THE BLOG
11/18/2014 12:27 pm ET Updated Jan 17, 2015

You're Not Aiming High Enough: How to Network Up to Big Connections

When it comes to forging business contacts, there's networking, and then there's "networking up." Both have the same basic premise: You go out of your way to make contacts that may be valuable for your business. While networking is more of a hopeful endeavor, networking up is the process of making contacts that will specifically drive your success upward -- no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

By networking up, you're attempting to meet the top players in your industry. This not only drives your income but also fuels your all-around sense of happiness. Just think about the positivity that's generated by bouncing ideas around with a bunch of the top go-getters in your field.

But don't be mistaken: Connecting with the biggest names in your industry is no easy task.

How to Effectively Network Up

Networking up requires no shortage of finesse, but it can be extremely rewarding. Here are seven tactics you can utilize to connect with top-tier contacts:

  1. Identify your targets. Clearly identify whom you're aiming for. Who inspires you? Who are the top players in your industry? Who could make your life easier? Remember to always set the bar high.
  2. Offer value. Networking is a give-and-take process, especially when you're looking upward. Of course those high-up contacts have something to offer you, but the question is: What can you offer them? You need to be able to help these people without asking for anything in return.
  3. Leverage fear. If you're not afraid to reach out to someone, then you're not aiming high enough. Channel your fear of rejection to push yourself toward high-level connections. And remember, like anything in life, networking becomes easier with practice. Don't let your fear stop you in your tracks.
  4. Stay in touch. Once you've made initial contact, it's all about fostering the relationship. Send your new contact an email every four to six weeks, and make sure that you're up-to-date on the latest industry news so you can reach out with something personalized and beneficial. Hold onto your contact's business card, and add notes about industry news that might interest him.
  5. Utilize your digital tech skills. When you correspond via email, give your contact a multimedia experience. Attach interesting articles, videos, or podcasts to add value to the relationship.
  6. Jog your contact's memory. In theory, you'll meet dozens of people at an event, and so will your new contact. So how can you expect him to remember your name and your business? When reaching out to a new contact, be sure that you mention where you met, what you talked about, and most importantly, who you are.
  7. Arrange follow-up activities. This can include organizing a face-to-face meeting, introducing your contact to someone else, requesting that he send you some information, or simply meeting up for coffee or lunch.

Network Up to Grow Your Business

Networking up is invaluable to growing your business and surrounding yourself with positive, like-minded people. I know this from personal experience.

I wanted to grow my company so we could offer more to our clients and fans, so I identified a potential contact as a target -- in this case, entrepreneur Kevin Harrington. Then, I figured out how I could offer him value. When I proposed that he speak at our virtual summit, I let him know that it was a great opportunity to gain exposure for his upcoming projects, and he went for it!

A lot of people attend networking events where they make a bunch of contacts, but all too often, they're networking with people who are on the same rung of the ladder as they are. This is all good and well for making friends in your industry, but if you want to really grow your business, you have to network up.

So think about it -- who's someone in your industry who seems out of reach but has the potential to give you a huge boost? Then, ask yourself what you can do for him or her. Once you can answer those questions, it's time to reach out and say "hi." And don't worry if you're nervous. That's a sign that you're shooting high enough.