June 11, 2012
We’ve all been there.
Looking around at other projects that seem more interesting or valuable, worrying that what we’re doing might not work, wishing we were in someone else’s shoes…
I’ve come across projects in recent weeks and months that have blown me away. Take Adam Baker from Man Vs. Debt who’s creating a documentary and interviewing interesting people about their life choices and raising 100K on Kickstarter in the process. Or Derek Sivers, creating the ultimate resource for starting a business in Asia. Or Dan Andrews, bringing like-minded start-up entrepreneurs together in the Philippines to achieve their dreams…and getting paid for it!
That’s awesome stuff…
Don’t get me wrong…I love what we’re doing as well. We’re selling sites that help people earn their first dollars online, showing them how to build their own online empire, building a revolutionary WordPress Theme that will (I hope) change the niche site industry, and solving the huge problem of automatically determining profitable niches …something that’s never been effectively done before.
Still…we want to do more.
How could we get involved in these projects and with these people? Should we email them out of the blue and tell them why they should partner with us on their project? Ask them out of nowhere if they would fund our new business idea? Ask them to write a personalized and detailed 28-point plan to help us find success?
Of course not…sounds crazy, doesn’t it?
Yet those are some of the emails that all of us receive on a regular basis.
I’ll be honest: This blog post is partially written out of the frustration felt from the volume of emails that are asking for hand-outs and provide no real value…but my real hope is that I can provide a resource to point those people to that will show them how reaching out and making real, valuable connections will take them so much further than their current approach.
I know this may sound a bit pretentious. I understand that. Still…if this helps even a couple of people make connections that will change their lives it’s worth it.
The process for this is really quite simple but there are nuances here…let me go over each step in some detail:
You wouldn’t believe how many emails I get wanting something for nothing. Aside from the flash of irritation these cause…it’s just depressing. How do people not know that sending an unsolicited email where you ask for the moon and stars is not likely to get you very far? It reminds me of the stories you hear about recent lottery winners and the hundreds of requests they get for money that has forced some into hiding…not a great approach. These emails, essentially, boil down to this:
I see that you make monies. I’d like some of those monies. Can you either give me some of those monies or do a bunch of work for me, we’ll partner on a project, and then we’ll split those monies 50/50?
Note: I’m now officially sending this link to any future “monies” emails I get, hoping it will do some good. Also…if we’re at (admittedly) such a low-level and receiving so many emails like this I can’t even IMAGINE the types of emails people like Seth Godin or Mark Cuban receive!
Charlie Hoehn does a much better job of explaining this, but “Reaching Out” basically boils down to making quick contact, a touch of flattery, briefly explaining who you are, and saying something interesting. That’s it. No sales pitch, no partnership opportunities…just making contact.
Reaching out as stated above is likely to elicit a reply. It may be short or long, depending on how much time they had…but any personalized reply at all is an opening. If they asked you a question, answer it! If it was just a “thank you”, you can follow up to let them know you appreciate it and to let them know you’d like to keep the door open if you come across something that might be useful or valuable to them.
That’s it…don’t try to get into a long drawn-out conversation unless they’re asking that of you. Simply leave the door open for future contact.
Get to know this person you’ve made a connection with. Find out what their passions are, what they’re working on, etc. When you come across something that you think would be really valuable for them, let them know! If they’re a tech VC let them know about interesting start-ups, acquisitions, or failures in their space. If they create documentaries about quirky people, let them know about or introduce them to people they might find interesting enough to write about or interview.
The goal here should be to prove yourself as a valuable resource to them in a space or niche they’re interested in. Don’t inundate him or her with too much information or ask for anything in return…just be helpful.
Once you’ve established a relationship and received feedback that shows they’re interested in what you’ve done so far…wait for an opportunity that is a fantastic fit for you and offer to help them. Maybe they’re writing a book about Twitter and you can provide them a valuable case study or they’re writing about travel and could use your helpful tips about your living in Turkey. Whatever it is…find your best value proposition to them and grab it.
I’d prefer not to offer paid services here unless the work required is so intensive that you simply can’t do it for free. If you’re making a connection with someone you truly respect, it’s unlikely they’re going to ask that you go completely out of your way for them without compensation, anyway. Let them open the pricing conversation and, if possible, do your first work for them for free. (I know this may be a bit controversial…but if the value of the connection and the learning experience on the project far outweigh any silly compensation agreement I really think it’s worth it to do it for free.)
If everything has gone well up to this point, the person you’ve reached out to would be CRAZY to not continue to grow the relationship with you. You will have built a great start to your relationship and your mentor/guide would love nothing more than to help you succeed. In fact, it’s likely that he or she would be willing to help you out using their own connections if/when there comes a time that you need it. Plus, the great experiences and value you’ve had in working with someone you have so much respect or admiration for can be priceless.
A last point I’ll say about the value received from this is that, most likely, the person you’re reaching out to has more experience than you. If you’re making the right connections, they may help you down a path where even though you might not see it at the time, could be an intensive and rewarding experience or lesson that you might have not attempted otherwise.
This lesson is definitely born out of experience.
I’ve been on both the giving and receiving end here and can say unequivocally that I get and give a better response with Reaching Out over asking for a Hand-Out.
I remember years ago trying to connect with those in a position to help me and, because I was so focused on my own needs instead of theirs, I was frustrated with their replies or not receiving a reply at all. I can tell you…reaching out the right way is significantly more rewarding.
Have you found yourself trying to make contact with someone where you were more concerned about your needs than theirs? Has someone try to contact you with that same approach? How did it work out?