses, including a 1:1 phone call with Molly, here.
If you’re a business owner, you’re probably hyper-focused on how to increase your clients or sales. This is true whether you are a one-person Etsy shop or a business that makes millions each year. You probably already know you should be “networking” – but how and to who?
Enter: Reach Out Strategy.
Reach Out Strategy is thinking strategically about the people you have already met. It’s thinking about the people you could make a deeper connection with, and the people your current connections could introduce you to.
There is power in digging into your network to push yourself toward your professional dreams. Click To TweetMost of that power is through acquaintances whom you know loosely, individuals whom you have met in passing, and friends of friends. These connections are the edge of your network. The key to Reach Out Strategy is to send one email every day to someone on this edge.
I’m going to nudge you to send just one Reach Out (an email/social media message/LinkedIn connection) every weekday to someone you know loosely or have a secondary connection to. In a year you will have initiated new conversations with around 260 people.
Assuming a 40% response rate (which is low) to these Reach Outs, you’ll have started or strengthened relationships with 104 connections. These connections can help your business increase sales by bringing in old clients, introducing you to new clients, or amplifying your message via press.
104 new connections could change the entire course of your company’s growth.
As a business owner, here are 3 types of people you should be Reaching Out to on a regular basis
Reaching Out to Past Clients for Repeat Sales
Dig into your Rolodex and Reach Out to past happy clients. Start a genuine conversation with them, asking about specific aspects of their life that you know from doing business with them before. Then ask if they are interested in your services again and/or in a new product you are offering.
Besides offering an upsell, you could also offer a referral benefit. Ask if they know people in their network who would be a great client of yours. Referrals are one of the easiest ways to expand your business without spending tons of additional marketing dollars to capture new customers.
Reaching Out to People You’ve Met at Events for New Sales
One way to find new customers is to attend events with your company’s target market. If you sell mainly to pet owners, start going to local dog Meetup groups with samples and business cards. Do more than just attending conferences indoors with other entrepreneurs. This can be a valuable way to glean new insights but may not be a great way to boost sales.
After an event, follow up with everyone you met. Expand on what you talked about in person and share more about what your company offers that could help make their life easier.
If you really want to be proactive, ask the organizer for a list of attendees ahead of time so that you can have a few targets in mind of people you really want to talk to at the event.
Reaching Out to People with Platforms for Press Coverage
Following up after an event to connect with people you’ve met is especially important if you’re attending events with journalists, bloggers, or podcasters in your industry – these are potential press leads. When you Reach Out to this group, offer to give a quote or be an interview subject for any upcoming pieces they might be working on.
Additionally, if you’ve received press in a specific publication before, Reaching Out to ask the reporter to run a follow-up story or to offer a quote as an expert for a new story can work well.
Try to wait at least six months before pitching a new story idea to the reporter, and have a new angle. For example, tell them about new products, new features, a new hire, or a milestone the business just hit would all be valid reasons to Reach Out. You’ll want to keep in mind that press cycles can be long, especially if the topic is not time sensitive, so you might not hear back right away.
Don’t get discouraged: focus on building the relationship rather than getting an immediate press hit.
Finally, if you have a good relationship with someone who works in media, you can ask if there is anyone else in the industry you should meet. Press that covers one space often have a lot of contacts in that specific industry.
If you’re in tech and talking to a tech writer, asking for suggestions of anyone who would be good for you to know in the space (press or not) might coax them into offering an introduction.
Finally, You Can Also Encourage People to Reach Out to You
Besides Reaching Out to other people, you also want to make sure you appear receptive to people Reaching Out to you – whether you means yourself or your company.
To have your digital profile look friendly for potential partners or customers to Reach Out to you on, make sure that:
(1) there is text on your social media profile(s) that explains your business, with links to your website or favorite product offerings;
(2) you have clear “click-to-buy” links, a contact number, or live chat with a customer service rep on your blog, website, and/or social media; and
(3) you highlight what you want to be known for. For example, even if the bulk of your company’s revenue is doing B2C sales, if you want to do more B2B sales, highlight the B2B offerings on your website via testimonials, images, and service offerings.
It’s time to start Reaching Out. Remember, if you send just one Reach Out (an email or social media message) to a person on the edge of your network every weekday, in one year you’ll have started conversations with 260 people.
These connections can lead to repeat sales, new sales, press coverage, new partnerships, and more. You can do it!
But I want to hear from you guys! If you’re self-employed, how do you build your network? I swear by DIY mastermind retreats and monthly ‘mutually beneficial’ brain-picking phone calls with internet friends!