You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else. - Albert Einstein

Step 1, learning the rules of the game...

As you embark on a new career, evaluate a new opportunity or take your business in a new direction, it is imperative that you talk to people who have tried it before. This will help to DEFINE your industry/competitive landscape.  But where to begin:

- Make a list of those people in your industry that you admire (be generous on how you define your industry (i.e.: If you are a photographer, your industry would include other photographers that you admire stylistically AND those who may not be producing product you identify with but are financially successful, local creative entrepreneurs (videographers, graphic designers, board members of the National/Local/International independent photographers association, industry award winners, etc.)). 

**Think Globally. We exist and compete in an international market. Don't be afraid to approach people halfway across the world - they are normally the most inspiring. 

- Track them down. It may take a little work to get the right contact details. If the individual has their own business, check their website (try to avoid info@blahblah.com and find their direct address). Otherwise, be creative. Call the main reception and ask whoever answers for the individual's email address. Google them - it is amazing (and frightening) what you can find. 

HERE IS A GREAT EXAMPLE: Interested in blogging? A Beautiful Mess was one of the first DIY blogs to make it big. Not only has this duo grown their empire to include online courses and apps (I use A Color Story for everything), but products such as books and a paper goods subscription service. They have built a clear and consistent brand, communicated it effectively and creatively, and gained respect and an immense following. What's even better - they are pretty great at responding to new bloggers/businesspeople looking for advice. Imagine the value of having these two in your network...CLICK HERE: Blogging advice from the pros

- Reach out! Wait before you do that - you need to figure out how to get their attention. Chances are you are reaching out by email - it doesn't mean you can't throw in a little personal connection. Do some research and figure out how you are similar or different. Check LinkedIn (have your career paths mimicked one another), Facebook (do you know anyone in common?), and again Google (creepy yet so helpful). But if all else fails - COMPLIMENT them. 

"Dear So and so, First and foremost, I need to tell you that I am such a huge fan of your work. Your exhibition at MOMA was incredibly inspiring and my family and I went back to visit numerous times...."

- Ask for help.  Be confident yet modest and most importantly grateful. Appreciate these people are busy, so any time and/or advice they give you is a sacrifice on their part. 

"As I begin this new venture, I would be so grateful if you would be willing to take some time to share advice/to answer a couple of questions/grab a coffee/review my website plan. Any time you can spare is so appreciated!"

- Follow-up. We are all overwhelmed by our inbox so feel free to follow-up - ONCE. Kindly and respectfully remind them of your email and request. But if you still get no response, time to move on. 

The best way to learn about any industry is by getting advice from those who are in it, so don't shy away. If this is your passion/direction, creating a network of professionals in the know is the first step to establishing your brand. I have had great success connecting with individuals at the peaks of their careers (C-level executives), in the biggest corporations (Facebook, LinkedIn, BBC, etc.). Everyone started somewhere and most are willing to help others along their way. 


Have you successfully done this before? Any tips and tricks to share? What is the most random connection you made by #coldcalling?