A few posts back I wrote about how important it is to create good relationships with other folks in your industry, but it was pointed out to me that not everybody knows how to do that. And while you may have an idea of how to connect with others in the industry, you might want more inspiration on how to go about it. So here's how to create good relationships with others in the biz.
The first thing you need to do is stop seeing them as the competition. Then you should try to:
- Conferences, conventions, and seminars. I’ve had great luck here. If you go to industry events, you’re surrounded by the kinds of people you want to get in good with, so talk to them, swap cards, and get friendly. If you go to events where your clients are, know others in your industry will be there too doing the same thing—start shaking hands; you’ll bump into them.
- Smaller events. General networking events will probably have someone in your field for you to bump into. And if there are industry association events, you will definitely find a few in your niche to talk to.
- Social media. Join groups on Facebook, make comments, answer questions, and message folks. Follow individuals and lists on Twitter, and strike up conversations 140 characters at a time. Connect on LinkedIn and set up a meeting to get to know each other after commenting on some of their posts.
- On the job. Don’t discount others in your office—they may not be coworkers forever. And don’t give those you're competing with for jobs or collaborating with on projects the cold shoulder.
- Anywhere! I ran into some serious content creators at a dive bar while on vacation, and I hope to work with them in the future. And then there’s the guy I met at a real bust of a house party who wants me to collaborate on a project with his firm.
Follow up with them.
By follow up, I mean you should follow up meaningfully. A quick, glib “nice to meet you” message is nice and all, but it kind of kills communication. Your follow-up should do two things: provide value for them and encourage engagement.
In terms of value, consider sending information pertaining to the conversation you’ve had with them. Send links to blog posts or videos, paste information you’ve found, or send over contact information of someone who could do something for them.
With engagement, you have some flexibility. Ask them to let you know what they think of whatever you’ve sent over, invite them for drinks, or ask them to do something small for you. Or just keep the conversation going by tossing out some questions or otherwise talking about them—people love that.
Don’t forget about them.
Sure, your email thread could fizzle out, but don’t let your potential friendship go that way too. Just as with a sales lead, remember to check in if you haven’t heard back from them in a bit.
When you try to reconnect, stick to your follow-up strategies by giving value or creating engagement. And speaking of that initial follow-up, if they never responded, it won’t hurt to send a message over asking if they received your initial email.
Without having to do some cyber stalking, connect with these folks you meet across social networks. If you met on the Internet, you may want to connect with them on a secondary network. If you met in person, following them and their business on a couple of channels could be a good move.
Don’t overdo it though. Just because your new contact is on every social network doesn’t mean you have to connect with them there—at least not right away. The longer you two know each other and the more you engage with each other, the less odd it will look when you add them on Facebook, connect with them on LinkedIn, and follow them on Pinterest in a matter of days. And don’t take action on everything they post—they are your business contact, not your high school crush.
Give them something.
If there is an appropriate opportunity, toss your industry buddy a bone. This could be a lead for a task that’s not a good fit for you or something you don’t have time to take on, a free trial for a cool new tool you’ve been digging, or a coupon code for an important conference. You can also offer a bit of free consulting or mentoring time if you are corresponding with someone less advanced in his or her career or interested in your area of expertise because it’s different from his or hers.
Ask them for something.
I can’t remember where I read it, but there was a theory that people could build rapport with others by asking them to do things for them. I’ve taken this track while building industry allies before and enjoyed success.
You don’t want to ask for anything too nutty—even though those big audacious asks sometimes are a win. I suggest asking them for a tiny bit of their time to pick their brain about an industry subject or for some information about their specialty, if different from yours. If they are more advanced in your career, asking for a quick twenty- or thirty-minute mentoring session isn’t a bad pick either.
If you want to make friends with others in your industry, you can’t do things to undermine those relationships. Don’t badmouth them or their employer or criticize their work to anyone—it could get back to them. And even if you are bitching to your family, you should think twice, as that negative attitude is being given a moment to sink in, and you may be less than kind when speaking about them in the future.
While you’re at it, be sure to not do things that are crappy. That includes poaching clients and stealing talent.
Do you have any tips on how you can connect and build rapport with others in your industry?
Or are you ready to connect with us?