Here’s the short version of the story:
I had a virtual 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, Sandy.
She told us both how wonderful the other person was and suggested we get together. Sandy and I exchanged a couple of emails, picked a date and Zoomed yesterday.
I wasn’t trying to meet Sandy 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'll describe below, coffee (now virtual) with other humans is part of my marketing plan.
As we got to talking, she thought that whatever it was I had 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 major) business publication.
It’s hard to predict before the fact, but it’s definitely, consistently out there.
So here’s what I recommend for 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 of my own marketing plan:
Once a week, I get together for lunch or coffee with someone — virtually now, in person again when we return to normal. No agenda, no sales pitch, no nothing. Just lunch or coffee and conversation.
That's 50 one-on-one 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'd probably think — 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.
Michael Katz is Founder and Chief Penguin of Blue Penguin Development. He specializes in helping small professional service firms talk about their work in a way that is clear and compelling. Sign up for his free newsletter, The Likeable Expert Gazette, here. (LINK: http://bluepenguindevelopment.com/free/)