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Create A Network Of Champions
We have talked about networking in blogs, podcasts, and now it’s time to fully dive in on a lesson plan for networking. Networking is a term that is often cast in the wrong light, a concept of individuals “using others” to gain success or status. This, first and foremost, should never be your goal. A network should be comprised of individuals that you look up to, individuals that you want to learn from, and individuals you want to emulate – for one characteristic or another. For this reason, the network that you create is more important than many people think. You have probably heard at some point or another, “you are the average of the people you surround yourself with”, which is commonly applied directly to your ability to network.
Let’s get directly to the point of why networking is important. First, if you never create a professional and personal network, you will never have the ability to learn from individuals that have years of experience in your position. Second, you need to be diligent and thoughtful as you choose your network, because the people within your network will be the individuals helping you learn and grow during your startup journey.
Before we jump into the lesson, there’s a few things to point out that make this lesson different than the average take on networking. Our concept on networking is going to talk about not only how to look for mentors, and the tools to do so, but will also cover tips and tricks that help entrepreneurs have a better chance of actually connecting with a mentors who have run enormous ventures. As far as mentorship goes, every person you are reaching out to as a mentor (especially as you move towards more popular and high-ranking individuals), will likely have another 100 individuals exactly like you trying to reach out as well. For that reason, there is a need to set yourself apart from the pack. With actionable and specific tricks, we will help you set up your own power network.
There are certain individuals, as stated above, that will give you the opportunity to grow and accelerate your business quicker than ever before, and these are the people that you want to pursue when creating your network. Whether it is someone you want to learn from, an individual you think you can partner with, or a specific customer of your product, your network needs to be thorough and expansive, covering multiple different parts of your business. The basic principle is, you want to create a network of individuals that help make you a better individual and entrepreneur, and additionally, will allow you to achieve your wildest startup dreams. Let’s get started.
Creating the best possible network of individuals starts with identifying the people you want in your circle. As stated above, these individuals should be big players that can help your business grow exponentially. The problem is, these big players likely receive hundreds of emails every day, making them that much more difficult to get in touch with. On top of that, some of these individuals may have yearly salaries of several million dollars, which means, their time is very valuable. This is something you need to remember and recognize while reaching out to get their attention. For example, if you intend to reach out to the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, that CEO makes roughly $240 every minute, so it’s going to be super tough to get even a few minutes of time on their calendar. Recognizing and noting this right off the bat will help set you apart from other individuals reaching out.
Common mistake: don’t be the individual that ends your email or phone call with “I look forward to hearing back from you”. Although it may sound like a fine proposition, it can come off very poorly to a high-level individual, as it states that you are expecting them to make time for you. Their time is likely more valuable than yours – recognize that and put the ball in their court to respond, as you can always follow-up with another email. A bad first impression never helps your chance of networking success.
When networking with the ultra-successful, you need to be able to provide enough value (or at least try to provide value) that the other individual has an actual incentive to work with you. Even though the person you are reaching out to may have years of experience on you, have more degrees, a higher salary, etc., you can always find a way to provide value. This is where you can get creative, as value can come in a variety of different ways. For example, you could go through someone’s website and offer your feedback on their product line or go through and simply look for spelling and grammar issues. On the other hand, you could listen to their podcast or go through their social media and note what things were of greatest interest to you, or help them refine their product offerings and get real-time customer feedback. This is not to say that you should knock, tear down, or act like you are the expert in their area of expertise. Your goal at the beginning is to prove that you care and are willing to put in effort to meet. An ultra-successful networking “target” will be much more likely to give you a moment of their time if they see your willingness and effort to improve THEIR life.
In order to increase your odds of being able to network with the highest standing individuals in the entrepreneurship world, you need to do a little background research. This means seeing how you fit in with their line of work, what their challenges are, how you can provide value, and most importantly, understand who they are as a person. This can be done in a variety of different ways, through social media, internet searches, and news articles about the target. Through this search, you should be able to learn plenty of things about the individual prior to your first form of contact. Focus on their business problems, their passions, family life, current happenings, or all of the above. The more specific and targeted (the more you can create a message designed toward their passions, personality, etc.) you can make your ask when you reach out for the first time, the higher likelihood you have of actually getting connected. Be sure to conduct your due diligence prior to your first point of contact.
Another big piece to setting yourself apart from everyone else is having a unique and differentiated brand. A brand, in short, is one of the first things someone will notice about you. They will look you up immediately after reading your message to determine if you are somebody worth responding to. That means it’s important to have some type of personal branding on your email, through your social media accounts, and other visible avenues that can be easily found on the web. Making sure you have a strong, visible brand is something that will help you make the best possible first impression. There are a couple easy ways to start building a brand (if you haven’t already), and these are tangible efforts that can quickly help you stand out from the pack. Some you can do in five minutes, others may take a little more time, but they all boost your social presence and brand.
A VIP Statement is something that you would put on the end of your email signature, outlining your various roles, accomplishments, and areas of expertise. This is not made to be “showy”. It’s made to give your contact quick access to your professional roles and accomplishments without having to surf the web for more information on who you are. In your VIP Statement consider having your website URL, the companies you are a part of, possibly a link to a blog you have, or a favorite quote. All of these things give your target contact a quick snippet of who you are, and the opportunity to learn more by clicking links provided for them. An example of one VIP Statement is shown below.
One quick note on the VIP Statement above, this is a real VIP Statement so we choice to exclude Bobby’s phone number and email address but be sure to add your phone and email to your VIP Statement. What we want you to focus on in this VIP Statement example is how it lists all the companies, blogs, investments, and engagements Bobby is currently a part of. This allows whoever he is contacting to quickly gain additional information on Bobby, while also seeing his “portfolio” of experiences. This is a quick and easy way to show your credibility and is a must-do for any entrepreneur.
Another way to quickly grow your brand is through a blog. Nowadays, we are fortunate enough to have all the tools necessary to start projects in nearly any area for free, and creating a blog is one example of this. Common, free, and easy to use blog sites include WordPress, Blogger, and Tumblr. The blog not only grows your brand and your presence, but it lends you a sense of legitimacy when reaching out to individuals. Moreover, if you start blogging about the interviews and interactions you have with the “high-ranking” individuals in the entrepreneurship world, it gives that target connection an instant value add to meet up.
A podcast is another technical solution to building your brand that has come to light more than ever in the last five years. A podcast is also easy because it doesn’t require a host of investments or spending in order to get started, as you can start a podcast with nearly any smartphone and a good recording application. A podcast could be used for your own dialogue, but also may serve as an interview platform for the individuals you begin to connect with in your network. This will once again give you the added piece of legitimacy and connection to the ultra-successful.
To get you started, our Educating Entrepreneurs team created a tool to keep track of all the individuals you want to get in touch with. The Hot 100 List helps keep all the information you need to network in one place. This should include the Top 100 individuals that you want to get in contact with at any given time. Some individuals will fall off your list, and others will be added, but this tool will provide you with a platform to keep all your networking information in one place. This list includes the pieces of information you need leading up to a meeting, as well as information that you should keep in mind for subsequent meetings, including contact information, personal notes, and top takeaways from each meeting. This list is not meant to be comprehensive and should be added to and edited based on what works best for you.
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