In the business world, connections are huge. Like, make-or-break-your-business huge. The more you connect with noteworthy entrepreneurs in your industry, the more your business and personal brands will grow. Connecting with entrepreneurs online is part of running a successful online business.
Why Connections Are So Important: 4 Indispensable Benefits For Connecting with Entrepreneurs Online
Before we get into the how of entrepreneurial connections, let’s first analyze the why. Once you realize and understand the business benefits associated with peer relationships, you’ll be able to better formulate a strategy for building them.
Benefit #1: Better Credibility & Social Proof
Let’s start by thinking of this from a nonentrepreneurial sports angle for a minute (but it’s still applicable to what we’re doing here).
Why do sports brands — like Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour — choose to sponsor major athletes like Lebron James, Lionel Messi, and Cristiano Ronaldo?
The answer, in one word: credibility.
Basketball and football fans who watch these athletes compete see that they wear and endorse [insert brand]’s apparel, so they think to themselves: Oh, if Lebron James wears it, then it has to be the best stuff possible.
Image credit: Craig Hatfield via Flickr.
The brand that sponsors the athlete gains credibility from its association — or, connection — with that athlete. It works much the same way in the entrepreneurial world. When your target audience sees that you associate yourself with the biggest and best in the industry, they subconsciously put you on that same level.
Benefit #2: Advice from Experts
When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
Wrong. When the going gets tough, get advice from someone who’s been through that same tough phase before. Don’t waste your time making the same mistakes — learn from the experiences of others.
However, you’ll never get that chance to learn from the industry experts if you don’t first connect with them. But once you’ve cultivated a relationship with that person, you can ask for and get quality advice.
Benefit #3: Traffic Opportunities
The benefits to be had with connections aren’t just intangible — some, like traffic opportunities, are concrete metrics that you can quantify.
Let’s say that you’ve built up a healthy relationship with a popular blogger in your niche. Because you think he’s awesome and he thinks you’re awesome, he links to your website in one of his daily posts. A portion of the 10,000+ readers of that blog post see that link and proceed to click on it, and BAM. Just like that, you’ve got yourself a flood of new visitors.
Benefit #4: Endure the Loneliness of the Entrepreneur Lifestyle
Being an entrepreneur has a lot of positive advantages in terms of lifestyle: no demanding boss, no annoying colleagues, no long commutes. But it also has a significant drawback: loneliness.
Day in and day out you’ll be working all by your lonesome; there’ll be nobody else around. If you’re an extroverted person that can really start getting to you after a while.
But when you connect with other entrepreneurs online, that problem of a lack of social interaction is solved. Even though the relationship may be virtual, it’s still one way to combat the isolation of the typical entrepreneurial lifestyle.
How to Build Connections with Entrepreneurs
Excited enough about the potential benefits to start learning about the how of connecting? Good.
Here are the three beginning stages in cultivating a relationship, with a few different ideas of how to get each one going. Once you have this initial seed of communication and give/take planted, the possibilities are literally endless.
Stage 1: Do Them a (Significant) Favor
When you send that first cold email off to your potential new connection, it had better not be a rude, pushy letter about why you’re the greatest person in the world and how they’d be lucky to have you as a friend.
Wanna know a much better (and more successful) route?
Offer to do them a favor. A significant one.
Is the person a popular blogger who’s busy all the time? Pitch a guest post.
Is the person the creator of a product that could do much better if it had a certain feature? Tell them that, and offer to give more comprehensive feedback.
Does the person have a typo in his product’s copy that could potentially detract from his credibility and conversion rate? Point it out.
The last favor I mentioned in particular — pointing out a typo/error — is one that can definitely help you get your foot in the door. Why? Because the contact in question hasn’t yet realized his error.
So when you come along and point it out (nicely, in a way that makes you seem helpful) that person is really indebted you but it’s a mistake that he might never have otherwise known of.
Stage 2: Get Them to Do Something For You
A long time ago, I remember reading a blog post that discussed a rather interesting thought:
Sometimes, getting someone to do you a favor can be a lot more beneficial to an infant relationship than doing them a favor. It seems counterintuitive and it is, but it’s still true.
When somebody does something for you, they’re subconsciously realizing one thing: that you’re someone who is worth doing a favor for. They’re more invested in you, so they automatically become more willing to move forward with the relationship.
The favor can be as small as some feedback on a product. It can be as big as a client referral. But whatever it is, it can help build your connection with them.
Image credit: AK Rockefeller via Flickr.
Stage 3: Take Things to the Next Level with Regular Correspondence
Once you get past stage 2, it’s time to take things to the next level. You know who they are. They know who you are. Regular correspondence is now possible.
Both of you should start becoming used to seeing each other’s email addresses landing in your inbox. You should also be regularly trading favors. While you shouldn’t keep score (“I did 3 favors for you so now its your turn to do 3 things for me” is a major put off in any sort of relationship), make sure that the relationship is give and take.
Don’t freeload off the other guy, but at the same time don’t allow him or her to exploit you.
With a very, very select few of your connections you might even eventually reach that stage where you’ve known each other for quite a while and are ready to talk about things like launching a product together.
Like I said: the possibilities are limitless.
Never Let Your Connections Go to Waste
Once you have a genesis of a connection (at stage 1/2), don’t let it just go to waste. Never let a connection with another entrepreneur just rot away.
After all, you’ve gone through the initial (and doubtlessly tough) process of getting to know each other, so don’t just fritter away your hard labour. Work on continuing that relationship and cultivating it, so that both of you are ready to take things to new heights and benefit from each other for years to come.