“Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal. Walk out of your house like a shepherd.”
In this post I want to share with you a key way to grow your service-based, purpose-driven business in a sustainable and conscious way.
Alongside content creation, authentic outreach is something you should be practicing daily in your business if you want it to grow and thrive.
So what is authentic outreach? Well in the context of growing your business, essentially it means connecting with people in your community and beyond in a direct, personal and meaningful way. By outreach, what I’m talking about is intentionally reaching out to people with the dual purpose of connecting on a deeper level and doing what you can to be of service.
If it’s still not entirely clear what I mean, It might be helpful to also tell you what authentic outreach is not.
- Marketing to your audience.
- Spamming people.
- Pitching your products and services.
- Posting on social media.
- Email marketing.
For sure you’ve heard that “networking” is good for business and at first glance it’s easy to mistake outreach for networking but there is a fundamental difference between the two. The difference is in the intention. With networking the intention is to get more business, in other words to get something from the other person. With outreach, the intention is to build and deepen genuine and mutually beneficial relationships, meaning that you give something to the other person.
What’s the purpose of that, you might ask, if it’s not to get more business?
Well because for conscious business owners, who do what they do for more than just money, there are a whole host of benefits to having meaningful connections with your community and audience. As well as the fact that it just feels good to be connected, doing it consciously brings about more opportunities to collaborate, help and serve people and learn more about what people might need from you.
As well as this, often, because people feel that we are not trying to sell to them, new business comes as a result. If you’re not convinced (or even if you are), I highly recommend this wonderful video by Coach, John P Morgan who artfully makes the case for taking time to connect with people in our network.
So what does outreach look like in practice? below I share a number of ways you can reach out to people.
- You could take the time to send a personal 1:1 email to a subscriber of yours. I like to go through my list of email subscribers occasionally and when I come across someone whose name I don’t recognise but who is regularly opening and reading my emails, I love to drop them a little note to say hello and to see if there is anything in particular they are struggling with that I might be able to help them with. Sometimes this results in me offering a complimentary coaching session to go deeper on something they need help with.
- When someone friend requests you on social media, rather than mindlessly accept the request, you could write a personal message asking them what inspired them to connect and try to find out more about who they are and what they are up to in the world.
- When someone takes the time to comment on or share your post on social media, don’t just like their comment or share, write something meaningful in response. Tell them how much you appreciate their gesture and find out more about what they got from your content.
- You could reach out to your former clients to say hello and see how they are. I like to do this at least every 6 months (more often with clients who I’ve stayed in close contact with) and sometimes, I’ll gift them a complimentary coaching session if they indicate they could use some support.
- If you do your work through 1:1 sessions, you could reach out to people who have been impacted by your work (perhaps a former client or just someone who has had a session with you before) and ask them if they know anyone who would benefit from a complimentary session with you and invite them to share a session with you as a gift from them to their contact. It’s a lovely way to have more people experience your work, it allows you to be of service and has the person gifting the session feel great too.
- You could send a message to someone who you don’t know who has inspired you and tell them so. Let me give you an example of what that can look like. Years ago, I was featured on this website (because of a lovely connection I’d made with the founder) and a few weeks later, so was the wonderful Eli Trier, I loved her piece and felt we had a lot in common (plus I loved her art) so I wrote her an email simply telling her that. We’ve been in touch ever since and this month, she’s featuring me in her wonderful community project Redefining Community and next month she’s teaching a class inside my Female Business Academy aptly called Mastering The Art of Connection. So much amazingness has come from a simple and genuine impulse to connect. We’ve both got so much out of the connection, yet neither of us have ever tried to sell each other one thing.
As you reach out to people, be sure to do so with an intention to serve, ask how they are, listen deeply to what they are telling you and ask yourself if there is anything you could share that might help them. Perhaps there is a book or article you would recommend, or some other resource that could be useful but even if you do have something you think could help the other person, always be sure to ask permission to send it before you do.
Sometimes, people use the idea of “being of service” as a strategy to sell or self-promote and it always feels icky. Here’s an example that demonstrates how not to do this. Several months ago a woman reached out to me on LinkedIn, I accepted her invitation and within seconds she had sent me an message that contained the line “I would love to give you a free copy of my…” It was a guide on how to get started with WordPress (one look at my website and she would have known that I offer website design so I’m not likely to need her guide) and when I clicked the link it didn’t take me to the “free” guide, she said she was gifting me, it took me to an email opt-in, so not so free after all.
Imagine if she’d just tried to get to know me on a deeper level? If she’d just tried to genuinely connect. Or if she had asked my permission to send me the guide, asked if it would be useful for me? Perhaps later down the line, once a relationship was formed, maybe I’d share that guide with my audience. Maybe I might have even referred clients to her. But I guess we’ll never know, because I knew as quickly as it took her to cut and paste her generic message, that she wasn’t someone I had any interest in getting to know better.
As you get into a rhythm of outreach, you will inevitably encounter people who could benefit from your services. If you have formed a relationship rooted in integrity and caring, they are highly likely to hire you, if it’s a fit for them to do so. Or they’ll recommend you to people they know who would benefit from working with you. This is a beautiful and very fulfilling side benefit of connecting with people and what has always left me speechless is when someone with whom I’ve formed a relationship with over a number of years suddenly, and to my complete surprise, declares that they are ready to hire me as their coach. Believe it or not, this is the way a large proportion of my clients have been created.
I’m a huge fan of intentional and authentic outreach. Connection and Service just so happen to be two of my highest personal and professional values. Practicing outreach allows me to live in alignment with those values in a fun and fulfilling way. How about you? Have you tried using outreach in your business? Is it something that you think you might try after reading this post? Either way, let me know in the comments below.
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