It might be a little uncomfortable to think about, but you network for a reason. To get inspired and learn, of course, but also, a network is super beneficial for when you need a little help. Whether it’s a new product launch, re-branding your blog or business, finding a new connection, or getting the word out about a new initiative, your network can be instrumental in helping you reach your goals. But if you’re already a little shy about networking, asking for help from your network might feel even more intimidating. The good news is, it’s probably a lot easier than you think! Here are 5 tips to help you ask your network for help.
1. Have a little faith
You’ve spent time cultivating your network and supporting your peers. But one of the scariest things about putting yourself out there and asking for help is the fear that no one will reciprocate. I say have a little faith! Bloggers and small business owners are typically keen to help and support one another, so assuming your ‘ask’ is reasonable and respectful, there’s no reason to think that your network won’t pitch in to lend a hand. But, that being said…
2. Ask Early
While you might be asking for help from a friend or colleague, it still follows that you should treat the ask in a professional manner. Don’t email a bunch of people a day before your product launch and ask them to write about you — that’s not enough time for them to understand what it is you need, want, or for them to even put the content together. Give your network enough time to read your email, ask questions, and decide how they might want to help you out. Let me give you an example here.
Rebecca Atwood, who we featured earlier this week, is wonderful at letting her colleagues know when she might need a little help. Rebecca will email you far in advance — often at least a month — and list details such as product launch date, what talking points she wants to emphasize with each collection, and she’ll provide beautifully imagery in case anyone needs it. By asking early and being clear about what it is she wants, it makes it a lot easier to say yes to helping. We’ll come back to her as an example in a minute.
The bottom line is, give your network enough time to help you out. Otherwise, you risk not getting the help you need, and perhaps even worse, annoying your colleagues!
3. Ask (not too) often
This one should be pretty obvious, but don’t be that person who’s hitting up your network for favors all. the. time. Think strategically about where your network can truly make an impact, and what projects they’ll want to support you on. If you launch a new product, that’s great — but if you know this first product is going to be part of a bigger collection, debuting in two months, consider waiting so you can tell your network about both. It’ll have more impact, right?
As a blogger, you might see this play out when you’re working with brands, too. Even if there’s a company you love and support, if they start emailing you weekly or even monthly and asking for favors, you’re a lot less likely to help them out every time. Conversely, if a company emails you rarely, but strategically (i.e., when there’s true, interesting or exciting news to share and promote), it’s a lot more compelling.
4. Keep the ask simple, and maybe even open-ended
You can be a long time and beloved colleague, but if you email me and ask for help and the ask is too complicated, time consuming, confusing, or (ack) expensive, it’s going to be a little awkward. Keep your ask simple, and even open-ended — meaning that you emphasize that your network can support you however they’re comfortable doing. You can provide the details, and say something like, “If you want to share my big launch on your social media networks or blog, I’d love your support!” That leaves it open ended for your network. If they are used to promoting things like that on their blog but not Twitter, they still have a space they can support you. Ditto for the reverse, if they normally promote launches on Twitter, but not their blog. The point is, giving someone options for how to support you means they’re more likely to do it.
You can also make a simple request that’s more specific, but make it clear that you’re flexible. Going back to Rebecca as an example, she’s often checked in with language like, “I’m launching a collection on X date. I was hoping to get 5 bloggers together to feature one item from the collection and talk about the inspiration behind it, and have all the blogs link to each other. Is this something you’d want to participate in? No pressure if it doesn’t work with your current editorial calendar!” While the request is specific (she wants me to talk about a specific item via a blog post), she’s given me the details (X date, 5 bloggers, potential for incoming traffic through the link exchange), and the out if I don’t want to do it (I can always write back and say thanks, but it won’t work this time).
The asks I’m least likely to participate in? When they’re just too time consuming and complicated. As another blog specific example, guest posts are a common ask amongst blog colleagues. The ones I’m most likely to participate in give me ample time and ask for very little. The ones I shy away from are when I’m required to create a bunch of custom graphics, or shoot photos specific to the guest post. One time someone asked me to create an account on the community forum their blog site hosted, then upload and format a bunch of my own content under their specifications. It was too time consuming and confusing to learn a whole new system, just to share my original content with someone else!
5. Have perspective.
It’s inevitable that when you ask people for things they’ll say no. They might say, “No” in the form of an actual no — as in “No, thanks,” or “Not this time,” or “It’s just not a good time for me.” They might also say no passively — by not responding to your email. Both are ok. Remember, while using your network to reach your goals is okay, it’s not the only purpose. You don’t build a network for a single transaction, you build it for the long haul. And not just for future asks — a network is there to help you learn, bounce ideas off of, make new connections, and of course, so that you can help them out when needed. If you don’t get a good response when asking for help, don’t take it personally. Maybe it was the timing (yours or theirs), or maybe what you needed just didn’t resonate with your network. Keep some perspective and don’t get discouraged. And above all else, don’t let a “no” dissuade you — from working toward your goals, or from continuing to grow and nurture your network!