How To Establish & Strengthen Relationships With Industry Influencers
The average influencer receives a plethora of emails each and every day. And while Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram make it seem as if we’re closer closer to business influencers, founders and innovators than ever before — we’re not.
It’s harder than ever to stand out because their inboxes, DMs and mentions are filled with people asking questions, looking for advice, asking them to read a blog post or check out their latest app. It’s a landscape filled with noise. Just look at the constant stream of questions and thoughts being thrown at Gary Vaynerchuk.
That’s what you’re up against.
Imagine if you could uncover just one simple way to start building meaningful business relationships with influencers and founders. Or even better…
What if I told you I had four different ways you could do it?
You’d probably be excited to read them and, lucky for you, I’m excited to share them in this post. Four wildly straightforward tips for people looking to build relationships with influencers, founders or VIPs that you can use to start making connections TODAY!
Let’s get to it…
Show Passion For Their Projects & Content
Most influencers have built their name and reputation by creating something.
Whether it’s writing a great blog post, building an awesome product or giving an amazing TED Talk — most influencers are makers.
Similar to a parent, makers look at their creations as something they hold very close to their heart and that they look at with pride. If you ever want to make a parent smile, tell them how well behaved, smart, talented or cute their child is. In business, you will find the same tactic will result in a makersmiling from ear to ear. But it should be authentic. Don’t tell them you like a product you’ve never tried or blog post you haven’t actually read.
Most influencers are used to seeing comments like:
· Great blog post!
· Loved this video.
· OMG. I’m such a fan.
What they aren’t used to seeing are comments and reviews that go above and beyond the status quo. What are some tactical things you can do to go above and beyond?
If the influencer has created a product, take the time to develop a review of their product. Invest in purchasing the product first and then take them time to review it in detail. If the product is physical, create a video showing the unboxing and your initial review of the product. Share it on social media, your own site and then pass it along to the influencer’s team so they see it.
For digital products, the same approach will work wonders. Write a raving review about the product you downloaded and explain to your readers some of the key insights you gained and the impact it had on your life. Be transparent with the results. So transparent that the influencer will want to use them in their materials, on their site, and in case studies.
One of the most common ways to show passion for a maker’s work is to share their content on social media. To find their content, I like to use a tool like Crate which will pull in the top blog posts shared on a specific domain or that a user has shared.
By building this Crate, I’ll be met with any articles shared by Sujan along with any articles that he’s recently published on SujanPatel.com. You can do the same for any influencer that has their own blog or is active on Twitter. Crate will help you find the content they’re sharing and creating making it easy for you to find opportunities to send tweets like this:
— Ross Simmonds (@TheCoolestCool) April 14, 2016
Here’s the results from my Crate with content from Sujan:
Once I find a few articles that are relevant to my audience, I can schedule themed to be shared in the future and add “Via @SujanPatel” to ensure he’s notified when they’re live:
Rather than pushing all of these posts out at once, you can schedule them to be spread out over the course of the month to ensure you’re not flooding the influencers notifications.
Go Above And Beyond To Deliver Value
I hate when they text you like, “what’s up, fam, oh you good?”
You say, “I’m good” then great, next day they ask you for somethin’ – Real Friends, Kanye
Influencers have people asking them for favors or advice every damn day.
One thing they don’t get every day is someone who goes out of their way to help them with something that matters in their world.
Everyone wants something.
The founder of a new startup is looking for new leads, a VC is looking for ways to add more value to their portfolio companies and bloggers are looking for new emails on their newsletter. Find these opportunities and do something that demonstrates that you can help them accomplish this goal. It might be as simple as sending them a report showing them that they have 10–15 broken links on their website. It could be as simple as mentioning them in a blog post you’ve written for a Tier-A media outlet.
Here’s a sample of an email that someone recently sent me:
I immediately thought: “Oh — That’s nice of them.”
Until I read the next line which was a pitch on why they should be linked in this article as well. A more effective approach would have been to point out the broken link and then follow up a couple days later with a resource worth linking to in my article. That would have been an easier win as we would have established rapport and a layer of trust without it feeling transactional.
No matter who you’re trying to build a relationship with, there is always something they want. If you can genuinely identify what that is and offer value by delivering on it, they’ll take notice.
Keep in mind that this isn’t an easy or guaranteed task.
As much as you may like to believe you’re owed an email response a shoutout on Twitter, the world nor the influencer owes you a thing. If you’re viewing any of the efforts and examples in this blog post as an opportunity to gain an IOU — you’re missing the point. This is all about adding value.
Engage In Meaningful Conversation & Leave Great Comments
There’s no question that building a relationship starts with conversation.
