Why should you make connections with strangers?
Because human connections make the world go-round, that’s why.
Have you ever heard the expression, “It’s not what you know, but who you know?” Of course you have. Making connections with influential people serves several purposes.
You’re a social creature. It feels good to have an interaction with a new person.
It’s fun to share ideas with someone who has similar interests as you.
Making connections is a great way to advance a goal or project.
It may not be clear at first, but making a new connection could someday lead to a mentorship, job opportunity, or interesting collaboration.
So why aren’t you reaching out to strangers? What’s stopping you from creating connections with people who inspire you?
Maybe you’ve thought about making a connection with someone, but you hesitated. What if you reach out to them and they don’t reciprocate? What if they laugh at you and tell you to take a hike?
Or, even worse, what if you put yourself out there and the other person leaves you hanging? You’ll feel embarrassed and insignificant. And you hate that.
So, you stay locked-up in your fortress of solitude where the fear of rejection can’t get you.
But that’s not going to get you anywhere, is it?
Try this instead…
How I connected with a stranger who inspired me
Last week, I received an email from one of my favourite bloggers, Henneke Duistermaat over at Enchanting Marketing. Henneke is a copywriter and her blog inspires me on a weekly basis. She’s written eBooks and created online courses. She’s an influential figure in the online world with over 6,500 followers on Twitter. I have 14.
Needless to say, when I received a personal email from her last week I was shocked.
The subject of the email was, “Today’s post is for you,” and it went like this:
Today’s post was inspired by your suggestion to write a post about writing with simplicity. I changed the topic slightly, but I hope you’ll find it useful:
I’ve added a thank you and a link at the bottom of the post. Sorry, I forgot to check beforehand but I hope you’re happy with that? I can change the link destination if you prefer!
I was blown away! I had inspired a post on one of my favourite blogs AND there was a link to my website?! This was the biggest thing to happen in my brief blogging career! (And yes, I realize how nerdy that sounds)
But this wasn’t the first time I had communicated with Henneke. I made a connection with her several months ago and here’s how I did it:
Start with a compliment
Last year, I sent Henneke an email telling her how much I appreciated the content she was creating. I told her I loved her blog.
I also said that I was working on my own blogging project and I found her two eBooks and guide called A Pain Free Process for Writing Your ‘About’ Page to be super useful. I thanked her for the positive influence she was having on my writing.
The key to delivering a compliment is meaning it. People can see through bull-shit from a mile away. I felt inspired by Henneke and I thought she should know it.
Don’t connect for selfish reasons
If you’re contacting someone who inspires you, asking them for something is a bad idea.
When I emailed Henneke, it wasn’t with the hope that someday she would share the link to my blog on her website. I didn’t even ask her a question in that first email.
The purpose of the first email is to establish a connection. That’s it. Stay away from asking questions that make it seem like you’re digging for free advice or favours. This also reduces the chances of them ignoring you.
Show your honesty
How many times have you read an amazing book and emailed the author to tell them you loved it? How about contacting the director of your favourite television show? What about an athlete, adventurer, chef, architect, doctor, journalist, photographer, blogger, CEO, inventor, scientist, or humanitarian who inspires you?
You love what these people do, but how often do you let them know it? Connecting with strangers is about being honest and sharing your appreciation.
Don’t blabber on and don’t type your email in one huge paragraph.
Be concise with your sentences. Use bullet points to make your email easier to read.
The person you’re contacting might receive a lot of mail. They could also receive a lot less than you think. Either way, respect their time and keep your email brief but well-written.
Read the email out loud to yourself
The best way to edit your own writing is to read it out loud. It makes it easier to catch mistakes and awkwardness. You want your writing to be conversational and to sound like you speak.
I probably read that first email I sent to Henneke out loud 20 times. And I’m sure I still wasn’t perfectly happy about it when I hit ‘Send,’ but I sent it anyways.
And guess what?
She responded within a couple days. She thanked me for the kind words and wished me luck in my endeavours. It wasn’t much of an exchange, but the connection was now open.
A few months later, I responded to an email she sent to her email subscribers before Christmas. In her email, she asked if her readers had any suggestions for her blog in 2016, so I hit ‘Reply.’
I suggested a few topics that I struggled with in my writing and why I thought those topics could be useful to me. I also told her I finally launched my blog and shared the link. Being the genuinely nice person she seems to be, she told me my blog was “fab.” I may have blushed, just a little.
And then last week I received the email above telling me one of my suggestions had inspired her latest blog post and that a link to Year of Fear was going to be on her website for all her readers to see. Boom!
Now it’s your turn!
Connecting with strangers can be stressful, but the more you do it the easier it gets.
I email bloggers, authors, and journalists on a regular basis to thank them for the most recent blog post, book, or article they wrote. I get responses the majority of the time.
Sure, I’ve felt the sting of rejection, but it’s all good. Maybe the other person was having a bad day or they were stressed out.
But I forgot about the rejections when Henneke sent me that email. After she shared the link to my website in her blog post, I had the best traffic day by far on my blog and won a few new email subscribers to boot. It was a great day in Year of Fear-ville!
My challenge to YOU:
Connect with an influential stranger this week. Send an email to someone who inspires you using the suggestions I outlined above.
You never know where the connection might lead…
P.S. This post was inspired by my good friend David Turner. Thanks, buddy!