When you’re operating off a shoestring budget, it’s essential to leverage your impact through your network. Better yet, how do you transform your network into a tribe?
If you take the case that people generally love contributing—the question becomes understanding in what way? You will then find an abundant resource of generosity that is a win-win solution with no money required.
To clarify, I’m defining network as a loosely affiliated group of one on one associations, while a tribe member is someone you could call up at 3am in the morning and they will ask “how can I help you?”
At the height of my networking, I would attend two networking events a week averaging five one-on-one “coffee meetings” per week. These conversations gave me insight into what motivates people to contribute. Over many years of networking, I noticed a pattern of how different relationships like to express giving back or contributing. And just like a love language, I learned how to speak in terms of my network’s “Contribution Language” activating them into lifelong tribe members.
I discovered six faces of contribution: Investor, Connector, Masterminder, Builder, Supporter, and Champion. Here’s how each face of contribution works:
The 6 Faces of Contribution:
Investor: These people use money to support you. Either as direct clients, or funding you—money is how they engage with you. Not all investors want to do more than just pay you. When I was the Director of Development for an impact investing wealth management firm, I quickly discovered how clients did not necessarily want to make introductions to other people—no matter how happy they were with their service. It’s counterintuitive to the noise you hear out there that if people are happy, they’ll naturally share with others. Not necessarily. On the other hand, there were several instances of people wanting to refer you without having ever been a customer or client! What a paradox. Or is it? Haven’t you noticed some people simply enjoy connecting people for the sheer joy of it? Which brings me to the next Face of Contribution
Connector: They are sometimes referred to as an influencer, center of influence, or someone “well-connected.” These people are rarer to come by and are the hub of influence in their community. If you authentically build relationships with these people, they become an invaluable resource for years to come, once you can “activate” them and give them an opportunity to engage—more on activation later. Connectors don’t need referral fees. Unlike Investors who use cash as their medium of contribution, Connectors use reputation as their medium. When a good match is made, boom—up goes their reputation for having made that connection and the more valuable they become in being known for making a quality referral. Connectors are your best sources for referrals—NOT Investors. They may never even buy from you, and they love to matchmake. Caution: There are a lot of posers out there who claim to be a connectors, but don’t take the time to really understand your business to be able to give a good referral or match make in other ways. They either say they’ll keep a look out and don’t deliver or if they do, it’s just not the right person to talk to or unclear on why you were connected in the first place.
Masterminder: These people LOVE sharing ideas and are strategizers. They make the best sounding boards and likely love research. One of my colleagues was the quintessential Masterminder. She loved to vet my ideas, build on them, play with them and when it was time to check out our new project idea, she’d happily research, compile, synthesize and report back her findings, often bound with a plastic cover . . . free. That’s right, people’s contribution language is a boundless, limitless resource free of obligation, indebtedness, or duty. Might I even go as far as to say—their joy. You can’t put a price on that, especially when doing mission driven work—and your company’s purpose is what drives them to offer very professional services for free.
Builder: Builders are your worker bees. They don’t want to strategize, they don’t want to make introductions, or pay you, their medium of contribution is time. They will do stuff for you . . . happily. That’s how they best feel fulfilled. They are folks who simply help you get-it-done. Nuf said.
Supporter: Supporters are typically your network of personal relationships that have nothing to do with business. They simply are your friend and love you. Their contribution medium is caring. Think spouse, mom, or best friend. However, they are in your network. They often know nothing about business but give you a reality check and tell you straight how it is, out of concern or worry for your overall well-being. Supporters do not make the best people to consult with or get advice from business-wise. But they are great at getting a totally outside perspective and alignment check in forwarding your purpose.
Champion: Champions are your professional fans and followers. No matter where you go in your journey, how many pivots you make in business, how many life changes impact your expected path and take a turn, they stick with you and love your work. They may not directly engage with you but are like the professional version of your supporters who are in business and whom you can go to for support. Think cross-sector colleagues who are your kindred spirits you meet at a business conference or event. Again, may never buy from you, or be in a position to offer strategy or advice—they simply cheer you on. They lift you up when you’re down and believe in you.
To activate your network into a tribe, you must understand what face of contribution they most like to play. Meaning, what is their primary expression of contribution or contribution language? Then have conversations creating opportunities for them to express their contribution to participate in what you are up to creating.
Like any categorization, most of your network is going to have multiple faces of contribution with one or two as a primary language. Your job is to discover their primary language and create win-win propositions from there.
Read Part 2 of this blog here.
Anna S. Choi helps conscious companies grow their client flow through business and marketing coaching. She loves synthesizing, adapting, and distilling strategic marketing plans into executable daily actions to take that get results to grow your business. If you're interested in taking focused action on an intentional strategic marketing plan to energize more client flow, please watch this introductory video to see whether we are a fit. I look forward to connecting and supporting you! You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-330-6426.