You can’t build trust or establish rapport without actually interacting with someone. It’s not enough to like a LinkedIn post, retweet a great article and comment on a blog to establish a relationship.
A relationship happens when there’s a two-way dialog and you’re able to connect, debate or simply engage in a meaningful way. Some of my closest relationships started with debates on panels or on Twitter. I’ve connected with people from all over the world over discussions surrounding marketing, football, technology, startups and a wide range of different topics.
These conversations build a bond.
You may not immediately feel like you have something to talk about with an influencer, but start with something simple. It could be a straight to the point: “Thanks for sharing this blog post, I loved the point about XYZ. What’s your go to blog on XYZ? ” or reach out cold with something like: “I just read your XYZ, do you have any book recommendations?”
These are simple conversation starters.
You may not get a response immediately, but without being creepy, you will want to follow up to get that response. Once you do get it, express gratitude and actually read what they suggest (you might learn something).
Over time, the influencer or founder will send out more tweets and you will want to continue to engage with them by answering questions they have, challenging thoughts they throw out there and letting them know when you like what they’ve shared.
Engage In Conversations Across Multiple Channels
While this post is mainly focused on building relationships through Twitter, it’s important to understand that Twitter isn’t the only channel to build relationships. The more frequency that someone starts to see your name and avatar, the more likely they are to remember you and establish a connection. If you’re present in the forums they browse, the communities they spend time in and sharing similar networks — you’ll be more likely to build a bond.
I know. It’s a lot of work. It’s hustle. But that’s what it takes to establish real relationships with real people. Don’t think that this is going to happen overnight.
Before you starting adding people to Facebook, remember they have boundaries. Don’t add someone to Facebook just because they liked your tweet. Instead, add value using some of the tactics highlighted above and connect with them through their blog or by asking a question during an interview on GrowthHackers, Product Hunt Live or Quora. From there, take it to their inbox and explain why you want their attention and how you can offer value to them or their company.
Hey Dennis and Naveen
How’s it going? Hope all is well!
My name is Tristan Walker and Im a first year student (going into my second year) at Stanford Business School (originally from New York). Im a huge fan of what you both have built and excited about what you guys have planned for FourSquare. It is an awesome , awesome service.
I would love to chat with you guys at some point, if you’re available, about FourSquare. This year, I’m looking to help out and work extremely hard for a startup with guys I can learn a ton from. Dennis, with your experience at Google and the Dodgeball product, and Naveen, with your experience at Sun and engineering in general, I know I could learn a great deal from you both!
Before business school, I was an oil trader on Wall Street for about two years and hated it! Moved out to the Bay/Stanford to pursue my passion for entrepreneurship and the startup world. This past spring I had the opportunity to work for Twitter as an intern and learned a ton. Solidified my commitment to working at a startup that I’m passionate about, and FourSquare is one of those startups that I believe in.
I know you guys are probably getting inundated with internship-type requests, but thought it’d be worth a shot! I can assure you Im humble and Im hungry! Let me know if you’d be interested in chatting further.
I definitely look forward to hearing from you.
According to Tristan’s blog, this was the first of 8 emails he sent to Dennis & Naveen. After the 8th email, Dennis wrote Tristan back asking if him if he’s ever in NYC. Tristan explained that he would be in town tomorrow (with no plans of actually being there) and booked a flight that night. Fast forward a few months and Tristan was the Director of Business Development for one of the fastest growing startups.
Persistence is key.
It’s what you’ll need to be successful in building relationships with people who are already busy and have hundreds of emails in their inbox from people looking to pick their brain.
Understand that it’s when relationships go beyond Twitter that magic often starts to happen. Whether it’s face-to-face or online — 140 characters can only go so far.I know from my own experience, many relationships start on Twitter but grow into much more after a simple 30 minute Google Hangout or back and forth conversation over email.
Conclusion & Key Takeaway
If there’s one thing I hope you can take away from this blog post it’s that relationships shouldn’t be viewed as transactional or an overnight success. You’re going to have to put in time. You’re going to have to be sincere in your reasoning. You’re going to have to realize that this is about making friends just as much as it’s making business contacts.
If you want a sure-fire way to fail at implementing these tactics, go into each relationship hoping and thinking about what you want on the other side.
People will see right through you.
Instead, focus on building these relationships because you’re genuinely interested in what someone is doing, what they believe, how they think or what they’re all about. Starting there is the key to building a meaningful and quality relationship. If you add value and build relationships with no agenda, the results will follow.
Have you built relationships with influencers to build your brand? Have you had to hustle your way into the inbox of big shot CEOs or C-Suite executives?
Share any other tips, stories or tricks you’ve used in the comments below!