Here’s the short version of the story:
I had coffee yesterday with someone who blogs for a major business publication. She asked if I was interested in being interviewed for her column. I said, “Sure.”
Here’s the slightly longer version:
A couple of months ago, my friend and client, Alisa, sent one of those “you two should meet” emails to me and her friend, Dorie.
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She told us both how wonderful the other person was and, since we both live in the Boston area, she suggested we get together. Dorie and I exchanged a couple of emails, picked a date and place to meet, and yesterday, we finally did.
I wasn’t trying to meet Dorie because she’s an influential blogger – I had no idea. In fact, by the time yesterday rolled around, I really couldn’t remember very much about her at all. But, she’s a friend of a friend and, as I describe below, coffee with other humans is part of my marketing plan.
As we got to talking, she thought that whatever it was I said (don’t ask, I don’t remember) seemed relevant for her readers. So she asked if I was interested.
I said, “Sure, I’d love to!” (I told you this was the slightly longer version.)
Here’s the part that relates to you:
Many solo professionals don’t bother with these types of unfocused, unqualified meetings.
“Too random,” they say. “I need to spend time with prospects and key referral sources.”
That’s fine – it certainly makes logical sense to meet with those types of people.
The thing is, if you only spend time with people who seem likely to lead you to a goal – more clients, more visibility, whatever – you’ll miss out on the (often very fruitful) serendipity that comes from interacting with people who don’t seem likely to lead you anywhere.
And that’s the key phrase – don’t seem likely. Because the fact is, you often can’t tell.
The spouse of a colleague is the CEO of a company that needs your help. The client of a friend has been looking for someone who does what you do. The friend of a client blogs for a (did I mention, very MAJOR?) business publication.
It’s hard to predict before the fact, but it’s definitely, consistently out there.
So here’s what I recommend in taking advantage of these “coincidences:” Put aside a little bit of time to interact with people FOR NO GOOD REASON.
I know you’re busy. Me too. I’m talking about something that won’t take up a ton of time.
Here, for example, is one of the key pieces to my own marketing plan:
Once each week, I get together for lunch or coffee with someone, in person (not the same person, that would make little sense). No agenda, no sales pitch, no nothing. Just lunch or coffee and conversation.
That leads to 50 face-to-face meetings a year. Many of which, I admit, result in nothing but a pleasant hour of chatting and coffee.
But many times – more often than you probably think possible – it leads to something much more tangible. Enthusiastic referrals. Paying clients. Even the occasional interview in a (colossally significant) business publication.
Here’s the bottom line. If you believe that word of mouth is the best way to grow your business, you need to build the relationships that support those words and mouths – many of which can’t be figured out before the fact.
Make sure you’re not closing down opportunities tomorrow in your single-minded eagerness to close business today.
Very inspiring, Michael. It seems so easy…and it’s true: You really have to keep the networking going.
Yes. I think the “easy” part is why people don’t bother. Doesn’t seem possible without hard work. That said, as a man who met his future wife in his own apartment, thanks to a friend of a friend, I’m pretty much sold on the benefits of networking!
So the million dollar question – WHAT major business publication will, in the near future, contain an interview featuring Michael Katz?
Susan! I’m going to keep you sitting on pins and needles until such event occurs. You never know with these things, so stand by for an update (soon, I hope!).
Thank you for the reminder about this, Michael. It is way too easy to get caught up in day-to-day stuff and forget that very soft marketing can provide solid leads. I’ve already determined that I’m not a true salesperson, so marketing via word-of-mouth is my ticket! Fortunately, it’s been helping me in my biz for almost 14 years now.
Sounds like you’ve found a winning formula, Lynn!
Great advice for us solopreneurs! Certainly a reminder to open up our eyes to all possibilities, because you just never know. Thanks for sharing.
My pleasure, Susan.
I am a firm believer in serendipity! I did some pro bono work several years ago and through my indigent client met one of my first paying clients. I’ve done several projects for the paying client and am likely to do more. Also, the paying client invited me to an important networking event that I would not have been able to attend without an invitation.
Sometimes, the meetings without an agenda produce more than the meetings with a marketing agenda!
Best regards, Paula A. Schaefer
Glad to see it’s working so well for you too, Paula!