Some of the most common questions I hear from new and aspiring entrepreneurs are:
- How can I get the word out about my business to influential people in my market?
- How can I get people to link to my blog or website?
- How can I get mainstream press coverage?
- How can I find great mentors?
There are tips, tools and methods to accomplish each of these things but perhaps the most effective long-term strategy is also the most counter-intuitive: be a matchmaker.
What is a matchmaker?
A good matchmaker is someone who constantly looks for ways to connect good people, ideas and institutions without the expectation of payback.
Without the expectation of payback is the part that may seem counterintuitive, since didn’t I just say that being a matchmaker is the best way to further your own business goals? Yes, it is. But in order for it to really work, you have to just trust the process and not count on a direct "I scratch your back, you scratch my back" return favor.
Let me use some examples so you know more clearly what I am talking about, then I will tell you how to avoid a few common traps.
What are some concrete ways to be a matchmaker?
- Introduce like minds. This example is the Fiddler on the Roof definition: envision two people you know who would be a great fit together. While the result of effective romantic matchmaking is marriage, the result of "like minds" matchmaking is a business relationship that could take many different directions: business partners, mastermind peers, supportive friends or creative catalysts. After I learned that one of my favorite "adopted professors," Srikumar Rao was going to Japan, I wanted to introduce him to my uber talented friend Garr Reynolds. I sat back and imagined the delightful, creative, uplifting conversation they would have over tea, and it was enough to inspire me to send an email introducing them to each other.
- Set the stage for a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup. I don’t know if you have seen the old commercial which shows one person rounding the corner with a jar of peanut butter and the other rounding the corner with a chocolate bar. They collide, and the result is a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup. My best example of this is when I introduced my dear friends Desiree Adaway and Marilyn Scott-Waters. Desiree heads volunteer mobilization for Habitat for Humanity, and Marilyn is an extraordinary paper toy maker. After introducing the two, Marilyn created a special fold-out paper house that Desiree promoted to her youth groups to raise awareness of poverty housing. As the wonderful world of serendipity works, Desiree ended up in England representing Habitat for a boy scout fair. Prince William happened to stop by her booth and colored a paper house. When I saw this picture, I knew Reeses Peanut Butter matchmaking had very wonderful, unexpected outcomes.
- Share a great story with the press. If you are hooked into your market the right way, you are in conversation with your clients and prospects on a daily basis and have a keen sense of their businesses and what they are trying to accomplish. If you see a publication that you think would be great for featuring their story, let them know. If you have a relationship with a journalist, pitch the story. I have been lucky enough to match one of my blog readers with USA Today, which resulted in a front-page story in the Money section. This is a very mutually beneficial thing since journalists are always looking for great stories and great sources for quotes.
- Link like crazy There is a reason blogs are so viral in nature: by including lots of links in your blog post, you send traffic all over the place. You definitely want to share your own expertise on your blog, but be generous with your referrals to other people. It will come back around!
- Forward information to someone who can use it. I get great,
unsolicited resources all the time from my blog and ezine readers. It
is so helpful, and definitely makes me want to extend a hand to those
who help me.
- Refer ill-fitting prospective clients to someone appropriate. You should have a clear picture of who your ideal client is for your product or service. If you run across someone who clearly has a need but will not be best served by you, refer them to the best person you can think of. You never want to send someone away with a simple "sorry I can’t help you," since you never know if they might know someone who does fit your perfect profile. If you help them find exactly who they need, they are more likely to send people your way. But don’t count on it, of course, which brings up the next section:
Sure fire ways to kill good matchmaking:
- Keep track of favors and expect a near-term payback. If you keep marks on your wall of how many times you helped someone and expect them to return the favor right away, you will be very disappointed. The other person will feel your intent, and you will not come across as genuine. Because you aren’t! Real matchmaking is based on total delight at seeing good things happen as a result of your introduction. You may never get payback from the person you helped, but this should not deter you.
- Force people into a pre-determined funnel. Some people can be deluded into thinking they are working the matchmaker model by referring people to a pre-selected group in their network. Often, referral or affiliate fees are involved which makes the matchmaking financially motivated. This changes the way that you listen to the needs of the person you are trying to help. Instead of thinking "who would be the best resource for this person?" you are thinking "would Sally, Jose or Thomas be the best resource for this person?" I don’t think it is wrong to use a referral or affiliate relationship, just make sure it is the right fit.
- Break the trust of your confidantes by introducing the wrong people. The more connected and exposed you get, the more emails and calls you will get from people asking you to introduce them to those in your circle. Just because you get the requests does not mean you have to make the introduction. Make sure you introduce people who would truly provide mutual benefit, otherwise you will soon become known as a pest.
- Ask people you hardly know to make an introduction for you. My friend Martha Beck gets cornered at social gatherings, dinner parties and speaking events all the time with people who want to meet Oprah. Just because she knows her does not make it appropriate. A much better question to ask is "how did you build up such a great platform?"
I hope you find, like I have, that the sheer pleasure of matchmaking makes it worthwhile. It also, over time, positions you as a connected, generous person. And that is exactly what will give you a screaming hot platform.
Happy Valentines Day!