Michael Roderick went from high school teacher to Broadway producer in under two years. Naturally people wanted to know how he managed to do it which led him to start an arts incubator program, called PLAE, to teach artists how to build and grow their own businesses. Eventually, he decided to develop a workshop on networking which grew into a full time consulting practice and that became Small Pond Enterprises. He is the founder of The Connecting Connectors Conference (ConnectorCon) as well as Relationship Adventure Day–a networking event combined with a scavenger hunt in NYC.
Why is it important to build a strong network?
I truly believe that building the right network is THE best thing you can do for your business. Think about all of the things that you would like to improve in your business and all of the questions that surround them. With the right network, you will always have somewhere to go to get the answers you seek. I know this from firsthand experience.
Here is a small list of some the advantages:
- Shared resources
- Learn from each other. We all have our own unique sets of skills and experiences that help us provide value to each other.
- Connect with each other’s audiences. This means you can add value to your existing audience by exposing them to helpful products and services from your network. You also get greater exposure by being in front of the audiences of your network members. Guess what? This type of audience is even more valuable because they are referred to you by someone they know, like, and trust.
- Accountability. That’s right, having someone to hold you accountable to your goals can equal massive growth.
- Connect with others that can help your business outside of your existing network
Building a good network can help fulfill many of our personal needs. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (the 5-part version) basically shows what motivates us. When one level of needs is fulfilled, we move to the next stage to try and fulfill those needs.
Here’s how a network can move you up the pyramid. I’m going to start in the middle since, hopefully, your physiological and safety needs have been met at this point:
- Love/Belonging (Social needs) – This is your need to belong to a group. Why do we go out to football games or to the movie theater? Why go to a restaurant rather than eat at home alone? It’s not all about convenience. It’s so we can experience these things with people who are like us … together. There is something inside of us that wants to share experiences on an emotional level with our peers. Tossing out business cards can’t give us that level of connection, but building a close network can.
- Esteem – The need for appreciation and respect. We have a need to accomplish things and be recognized for our efforts. Being part of a close network gives you the opportunity to give back to the group and showoff your knowledge. Not only will you help them, but you establish yourself as a useful resource that they are lucky to have and will gladly share with others outside your network.
- Self-actualization – We have a need to achieve our full potential as human beings. What are we good at and how can we continually improve to be the best at that thing that we can be? I love my wife and parents, but they don’t understand this world in which I work. I can’t look to them to help me be a better business owner or marketer or podcaster or (hopefully one day) philanthropist. That’s why I surround myself with a close network–people that will push me and hold me accountable so that I can grow and be the best I can be. I haven’t reached that point of self-actualization yet, as I’m sure many of you haven’t either, but I can tell you I’m close and that vision gets clearer every day thanks to my network.
You know you want one!
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How to build a strong network
- Be willing to swallow your pride and expose your vulnerabilities so others can help
- Ask is who else wants your customer and create a network of 5 or 6 referral partners
- Cold connect with a pitch – Don’t blindly send and email or message on social media to someone with a sales message before you’ve even connected with them.
- The “Dump n’ Drive” – Do not send an email introducing two people without warning either of them that it is coming, or even asking if they wanted the intro. Instead use the double opt-in method …
The Double Opt-in
When you want to connect two people, be sure to ask both parties if they are open to make the connection. If they say, “Yes”, make the connection. If one of them says, “No”, offer to make a connection with someone else that may be a better fit.
Understand the difference between a connection, referral, and favor
- Connection = I think you two would enjoy each other. No business involved. Worst time to pitch
- Referral = I know you have this need, this is someone who can help and they get paid for what they do. Is this someone you would like to talk to about providing that type of service? Consider their budget before making the connection
- Favor = This person needs help. There’s not a lot they have to offer you right now. Are you able to help? If not, that’s ok. Let them know you consider this a favor.
Ways to connect with others
- Create a platform that brings people to you: dinners, panels, drinks night
- find a co-host, somebody you think is solid and ask them to invite five people you don’t know. Ask them who they’d like to meet and invite five people they don’t know.
- Don’t go to the people that are full, go to the people that are hungry (2-3 levels down from the top). They don’t see talking to you as a favor.
Networker vs. Connector
- Networkers operate on a horizontal. They introduce you to people at the exact same level, but they are trying to reach a higher level. They’re never stretching for you or helping you to do something bigger. Networkers live in the same world. They’re always going to see the people in the same group.
- Connectors operate on a vertical. They think about who is above them and who is below and how they can help both parties. They find the superstars before they are superstars and connect them with the people that can take them to the next level. Connectors are part of multiple groups.
What’s in it for the connector?
There is a risk of becoming connection rich and cash poor if you never ask for something for yourself. When you continually give, people naturally want to give back. It is important that you ask for help in return. Just make sure it doesn’t feel like a tit for tat–you’re not doing something for them just so you can get them to return the favor.
Giving releases oxytocin that makes them feel good. Every time that you need help and don’t give someone the opportunity to give to you, you’re robbing them of that oxytocin. You’re not giving them the opportunity that you have of feeling good as the result of giving.
Four categories of the people you meet
- A: Advocate – They believe in you and are willing to spread the word
- B: Boomerang – They’re all about reciprocity–you send something their way, they’ll send something back
- C: Client or Celebrity – Someone who is checking out your services (client) or someone above you with a good amount of clout (celebrity)
- D: Drain – The person that drains you of resources
Three meeting categories
- Top tier – Great meeting. Motivated to help
- Mid tier (Two-way pitch meeting) – They run through their sales pitch and then ask about your services. The idea is to trade services. Boring and not real.
- Bottom tier (Steamroller meeting) – They spend the entire meeting giving you a sales pitch and don’t seem to care about you. They’re a Drain.
Let the person that connected you know how your meeting turned out. This not only helps the connector know what to expect the next time they want to introduce that person to someone, but it makes you top of mind.
Connect with Michael
I’d love to hear what you thought of this episode and what YOU are doing with your Digital Marketing Strategy. Leave a comment below to keep the conversation going!