American author Steven Pressfield once said, “The disease of our times is that we live on the surface. We’re like the Platte River, a mile wide and an inch deep.” That quote applies in so many facets of our lives and none more evident than fostering relationships and building a marketing network. Too often, people go to networking events to collect business cards so they can follow up in the hopes of having some sort of transaction in the near term. While that tactic can work, it’s not as effective as it once was.
Collecting piles of business cards isn’t the best networking strategy.
What works better is having a common interest and laying the foundation for a relationship before asking for anything. Shifting your mind from quantity to quality takes work. You have to think less about what’s in it for you and focus time and energy on finding shared interests—figuring out what their wants and desires are and helping them move the needle toward accomplishing their goals.
Don’t settle for surface-level relationships. Find A-class players who interest you and who you want to spend time with, learn from, and collaborate with. They’re out there, and here are seven networking strategies to help you get one step closer to meeting them.
1. Leverage guest posting
Guest posting refers to writing and publishing an article on somebody else’s blog or website. It’s a fantastic way to get connected with a new audience, build credibility, and build greater brand exposure. While it dramatically benefits the person posting, it also gives the host site valuable, engaging content free of charge. Ultimately, you get a rare opportunity to collaborate with little to no risk, which could potentially open the door to other projects.
Getting started with guest posting can seem a little daunting, but there’s a risk-free method that works exceptionally well. Once you figure out who you want to reach out to, you’ve got to craft the perfect pitch. The secret sauce here is to make it easy for them to say yes by doing all the research and leg work before reaching out. Here are some key steps to get you started:
- Use a tool like Ahrefs or BuzzSumo to find content ideas that have worked well for them in the past and some keywords you’d like to target.
- Once you’ve completed your research and come up with some content ideas, work on crafting some appealing headlines.
- Pitch them the headlines without writing a word so you don’t waste any precious time and resources on someone who may not respond or may say no.
That’s it! Repeat and follow up regularly to see the best results. When you do finally get your first guest post, try to make it value-packed and not too much of a direct sales pitch for your product.
2. Request an interview or a quote
Guest posting works well, but posting on your own blog can work equally well with the right strategy. If you’re working on a high-quality piece of cornerstone content like a blog post or an infographic that you know is going to be popular, you can leverage your own hard work to make new connections. The easiest way to do so is by reaching out and interviewing an expert on the subject. They’ll likely have an opinion and would love the free brand exposure.
Depending on the situation, sometimes a quote is the best path to go when first connecting since it’s less of a time commitment on their part. It’s also helpful to ask them for a short bio to include in the post, a headshot, and a link to their website or a specific content piece of their choosing. Not only does that help them with exposure, but it gives you more content and added credibility for your article since they’re a subject matter expert.
“When I was writing for CXL, I’d always reach out to the smartest people I could think of, my ideals and role models in the conversion optimization world,” he says. “They almost always graciously helped out, which made my articles way better. Now, I’m good friends with lots of them as well.”
You can leverage that strategy for other forms of media as well, such as finding podcast guests, vlog collaborators, or partnered Q&A sessions on social media platforms. The more you invite people to collaborate, give quotes, and do interviews, the more likely they are to reciprocate or want a partner with you on other projects.
People love to be featured in interviews and talk about what they do for a living. It’s also great content and helps your own blog out. For a great example, check out Wordable’s Content Crafters series.
In the series, the hosts interview top content experts, and by doing so they create compelling content as well as network with those in their target market (prolific content creators).
It’s truly a win-win for everyone.
3. Partner up on contests and giveaways
Nothing gets your audience more engaged than the prospect of getting something of value. In other words, it has to be something worthwhile. If it’s small, uninteresting, or commonplace, then chances are you’ll just be ignored.
A quick way to level up your prize offering is to partner with other companies and professionals to sweeten the pot with a contribution of their own. Similar to guest posting, you can reach out to other marketers to share your giveaway and contest ideas and see if they want to get involved. Depending on your industry, the prizes can come at little-to-no cost to you or them. It could be as simple as a strategy call with a subject matter expert or free access to your SaaS product for a year. Or it could be as grand as an all-expenses-paid trip. The sky is the limit here!
Once you’ve narrowed down your giveaway prize, all you’ve got to do is get the word out. Make it easy on your new connection by giving them email templates, custom graphics, and some copy examples they can use on their marketing channels. The easier you make it, the more likely they’ll say yes to a partnership.
4. Go to networking events
It’s an old school tactic, but face-to-face meetings are a quick way to break the ice. It’s also a great way to level up your game. Find industry conferences, trade shows, growth conferences, or TED talks, and go learn something. Be sure to take advantage of the happy hour, the meet and greet, and scheduled breaks to mingle with other participants.
Again, once you’ve narrowed your focus to the right event with the right crowd, you want to remember to focus on creating quality relationships—not quantity.
Don’t bounce around the room, bending the ear of anyone who will listen and hand your card out to anyone who’ll take it. Do your research. Figure out who will be there and who you want to connect with. Come prepared with something of value to offer them, whether that’s industry insights or valuable partnership opportunities. And remember to have fun while you’re at it.
5. Throw a party
Didn’t expect that one did you? Whether you’re a fresh face in town or a local legend, find a venue and pick something to celebrate. You can even call it your quarterly “thank you” to community professionals and invite everyone you know and everyone you want to meet.
A great party starts with the right attendees. Shout it out on social media, send out cold emails, and go to networking events to spread the word. Another layer here is making sure you have the right blend of activities, so people are encouraged to interact in a low-pressure environment. You could go all out with a karaoke machine and a catered buffet. Or as simple as backyard games and a food truck. The choice is truly yours, and if you’re not good at throwing parties, that’s okay. Find someone to partner up with or consider hiring a party planner.
6. Ask for introductions
Skip the awkward introductions and jump straight to doing business together with a trusted intermediary. You’ve likely already got a contact list full of people who know other people you want to know. Start there. Or leverage a platform like LinkedIn, which is ripe for introductions since you can actively see who in your network is already connected with who you want to meet.
Another way to break down the awkward factor is to ask your mutual connection to tag along for an in-person introduction. They can help you break the ice by starting the conversation and connecting commonalities you didn’t know you shared. Your ally can also help you get the inside edge on your prospective connection beforehand by answering a few questions. One thing to always keep in mind when asking for introductions is to make sure you’re connecting for a reason. Connecting just to connect never feels good. Have a purpose for the meeting. Do your homework and have something of value to bring them.
7. Try your hand at cold outreach
Sometimes it’s really that simple. A cold email or cold call can go a long way. Just make sure you enter the conversation with something of value to offer the potential partnership. You can do this the old-fashioned way by typing out your emails one-by-one, or you can leverage the right tools to make the most of your time.
For instance, using LinkedIn Sales Navigator or DiscoverOrg makes it easier to find the right people to connect with. Once you’ve narrowed your list, you can use a tool like VoilaNorbert to help you find anyone’s email address based on simple criteria like their name and company. Later, when you’re ready to reach out, you can use Mailshake to help you create powerful email templates for your guest post requests or party invites and automatically send follow-ups based on a cadence of your choosing.
The right stack of tools can help you lengthen your reach and start a conversation. From there, it’s all about finding the right connection and finding a way to make a deep and meaningful relationship you can leverage for years to come.
Get started with these networking strategies!
Networking doesn’t have to be a dirty word. The old adage, “It’s not what you know, but who you know” holds true. What has shifted is how you go about building that network—quantity is not greater than quality when building a network. The best advice is to go narrow and long, which involves deep relationships with a small number of people—then playing the long game.