Isaac Newton famously said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Among other things, this quote is a reminder of how mentors, connectors and influencers can help us go farther, faster. Sometimes, it’s really not about what you know; it’s about who knows you.
You are probably familiar with the biblical account of Joseph the dreamer and dream interpreter, whose life practically changed overnight. He interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams and that single action took him from being a prisoner to becoming the prime minister of Egypt.
The interesting thing is that Joseph had been in the business of interpreting dreams all along! But his life did not change until he offered his services to Pharaoh — and that happened through referral.
Long before Pharaoh had his baffling dreams, an influencer and a member of Pharaoh’s cabinet was serving prison term with Joseph. The dream interpreter connected with this influencer, offering his services pro bono. And by this, he built the bridge that would take him from prison to palace. You can read the full story in chapter 40 and chapter 41 of the first book of the Bible, called Genesis.
The connection principle
In life, there are some places you cannot get to on your own; you need someone to introduce you. If you have been diligent and consistent in doing all the right things but you have not been receiving the rewards you deserve, it’s not because you’re not good enough. It’s because you have not been discovered by the right people.
Your potentials will blossom when your gifts and abilities gain the attention of influencers and authority figures. The same service that Joseph had been offering for free to prisoners was what he offered to the king and got handsomely rewarded for. We have lots of similar biographies not only in the Bible but also in history and even in the present day.
Instead of resenting successful people who have learnt to build bridges and leverage on value-driven relationships, it is important that you understand this connection principle and know how to use it in your favour.Your potentials will blossom when your gifts and abilities gain the attention of influencers and authority figures. Click To Tweet
Now, this is not about running after an influencer for personal favours or hitching yourself to their wagon to advance selfish interests. You must be a person of value yourself. You must have paid your dues and done your homework. You must have built your work on a solid foundation of integrity and good character.
So you are not trying to light your candle, you are simply looking to place it on a candlestick. And this is not about drawing attention to yourself; it is about giving light to all that are in the house. That’s why it’s absolutely important to put giving first. You should adopt a mindset that seeks to create value for others even if you’re not going to get anything in return.
In the same way that a lighted candle will naturally attract attention, you cannot give value without getting value in return. You will always reap what you sow. It may not come in the form and time that you expected it but it will surely come as long as you maintain alignment with this universal principle.
How to create value for the influencers you’re looking to connect with
One popular recommendation that comes to mind is taking them to lunch. This may be a good idea if you already have a relationship and you simply want to rub minds with them or get advice on some particular issue. Even then, it may not work if they’re not favourably disposed to such or when geographical limitations make it impractical.
Besides, successful people are usually so busy that they may not be able to afford having long with someone that simply wants their attention and even when they can, they might be reluctant to grant such level of access without first having some kind of acquaintance with you. What I advise is that you first get yourself on their radar without appearing needy or desperate.
Again, this brings us to the principle of creating value and seeking to give. You are not driven by the ‘taker’s mentality’ but by a desire to grow while enriching the world with the investment of your personality.
Here are a few ideas on how to do that.
1. Offer sincere appreciation
Send them an email or you can even post a handwritten note letting them know how much you admire them and appreciate their work. Don’t try to flatter; it’s always easy to differentiate between a sycophant and a true admirer. Make reference to specific attributes, achievements etc. that you find inspiring and let them know how their work has positively influenced/impacted your life.
2. Engage with their content
Post intelligent and helpful comments on their social media conversations. Share their blog posts on Twitter and mention them. Engage with their content in the form that best resonates with you and that is also sure to get their attention.
Do this strategically and genuinely, with a kind of consistency that does not make you look like a stalker or an attention seeker. If you suddenly start retweeting their recent tweets for example, including replies that are specifically meant for someone else with little or no relevance for you, it will raise a red flag and suggest that you have a not-so-noble agenda.
3. Buy their products and provide honest feedback
Has the person you’re trying to connect with written a book? Buy it and write a review on Amazon. Share an excerpt from the book, include the purchase link and mention them. If it’s a free download or subscription gift, share the link to the opt-in page and offer sincere feedback.
