How To Genuinely Connect With Busy Influencers

This contribution is courtesy of Draper University. Tim Draper, legendary Silicon Valley venture capitalist founded Draper University in 2012 with a vision and belief that in order to change the world we have to change education.

The worst advice I received after graduating school was: “Just go out there and network.” Go out where? Network with whom? What does this even mean!?

I knew it was important in life to make strong connections with influencers but I had no idea how to build these relationships. Does networking mean that I have to suck up to people for them to like me? I spent the first year of my career trying to meet people at events but when I followed up through email afterward, I never got a single response.

It wasn’t until I changed my “networking” strategy that I was able to connect with people on a regular basis. I became friends with dozens of influencers, like best selling authors, successful entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists.

Am I rich? No. Am I famous? No. Am I super successful? No. So what did a young entrepreneur like me do to connect with such high-level people?

Be a Giver

To network effectively, you have to give, relentlessly. Give, give, give and never expect anything in return. When you do this, opportunities will naturally open up and flow to you.

How does this make sense? I used to come into different conferences with a self-interest mindset. When I met someone new, I asked myself whether the people I was talking to were important, relevant, or could help me get what I wanted. 

This mindset became super destructive and made me miss out on a lot of opportunities because all I was thinking about was myself. After reading Give and Take by Adam Grant, I changed my mindset to be a giver and everything started to look brighter.

Influencers started to email me back. Some invited me to social gatherings. And others made introductions to help me out knowing that I would appreciate their help. The philosophy of giving is backed by the law of reciprocity, which basically means when you do something nice for someone, they have a psychological urge to do something nice for you in return.

Knowing this, I have made it a habit to consistently give to others whenever I can. I’ll give an article to a co-worker that they might like. I might give a compliment about them or how grateful you are. I might even give them attention and promote their work on social media. The best thing to give them is your time and support when they need it. When somebody gives me anything, I instantly take note of it and I have a natural desire to help them back.

Give Ideas

Most successful people don’t care about “getting a coffee” because they don’t need some stranger paying for their drink. They have the money, but what they value most is their time. Instead of asking people for coffee, give them your time and expertise to generate ideas on how to help them:

  • Promote their YouTube channel
  • Find guests for their podcast
  • Grow their online business
  • Increase blog traffic
  • Get more clients

One example of a great marketing tactic I learned from James Altucher helped me connect with a bevy of helpful influencers.

Entrepreneur Ryan Porter had a YouTube video answering questions in his video series, “Unsolicited Career Advice.” At the end of the video, he asked viewers to send him questions that he would answer for his next video. The episode at the time had 100 views and from my prediction, it was very likely that few people sent in questions.

Here was my chance. I didn’t send him just one question, I sent him 20 different ideas that would help his audience. This helped me transition from pesky weirdo to someone who understands them and wants to genuinely help.

Remember, time is every everyone’s ultimate resource. Ideas show people that you used your precious time to generate ways and help them. The moment you start helping other people, opportunities will open up for you. When I visited Toronto last May, Ryan was more than happy to meet with a loyal fan of his work. He even paid for my meal and gave me advice on my business.

The Importance of Providing Value to Others

What you need to do is find one person you really want to connect with and generate 10 ideas to help them. Discover what problems they currently have in their personal life or business, and do your best to solve that problem. You will be surprised at the responses you will get from this simple act of kindness.

“Because the truth is, people like people,” says Gary Vee. “We’re wired for it. And people do business with other people. So when you learn to generally give to those people without expecting them to do something in return, you win. You’ll perceive the world differently, and if we’re being honest, be a better person because of it.”

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Written by:
Tam is the author of How To Network and How To Land Your Dream Internship. He is part of the community at Mixergy, previous with Hustle Says & LeanStartup. He loves comedy, poker, and good books.
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