This is about how to grow your business when no one knows who you are, and the right and wrong ways to go about it.
When you’re just starting out, no one knows who you are.
People who are beginning their marketing career, who want exposure will oftentimes cold email people for a shout-out or a backlink.
The problem is, the person they are asking for a favor is being asked to put their reputation on the line — by vouching for someone they don’t even know.
That’s a risk almost no one is going to take. Even worse, these cold emails usually ask for amplification before doing something for the person being asked.
Before asking to piggyback on the audience another person has built up, do something small before you ask. People usually reciprocate a kindness done for them. It’s more difficult to get something from someone when there’s no prelude to the ask.
Givers and Takers
Here’s a quote from noted marketer, Gary Vaynerchuk.
It blows my mind how many people email me every single day saying, “Gary, can you tweet about my show?”
None of them ask what they can do for me.
People think about themselves. How do I get views?
What the whole world is predicated on when you’re doing biz dev is, “Can I give that person 51% of the situation?”
Because if I do, then they’ll say yes, and then I can get 49% of the value.
That’s why I continue to win in a world where people want 100% of the value.
— Gary Vaynerchuk
No matter what your industry is, you want to make a big impact in it. You want to have business pouring in, you want the accolades, you want the respect of your peers. You want to kick some ass.
But it’s a Herculean task to grow bigger when you’re either brand new to the game or not well-established. You can shout into the wilderness at the top of your lungs, but without other people feeling what you’re saying and amplifying that message, all you’re going to get back is an echo. You’re going to need someone to help you grow. You need allies. You need advocates.
What NOT To Do
Many established marketers will point out that people look for the easy springboard to success. As soon as you have a little bit of notoriety in a field, people come with their hands out looking for you to lift them up. But many of these folks haven’t put the effort in to lift themselves up yet — they’re just looking for a shortcut.
If that sounds cold-blooded, it’s not. It takes a lot of work to build up your skill, your community, and your reputation. If there’s ever been a true overnight success story in any field, I haven’t seen them yet.
The bottom line is like respects like. There is a certain level of professionalism you have to have. Don’t get discouraged if strangers decline doing big favors for you, but learn what you need to do to get to the next level. Learn what you can do to help your audience get to where they want to go. Everyone builds their success on helping other people be successful.
Finding Help By Helping Others
Your target audience does not necessarily care where they are receiving information and advice; they only care that the information is helpful. Step One is to make sure your website content is serving a purpose, and providing value to your audience. Who is your audience? What problems are they looking to solve? Why are they solving that problem in the first place? If they find you, will they care? Define who you are targeting and why.
Step Two is figuring out who else in your industry you are competing for time and attention with. Who has the mindshare of your target audience? Make a list of all the players in your industry. How big-time are they? How often do they publish? What platforms do they publish on? Do they have other allies in your industry? What level are they at? Are there people in closely related industries that your audience also follows?
By seeing where your potential audience already hangs out, and who they listen to, it gives you a damn good idea of where you can go to reach them. Since you have chosen where you are going to publish and how often, stick with that and don’t let it slip. Blogs, YouTube channels, and podcasts are more successful when people know when you are going to publish and can count on it.
Step Three is to figure out where you currently stack up in your industry compared to everyone else. This is in terms of production quality, followers, prestige and audience size. The goal is to get on the radar of some of these people by helping them out.
You are probably not going to get direct access to the heavy hitters in your industry. But they listen to the people who are a step or two below them. And those people listen to the people a step below them. And so it goes, down the line. Figure out who you respect, and who you feel comfortable approaching. If possible, form genuine friendships with these people. Whenever possible, help promote these people. Help propel them and their projects.
Do this without expecting a single thing in return.
Everything Is A Long Term Plan
I have a couple of rules for myself.
I don’t help anyone I don’t respect. I don’t pretend to like anyone just to eventually get something in return. I’m a terrible liar, I don’t do fake, and I can’t mask my feelings, good or bad. I gravitate towards people who I want to see do well, and whose words resonate with me personally.
Find the people in your industry that you have respect for, and share their work on a regular basis. By doing this, you will help them and help empower your audience by educating them.
Take Care of Your Audience
Always publish for your audience as if they have never heard anything you are saying before. You will be astonished at how many people will discover something new through you. Put effort into your content, even if your audience is only one person. Followers, readers and subscribers all grow in time, but you have to start somewhere. Being grateful for what you have is the first step towards having responsibility over more.
As crazy as this sounds, there will be someone for whom your words, values and beliefs resonate as strongly for as your own heroes do for you. But if you never share those thoughts and that knowledge, they will never find you.
People need help with things that you have spent years learning about. No one has all the answers — we learn from each other. I learn from people who are more experienced than myself, and in turn I try to share what I have learned.
Always provide value and help people solve their problems. Do this consistently over time. Give credit to other people. Become a curator of information in your industry. Share everything that is valuable to your audience, no matter if you created it or not. This alone can make you perceived as an expert.
Make Friends, Be A Friend
If you have an opportunity to meet other people in your industry, make it happen. People have a tendency to trust others more when they have met them in person, and have formed a bond with them. Check up on others regularly. Be involved and do things for others, both above you and below you. Your station in the world is never static, it is always changing. When you do things altruistically, good things happen.
To Sum It All Up
There’s never been a better time to be a businessperson than right now. Everyone has an opportunity, all they have to do is go out and get it. If you want to start freelancing, do it! But it does take time and effort. Start by being the type of person you wish you could be — teach and share from a place of abundance and authority.
Help people where you can, regardless of their stature. Filter out requests from people who want something for nothing — that shit falls on deaf ears around here. Befriend people in your field; most industries are not a zero sum game. There’s a lot you can learn from those who have gone before you and they are usually willing to share advice. Going it alone is pretty tough. When you help others graciously, they are more likely to help you later on.