You can even get creative and make graphic quotes or a short video about what you learnt. There are lots of free tools that you can use. And if you don’t have the skill or patience to do this yourself you can easily get it done on freelancing platforms like Fiverr.
4. Create content that will be useful for them and their audience.
There are many ways to do this. I’ll share a few. Attend an event where the influencer you want to connect with is speaking. Record everything they say, transcribe it and send it to them as a clean and visually appealing PDF or Microsoft Word document.
You can write a blog post from what you learnt, publish on your blog and share with them. You can do a presentation, publish on Slideshare and share LinkedIn.
These are just examples to get you thinking. You can apply them directly or adapt them to your need. Again, you don’t have to do these things yourself. You can get a good job for as little as five dollars on Fiverr and similar platforms.
5. Feature them in an experts roundup.
Write a post that recognises their position as one of the leading experts in their industry. For example, you can have something like “Top 5 entrepreneurs disrupting the Nigerian fashion industry” and include them. Before publishing, reach out with a very brief message about the post and ask for the picture they would like you to use.
6. Seek their advice
Send them an email requesting their opinion on a subject they are passionate about, something you’re working on or a matter of interest that is within their area of expertise. You may consider choosing a subject that allows them to demonstrate their expertise without taking their time. Do this genuinely and intelligently. Don’t ask them for answers that you can find on Google or by simply doing your homework.
7. Send them a gift
For every successful person there are dozens or maybe even hundreds of people looking to take from them. I have received lots of funny requests myself. I particularly remember a young man who reached out on Twitter, asking me to buy him a laptop. When I responded that I was not able to do that he asked me to give him my own. Imagine that!
If you turn this the other way and give a gift instead of asking for one, you will be on the right path. Even the Good Book says that a man’s gift will make way for him and bring him before great people. (Proverbs 18:16) Most people interpret ‘gift’ here as talent but that’s not what the scripture is saying. It’s talking about something you give to someone that can help you. I like the way the New Living Translation puts it: “Giving a gift can open doors; it gives access to important people!”
So the original intent of that admonition has nothing to do with putting one’s talents or natural endowment as many pundits would have us believe. The New International Version makes it clearer still: “A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.” (Emphasis mine) In the context of connecting with influencers, what you’re giving may be physical or virtual, though I think physical gifts are more personal and could carry more weight. It may be expensive but doesn’t have to be. The important thing is to make sure that you’re giving something valuable and useful. It could be as simple as a handmade card, a personalised flash drive, fragrance, a book, branded jersey or portrait.
It is advisable that you get ‘inside scoop’ on the kind of gift they will appreciate and one that will create an emotional connection. For example, if you’re buying something like fragrance you should find out the brand that they use. As a common sense rule, you may want to stay away from anything suggestive, especially when the person you’re dealing with is of the opposite sex. It’s better not to give a gift than to give one that will send a wrong message.If you've been diligent and consistent in paying your dues but you've not been receiving the accolades you deserve, it's not because you're not doing enough. It's because you haven't connected with the right people. Click To Tweet
8. Join their coaching program
Does the person you’re looking to connect with have a coaching program? That’s a great platform to connect with him or her. Some opportunities are only reserved for people who have gone beyond regular limits to demonstrate a commitment to their own personal development. And one of the ways to demonstrate such commitment is to be actively involved in a coaching program.
9. Offer to help with a project they’re working on.
Look out for volunteering opportunities that can bring you closer to the people you’re looking to connect with. You may also find out how you can bring your skills and expertise to bear on a project they’re working on. If you’re going this route, don’t just tell them what you intend to do. Show them what you have done and ask for guidance on how they would like you to proceed. You must have done your research well in such a way that you can communicate your sincerity, availability, motivation and competence.
Whatever you do, be honest and sincere. Don’t try to flatter or pursue some selfish motive. And by all means, please don’t ask for personal favours or expect them to sponsor your life. Building any kind of value-based relationship is a lot of work. Don’t expect the rules to be different when you’re seeking to build bridges from your present to your future. The good thing is that if you commit to it and adopt a long term perspective it will pay off eventually.