Years ago, when I ran an event with Jeff Pulver, he told me, “You live or die by your database.”
He meant the list of prospects, customers and companies acquired over time and through hard work. The contacts in your phone. Your email newsletter list. Your alumni databases from college. These are all databases you have access to in one way or another. But what value does that bring?
It’s Always the Database
I recently started a partnership in a company where we build skill and knowledge transfer using augmented reality tools for big companies like manufacturing, aerospace, and so on. As it happens, I’m friends with someone from Boeing, know a guy who builds massive supply chain projects for big companies, and I have a list of about 600 highish-level people in other places that should also be a good start for this project.
I have these because I nurture relationships all the time, and not just in my business vertical, but anywhere someone is doing interesting work and might be a good ally later on. The more I reach out and connect with people in various verticals, the more I earn the opportunity to offer up my services where it makes sense and I can be helpful.
It takes more than just striking up conversations, though.
What to Do and How
No matter the size of your business, you can do what I’m about to recommend. And you can use whatever you want for this kind of project, but if you use something built for the job like customer relationship management (CRM) software, there will be all kinds of benefits, such as the ability to take notes, search, gather group information, and so on. Hubspot offers a free CRM software program. Zoho has one that’s free or inexpensive. If you search for “free CRM,” there are plenty. Or heck, just open a spreadsheet and fill in someone’s name, email, phone, and then a spot for notes with dates and you’ll be ahead of the curve.
Let’s say you’ve picked the tool for the job (it’s okay to change later). The next goal is reaching out, connecting and nurturing contacts. This isn’t all that hard. You can do a little of this each day. Pick 10 names of people you know (I’ll explain who this is further in a moment) and reach out in some form or another. Call or text or email. Drop them a line.
What should you say?
“Hi (important person)!
I’m just reaching out to check in. I wanted to know what you’re working on and see if I can be helpful. What’s new and exciting in your world?”
Can’t wait to touch base,
Something like that. Vary it up. Try different messages. But note what I’ve done. The message isn’t selling anything specific. It’s offering to help. It’s asking about the person. The most important part of making connections is being personable about it and not sounding like a sales creature.
How often should you connect with the same person? Once a month is usually plenty, believe it or not. So, if you’re doing 10 contacts a day, that’s 300 a month. You can even cycle this to be once every two months. But that’s still a lot more contacts than you’re making right now, I can bet you that.
Who Should You Contact?
Most people think this is easy: reach out to customers and prospective new customers. Well, sure. That’s definitely one group to reach. But it goes further than this.
Reach out to past coworkers. Reach out to peers in your industry. Connect to people in other industries and geographies. Look to people you aspire to grow into being and look for people who are just getting started. I find people’s contact information on Twitter, on LinkedIn, through Google searches, and then I start with a personable introduction letter. This has served me well over the years.
And because you’re only doing five or maybe 10 of these contacts each day, it’s not all that super challenging. Your goal isn’t anything in specific beyond making contact and getting conversations started.
But Won’t This Snowball into a Crowded Inbox?
People stun me when they ask this question, because think about what you’re asking. “A lot of people are giving me their attention and offering an opportunity to connect. Will that be too much?”
It’s the best thing in the world to have lots of active conversations with people from all over. Especially when you finally start piecing together ways to help others.
Imagine you talk to someone in Lawrence, Kansas, who just lost her job as CEO of a dairy plant. You hear from a friend in Bend, Oregon, that they’re looking for someone to run a new bottling operation for their beverage company. Kapow. You can offer to make some introductions. The more times you’re at the elbow of helping others, the more opportunities just naturally start clicking into your own life and business.
It’s About the Database
And by that, I mean the list, and by that, I mean people. It’s about keeping a lot of connections warm, and nurturing relationships at a variety of levels. This keeps your business alive in multiple ways, and it gives you many more ways to help others thrive.
This is the kind of extra work that brings business success if you give it a try. Are you ready?
About Chris Brogan
Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advises leadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.
Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.
Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation