4 Steps to Leveraging Your Network to Build Your Business
It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Jonathan Greechan– Enjoy!
Networking doesn’t have to be about luck, but most people I work with treat it that way. Like any marketing endeavor, some simple planning can greatly increase your chances of success. As Sun Tzu famously said, “Most battles are won before they are fought.”
Unlock the potential of your network to grow your business by following the simple, step-by-step plan below;
1. Define your Goals
Networking takes time, so any business goal that needs to be met within 3 months through networking is usually unrealistic. Therefore, list out two primary goals for the next 3 – 6 months, and then two secondary goals that you foresee being a priority in the 6 – 12 month range.
2. Identify your Targets
You don’t target a company – you target a person. Go narrow and deep (versus wide and broad), and find out who makes the purchasing or partnership decisions at the companies you are targeting. You can usually find this information by checking the speaker roster (and topics) from industry events, corporate press releases, and LinkedIn.
3. Identify Your “Strategic Contacts”
With the prevalence of social media, there is almost no excuse for a cold-call or cold-email anymore. As Mark Suster, a prominent venture capitalist, put it very aptly at my Founder Showcase event, “in the era of social networks, if you can’t figure out how to get access to a venture capitalist, hang up your cleats now. You don’t pass the IQ test.”
“Strategic Contacts” are contacts who can provide introductions to your targets, and creating a list of them is easy with LinkedIn’s “Advanced Search Tools”. Here are some things to keep in mind;
- Scroll through the contacts of the people who come up in your searches – you’ll often discover positions and companies you didn’t know existed.
- Once you’ve found a search that works best, be sure to “Save This Search” so you can use it in the future.
- Use LinkedIn for research, but not for contacting. “InMail” and LinkedIn referral requests have become so bogged down by recruiters that most well connected people I know find them un-usable.
4. Email your Strategic Contacts
Now that you have your list of strategic contacts, it’s time to start your outreach via email, which should come in two parts.
Email 1: Create Value
One of my favorite rules of marketing is to always provide value before asking for it in return. This is doubly true for networking, and it does not even have to require a lot of effort – just a small “out of the blue” gesture to a strategic contact can pay large dividends.
- Provide an unsolicited intro to somebody in the same industry (“… you two seem like you would have a lot to talk about.”)
- Send a link to an interesting article about their industry (“… thought this article was interesting. You’ve been in the industry for a while – do you agree with the author?”)
- A simple check-in (“… Yesterday I randomly thought about that event we both attended in ‘09, and how funny that emcee was. How are things going with you? Everything well?”)
Whatever you do, just provide value, respond quickly, and keep the conversation going.
Email 2: The Ask
After you have provided value and some time has passed, it is time to ask your contact for an introduction to your target.
Keep the communication within the previous email stream, and send a simple two-sentence email;
- One sentence on your company, and what you are looking for.
- One sentence on the intro, which includes a mechanism to make the intro feel natural.
“[MY COMPANY NAME] is an app that connects parents and family-friendly events, and we’re looking for angel investors interested in mobile B2C apps to close out our seed round. I was hoping you could provide a quick intro to [YOUR TARGET] – she has invested in both parent-focused and event-focused apps, so I think we may fit nicely into her strategy.”
Networking is not a “one-off activity”, but if you follow the steps above, you can start leveraging your contacts to help build your business NOW.
Jonathan Greechan is a Partner and the Head of Marketing at the Founder Institute – an entrepreneur training and startup launch program that has helped launch over 1250 tech companies across 6 continents. In addition, he is a Partner at TheFunded.com, and the Executive Producer of the Founder Showcase, a leading startup event in Silicon Valley. Jonathan has been heavily involved in startups and online marketing since 2004, and has advised hundreds of technology companies. Follow him on Twitter at @jonnystartup.