How to Connect with Your Industry Hero

If you’ve been reading my blogs for any time at all, then you’ve probably heard me talk about how much I value my network — it’s been fundamental not only to my ‘success’ but it’s also been the rock that has supported me through more challenging times.

While it’s usually pretty easy to connect with people who are at the same stage of business as you, it can feel harder to connect with people who are further along — much less your industry hero! But it’s easier than you think, as long as you’re willing to make the effort and understand how you can truly deliver value to others.

Dots make lines

Think of every encounter you have with someone like a dot. So the first time you tweet to someone, that’s a dot. Then after that, maybe you email them or comment on their blog, which is another dot. Then maybe you meet them at a live event; another dot. At first you’re going to have a series of spaced out dots, one after the other … but eventually they’re going to join together to form a line, and that’s your relationship.

But how do you get that first dot?

Most people overthink this, thinking that they’ll only have one shot to get someone’s  attention, so they need to write a super long email explaining everything they want to work together on, or do something dramatic to stand out. But you don’t want to just grab their attention; you want to build a relationship. So that first encounter can be something as simple as a comment on their blog, or a post on their Facebook wall.

The only rule here is that you have to give them something of value in your encounter. Again, it’s really easy — a genuine compliment is valuable, as is sharing their content. The whole point is just to get on their radar and make a positive impression that you can then build on.

Taking things to the next level

When you have built your relationship to the point where you can naturally connect with the other person as you have now built a foundation of trust — there is no set time period for this but it won’t often happen overnight, so be prepared to hang in there; remember this isn’t about a one off transaction, you want to build a long term, genuine relationship. When you’ve done this, you can start to think about asking for some help, support or advice from the other person. Just remember not to go in like a bull in a china shop. If you’re simply out for your own gain, nothing will ever last long. A relationship is always two ways …

When you do ask them for something, make sure that you make it as easy as possible to say yes. This means that whatever you’re asking them to do has to be a perfect fit for their business or audience, has to not conflict with any other projects they’ve got going, and is going to bring them enough of a benefit that it’s worth their while. ‘Benefit’ is a subjective word and doesn’t always relate to money – don’t think that a financial gain is the only way to help someone, there are often equally as important things you could help with.

If they say yes, then great! If they say no, that’s not the end of the world either — even if this project isn’t the right fit for them now, you just keep building your relationship with them for another project down the road.