Recently, I received an email from an alumni client with a few updates about his growing impact and reach for his business and message.  As I was reading about the exciting details around his new national media opportunities, I couldn’t help but notice the last line of his email:

“All these national media placements, which will provide great platform for book when it finally comes out, came through RELATIONSHIPS!”

Can I get an AMEN?!

It doesn’t matter whether your goal is to attract more clients and grow your business, publish and promote your book, launch your idea-driven program, build your platform or secure more speaking opportunities, relationships are the linchpin that hold it all together.

Even when you know that relationships are the path to more rewarding opportunities (speaking, clients, book sales, etc.), it’s not always obvious what to do next or how to identify and build those key relationships.

And, even if you are a “relationship” person, it can sometimes feel like you’re wasting your valuable time, energy and money trying to “network” and engage on social media – without any meaningful relationships or opportunities to show for it.

Here’s a few client-tested tips to help you find the right relationships, build your following, and make a greater impact than you ever thought possible!

#1: Identify the Right Individuals, Groups and Associations for YOU

When it comes to building our network, conventional wisdom tells us that volume and size matter.  This is bad advice – and one of the main reasons that many entrepreneurs and thought leaders aren’t seeing more meaningful results from their relationship-building efforts.

Before sending out another Tweet or Facebook message, reflect on the relationships that you are currently trying to build and ask yourself:

  • Which individuals (bloggers, authors and industry leaders) and organizations already serve the audience that I want to reach?
  • Does their core message and work align with my message and brand?
  • Do I actually like them – and believe in the work they are doing?

With these three questions, you can quickly identify the people that are more in sync with who you are and what you stand for.  As a result, you’ll automatically be more purposeful and strategic about the relationships you are building.

#2: Go TO Your Audience (instead of waiting for them to discover you)

Along the path to spreading your message, it can be tempting to sit back and wait for followers and fans to find you. If you do that, you may miss out on specific opportunities to gain support for your business and brand.

Instead of waiting, pick a thought leader or organization that’s aligned with your message and find ways to get involved and contribute to that group. Comment on their blog posts, attend their national conference or regional meeting, and start conversations with other members of their community.

By connecting in these meaningful ways, you build trust and open doors to not only attract followers, but to potentially collaborate with them and to receive support and promotion from them in the future.

#3: Build Rapport Before Making a Request

One of the biggest mistakes I see many entrepreneurs and authors make is asking for help from potential strategic partners and influencers too soon – or asking for too much. That request usually goes something like this:

Imagine you’re at a conference and you spot one of your favorite bloggers or authors on the opposite side of the room. You rush over and introduce yourself by saying,

“It’s so great to meet you in person – I’m a big fan!  By the way, I’m working on a new book / product / website and I was wondering if you could help me by promoting (or endorsing) it?”

OK, so this real-world example may be a bit extreme, but it illustrates an important point: When you make a request before the rapport is there, your odds of getting a “yes” are very slim.

The best way to attract a potential strategic partner is to demonstrate your value and relevance before asking for their help. Get to know that individual or group, explore what you share in common with your vision and message, and find ways to give first. Then, you can ask for help when the time is right.

#4: Develop a Habit of Keeping in Touch

For many entrepreneurs and messengers, many key opportunities are lost because they don’t know how – or don’t find time – to effectively keep in touch.

Consider that great connection you made at last month’s conference. You had a good conversation and see the potential for future collaboration.  But, you return home to an overflowing inbox and you forget to follow up with them. Now, it’s a year later – and time to ask for support for your new book / product / program.  If you haven’t stayed in touch with them, your request for help will most likely be ignored (or won’t be well received) because you haven’t taken the time to build the relationship and demonstrate your relevance and value.

When you make an important or valuable connection – on any level – find ways to stay in touch and to grow that relationship. For example, if you see their name or book mentioned on Twitter, Facebook, a blog, or in a news article, send them a quick email with the link and a note of “congratulations!” Or, send them a quick message when you come across something that might be relevant to their upcoming project.  The key is to take a real interest in WHO they are – not just what they can do for you. That way, when it’s time to ask for their help, your request will at least be heard!

One Final Thought

Every relationship you build and nurture can lead to tangible opportunities for you and your overall work and business.  Keep your heart and mind open to ALL possibilities – doing your best not to fixate on specific outcomes – and allow things to develop naturally. If you focus on relationships and the long-term potential, you’ll find yourself with a strong, supportive community that will rally around you when you ask for their help.

So what do you think? Do you have a process for building and nurturing relationships? Have you gotten some great returns from your relationships? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.