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7 - Get Discovered

You need to understand something: when you’re starting with nothing, you will find that your absolute breakthrough opportunities will be developed in two ways:

By the smart use of hashtags, a strategy that requires an unbelievably long grind.

By direct-messaging, i.e., reaching out directly to people and offering something of value in return for their attention, a strategy that requires an unbelievably long grind.

It’s the second one that I believe holds the most promise, which is why, whenever possible, I’ve included instructions on how to collaborate and business-develop within each platform we discuss in this book. Collaborations are the absolutely most tried-and-true way to grow a fan base quickly—quickly being a relative term. In most cases, you should count on this process taking years, not months. If that bothers you, close the book.

Many are uncomfortable with the idea of direct-messaging total strangers, but let me help you think about these total strangers another way. Let’s say a friend invites you to join a group for dinner at a restaurant, and she also brings a couple you don’t know. You wind up sitting next to each other and have a great time. You’re an interior designer, and you find out that this couple is in the beginning stages of deciding to redo their home. Do you hide the fact that you’re an interior designer? Of course not. It’s natural to tell them what you do for a living, and that’s going to become part of your conversation because you just discovered a mutual interest. Now, at the end of the evening, would it be weird to hand them your card and say, “Check out my website, maybe we can work together. Or let me know if you need other recommendations.” Of course not. You have a mutual interest, they need a service, you can provide that service. It follows that you should give them the opportunity to decide if you would be a good fit.

Online, social-media platforms are the mutual friends connecting you to millions of people that share your interest in interior design. Your job is to do the research and find out which would find the most value in your offer and then make your case. I’ll share with you the specific details on how to do this in upcoming chapters, but the general process is essentially the same on each platform: reach out, make an offer they can’t refuse, and get to work producing something that doesn’t make them regret giving you a chance.

Now, there’s something you should know: right this minute I have around five hundred DMs from people who want something from me. You know what I have to say to them? Mazel tov, and go away. And that’s if I’m in the mood to be nice.

Why would I encourage you to try to get other influencers’ attention when I ignore or reject the majority of people who try this tactic with me? Because if they were doing it right, I wouldn’t reject them. If I felt they weren’t just trying to use me, if I thought they were genuinely trying to be helpful, if they could recognize a hole in my business and had the knowledge and skills to fill it, I might consider talking to them.

When you can’t offer exposure or money, what do you have? Knowledge and skill. Do you own a pizza shop? You could offer free pizza from your shop for six months. Are you a graphic designer? You could offer to make six hundred custom filters. Do you own a liquor store? As soon as your targets post shots of themselves enjoying wine, you could direct-message them with an offer for a case a month for the rest of the year (if your state laws allow that—New Jersey doesn’t ☹). People will tell you not to sell yourself cheap, but you can stand on that principle only when people are willing to buy what you’re selling. (For a perfect example of how to do this right, read DRock’s story in chapter 3 of my book #AskGaryVee, or you can hear his version of the story in his Medium piece, “How I Got My Job for Gary Vaynerchuk.”)* If established influencers see an upside to collaborating with you—allowing you to post content on their pages, working together to create content—they’ll get back in touch. If not, they’ll say no thanks, usually by not answering. But if you reach out for six or seven hours a day, you will eventually find someone willing to try something new with you. Once you do, you’ll have raised awareness with thousands of people who previously didn’t know you were alive. Provide something valuable to your collab partner, and you’ll quickly raise your profile as an influencer and in all likelihood make a new friend.

I won’t lie. Biz-deving this way is hard, tedious, and time-consuming. I like tedious. It means most people won’t do it. If you do, you will win. If you’ve got the money to run ads on all these platforms or pay influencers to feature your product, more power to you. But if you’re just starting out and have no money, this is the number-one thing you can do to build your brand.

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