The entrepreneur community is massive. With the world moving ever-closer to the “gig economy,” more people than ever are choosing to make the jump into self-employment and self-run businesses. That network can be a significant source of support and value – but only if you reach them the right way.
As entrepreneurs, we all know the marketing hustle and what it looks like; that can make us especially critical of attempts at communication. Many people experience this “connection shock” on a daily basis. Similar to content shock, this simply refers to the fact that many of us are just completely burned out on emails and requests for our attention. That drives us to become immediately critical of connections on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook.
So how can you, as an entrepreneur, cut through the crud and get your message noticed in a sea of connections? There’s really no easy answer, but it all starts with being transparent and honest about why you want to connect.
There’s a movement in some circles to mask exactly why you want to connect, at least at first. Unscrupulous content companies will sell you connection services that scour potential contact profiles for little details, using that information to then connect with them and seem more personable.
An example: someone you want to connect with about a business opportunity attended a certain university. In an effort to “warm up” the connection, an unscrupulous marketing company will send an introductory message that specifically mentions the university’s sports team in a way that makes it sound as if you went there, too.
Make no mistake – unless you really did attend, this is deceptive, and most entrepreneurs will see right through it.
Being transparent about why you are contacting someone is valuable here; it shows that you aren’t underestimating the entrepreneur you want to connect with. But transparency doesn’t mean you need to reveal everything right out of the gate.
Start with a subject line that reflects your interests, yet is personable. If you have a product you believe someone would find interest in, consider offering a free preview or test item. If it’s advice you’re seeking, make this clear, too. Avoid masking your connections or inflating them by including “urgent” or “important” in the subject line unless it’s actually a critical situation; this feels pushy and is more likely to turn people off.
Attend Face-to-Face Events
Connecting online is important, but it’s not the be-all, end-all of everything. In-person networking events are a crucial way to establish yourself and reach out to the entrepreneur community. They’re so vital to your success that it may even be worth traveling to them via airplane if you live in an area without any events. Of particular interest to most entrepreneurs are all of the following:
- The National Business and Technology Conference (March, yearly)
- Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization (CEO) National Conference
- TED Conferences
- Small Business Expo
- The World Domination Summit
- New York Business Expo and Conference
- WBENC 2017 National Conference & Business Fair
Each of these conferences offers something slightly different, but they all have one main common feature: they allow you to network with the entrepreneur community directly. Don’t underestimate the value of industry-specific events, either; whatever your niche is, they’ll allow you to reach people already working in your field.
Get Active (And Provide Valuable Content) On Social Media
Are you on LinkedIn? Facebook? Twitter? Possibly even YouTube, too? If not, you’re missing out on a golden opportunity to reach the entrepreneur community. Today’s millennial entrepreneurs spend more time on social media than anywhere else, and if you don’t get in the game (regardless of your own age), you’re going to miss them while they’re off connecting with others.
But simply getting on social media isn’t enough. Going back to the aforementioned content and connection shock, you have to bear in mind that most entrepreneurs are inundated with mindless posts day-in and day-out on all platforms. Find a way to add value to your updates and you’ll stand a better chance.
What exactly does “value” mean? Think about it this way; what is it about your posts that would drive someone to like or share them over anyone else’s content? Are they funnier, more human, more insightful, or filled with truly helpful advice for entrepreneurs? Use your experience and think about what you would find value yourself, as an entrepreneur, and apply basic social media marketing strategies for best results.
Join Entrepreneurial Groups and Organizations
One of the best ways to cut through the sheer avalanche of information entrepreneurs have to filter through on a daily basis is to join groups, websites, and organizations designed with the entrepreneur in mind. Many of these – including some of LinkedIn’s largest and most famous groups – exist solely to allow entrepreneurs to connect outside of the very watered-down general online environment. But both offline and online organizations are beneficial; it offers you the opportunity to connect and reach out to other entrepreneurs while using your mutual organization membership as a starting point.
Just be sure you’re joining to give input as well as receive; no one appreciates an entrepreneur that only leeches or lurks and never has anything of value to say.
A quick note: Meetup is also a fantastic tool for entrepreneurs, especially if you’re trying to find local organizations and groups in your nearest city. The site lets you browse and sign up for everything from social events to important industry meetings all across the country.
Utilize Six Degrees of Separation
You already have a small network at your disposal, even if it’s just friends and family; don’t be afraid to use that to your advantage. Utilizing the rule of “six degrees of separation,” it’s nearly always possible to get a warm introduction to an entrepreneur you’ve never spoken to before. If it’s a friend of a colleague, contact the colleague first to inquire about an introduction.
If someone you know is running a small but exclusive group of entrepreneurs, approach them about joining and point out why you feel you’d be an asset. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need; confidence and grace are the best characteristics for growing your network to exponential levels.
Take Some Initiative
Finding it difficult to reach entrepreneurs despite your best efforts? Don’t panic – take the bull by the horns and start your own group, meetup, podcast, or organization yourself. Figure out what it is you can provide to the entrepreneur community that’s valuable enough to draw people in and make it easy for others to join in, share, and respond.
If you build it, they will come – but only if they have a good reason to do so in the first place.
Better still, if you show drive and initiative, you’ll represent yourself as an authoritative expert who knows how to navigate the business world.