Back in 2012, I started following a site called GoinsWriter.com. The author of the site is Jeff Goins, and from reading his content it was clear we had similar outlooks and goals. I read each of his posts and started commenting on a few. Jeff lives in Nashville, and I had to go through there for work the next month. So I reached out and asked if he wanted to grab lunch or coffee.
He said he couldn’t.
Several months passed and I was back in Nashville, so I checked in with Jeff again. He was available and we met up at Puckett’s Grocery in Franklin, and had a nice lunch while discussing creativity, entrepreneurship, and more. It was a lunch that took nearly a year to happen, and we’ve stayed in touch ever since.
Fast forward to 2015 and Jeff and I are chatting on Blab about this very story, re-reading the same emails, and sharing with others how powerful the network effect can be when you are willing to do a few things.
They are simple, but hard to put in to practice.
The benefits are striking though, and lead you to a place where you can connect with influencers, build a strong network of people who support you, and provide mutual benefits to each other’s work.
But it didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t happen in the way I expected.
One of the most important realizations is that I didn’t go in to the lunch with Jeff thinking “when am I going to benefit from this?” I just wanted to have lunch. I try not to begin relationships by putting pressure on the other person, that he or she will create my big break.
If that happens at all (and it never has for me), it won’t be from one person and one interaction. The big break is a series of smaller breaks that build on each other. Putting that pressure on someone else is unfair, no matter who they are.
I want to share some practical tips for that first interaction though. How to write the “ask” email, the logistics of when and where, and how to structure the conversation.
These tips will not show you how to become best friends with those you admire in a short amount of time. This is about building relationships that have long-term value and grows over time.
The Ask Email
When you write the initial email, asking for their time, you need to respect their time from the beginning. The email should only be a few sentences, and get straight to the point.
I want to answer 5 questions for the reader right away, and these answers provide the content you need for the ask.
- Who am I?
- Name a specific piece of helpful content?
- What do I want?
- Why does this help the Influencer?
- When (or where) will it happen?
This has been a process I’ve refined over the years. To show you, here is the original email I sent to Jeff in 2012.
At the end of that thread, it actually didn’t work out. We didn’t meet that time. I’ll share how to move past “no” and “not now” in another lesson.
If I was to write another email to Jeff today, it would look like this (and feel free to steal it). The answers to the questions are bracketed so you can see the flow.
My name is Matt Ragland, I’m a fellow writer  and am really enjoying your work. The podcast episode on personal development lessons from the middle ages was especially great !
I’m going to be in Nashville from March 2-4, and wanted to see if you have 30 minutes one morning to grab coffee and talk about the craft . I also have some ideas for sketches I believe could help your work stand out even more.
If you’re available, I heard that Crema Coffee is a great place to meet . If there is a more convenient place for you, I’m happy to meet there instead!
A couple details to dive in to that can make all the difference.
Logistics of Where and When
You must be 100% clear about this. I gave Jeff specific dates, not saying “next month” or other vague language. It’s also best to give a specific time frame (30 minutes) and time of day (morning).
Even if you don’t live in their city, suggest a place to meet. I did this with Crema, and would do it for any city I was meeting someone in. You probably won’t know where they live, so the suggestion could be way off (and Crema is)! That’s why you give them an out “If there is a more convenient place for you, I’m happy to meet there instead!”
The main idea is that you want to clarify the ask and do as much of the upfront work as possible. Give the influencer a concrete decision to make about the meeting, without adding in thoughts of when or where it’s going to happen.
Take a quick look at my original email to Jeff, and the updated copy. In both asks I gave a specific topic of discussion as a reason for meeting. The more specific you can be, the better. It will give you more clarity in the conversation.
You’ll also notice in the updated copy that I gave a specific value proposition too, my sketchnotes. This is another way to structure your time and give an enticing hook to the influencer on why they should meet you.
Just for email subscribers, I’ll help you find and leverage unique and every day skills you have to provide killer value and stand out in the crowd. You don’t have to be an artist or technical wizard to provide value to any influencer you can think of. I’ll share 5 common tasks that anyone can do, and will make you stand out amongst their fans.
Do you want more of these tips on connecting with others? I’m putting together a collection where I’ll share how you can stand out, make contributions, and find your unique skills that make all of this possible. If you’re interested, pop your email in below and you’ll get them wayyyyyy before anyone else. Thanks!