Professionals are commonly overwhelmed with networking events and business meetings. The last thing they look forward to is yet another business card. They don’t want to save another name in their phone, they want to meet someone interesting.
How could you be this interesting person? Stand out from the crowd and intrigue people to give you their time?
According to the Wall Street Journal article “The Secret to Networking? Leverage” by Gary Vaynerchuk, you need to think differently when you approach people. You need to create leverage, avoid the standard route of meet and greet and encourage people to talk to you. Saying hello to literally everyone at a conference or finding the most interesting people at an event and buying them dinner, are some of the examples Gary gives out.
Do these alternative ‘techniques’ really work? Well, sometimes yes. Big time. The story of how Vungle made it into Silicon Valley is definitely one of my favorites.
Vungle is a leading company for in-app marketing and app monetization. In 2019 it was sold to Blackstone for $750 million.
Back in 2011, Vungle had just launched. The founders were in London and really wanted to join Angel Pad (a startup accelerator in the US that was founded by ex-Googlers). However they knew that the competition was super intense and there was a very slim chance for them to make it, as there was only one spot left in the accelerator’s batch.
So they didn’t go through the standard route. They launched a sponsored LinkedIn ad, asking people if they knew Thomas Korte – AngelPad’s co-founder. They targeted people who liked AngelPad, many of which were Thomas’s friends. When this target audience saw the ad and clicked on it, they were redirected to a video where Vungle’s founders were explaining why Vungle is a good fit for AngelPad and why Thomas should give them a chance.
According to a Forbes article, Thomas “got a flood of messages from friends who saw the ads, asking him who was behind it. Korte didn’t love the pitch, but he liked the company and their moxie.” After Vungle joined AngelPad, the company moved to San Francisco and raised tens of millions in funding before being acquired for hundreds of millions.
If it wasn’t for this simple, genius networking hack, the story could have been completely different.
Vungle’s example highlights two important rules in networking:
If you introduce yourself in unconventional and creative ways, it is more likely that you will draw attention from the people you wish to meet since you stand out from the crowd. Just like Gary Vaynerchuk recommended.
Meeting someone through their contacts is a powerful way to get access, and there’s a reason for that. We are all connected. In 1929 the Hungarian author, Frigyes Karinthy, gave us the foundation to the ‘Six Degrees of Separation’. The concept suggested that all human beings are at a maximum of six connections away from each other. So if you know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, and then three more people, you can more or less reach out to anyone in the world. In 2008, this concept was proven to be true by researchers at Microsoft who studied 30 billion electronic conversations among 180 million people. They found that we are actually connected by 6.6 degrees with anyone in the world.
So the world is your oyster, literally. Always find out who knows the person you want to meet, and ‘wield’ them as access points. Also be creative in the way you grab people’s attention. You are more than just a business card.