It’s the age-old question. Or, at least it’s one of my age old questions. When is it a good time to leverage your network? And more, is it possible to over-leverage your network? If you listen to modern businesspeople they’ll tell you that your network is key. It’s the answer to all your problems. It directly influences your wealth, seeing as the adage is that “your net worth is directly tied to your network,” a saying that’s as much true as it is catchy.
Gary Vaynerchuck likens the leveraging of a network to a prized boxing fight. “Jab, jab, jab, right hook,” is the title of his book on this very topic. The point he makes is that you consistently give doses of value – the jabs – and then ask for value after you’ve built up social equity – the hook. The point is that you have to give value to your network in order to receive the support you need.
So then, leveraging your network’s value is important for the attainment of your goals. But conversely, when it’s you who’s being leveraged for someone else’s gain, it can get pretty annoying. It’s sometimes a downright turn-off, causing you to want the exact opposite of what the person is asking of you.
I can’t help but think of shameless self-promotion as a form of pimping. No, I’ve never been caught up in the “game,” and I can’t say for certain that leveraging your network is the same as being a pimp, but it sure does feel that way. And when your network is made up of friends, family, and other people you trust, the process of getting your connections to care enough to do what you want can be sensitive – especially when there’s no benefit other than your praise.
But we all have friends we want to see succeed and we also understand the necessity of using our own networks, making us as sympathetic as we are annoyed. So we stand at an impasse. Leveraging your network is important and necessary, but it can also feel like you’re pimping everyone you know. You should do it and you shouldn’t. But really, you should, tactfully so, and here’s why.
Believing in Your Cause
What’s the point of a network if you can’t use it? There, I said it. Feels slimy to read but it’s true. If your network isn’t providing you with value then there’s no reason to have a network. Now, that value can be anything from laughter to cash flow, but it still has to yield something positive. Conversely, you can’t even have a network if you aren’t returning value to it. Again, the return can range from positive emotions to increased earnings, but you have to consistently nurture your network. In this way you really do pimp your connections: It’s a value for value exchange.
But, if you truly believe that your goal and initiative will provide value, then it’s your duty to ask your network for as much help as possible. You have to believe in your cause. You need to convince yourself that your actions are, or will, make a difference.
When you trust in what you’re selling, it helps transcend the feeling of a transactional relationship with your network. Alternatively, when you’re hocking something to your connections only so they’ll buy something from you, it quickly becomes a case of pimping your network for personal gain. But, when you focus on adding free value for the joy of adding value, and then when you have something to sell it comes from the same place of real value, your network becomes a support system rather than a loose agreement between two parties.
Sure, pimps believe in their cause too, I’m sure. And they can even argue that their transactional relationship provides value. I dunno, are any of my readers pimps? Let me know! But, I’d argue right back that the type of value they’re providing is ephemeral at best, and the reason for providing that value is to earn hard cash dollars.
That’s not to say that money shouldn’t be a focus. Cash is always one of my goals. The more money you have, the greater your chance at impact, and if you believe that what you’re selling to your network is beneficial, then it’s your duty to make as much money as possible.
So believe in your cause, or don’t. But I promise you that your network is going to know if you’re legit or if you’re trying to get rich off a boondoggle. Your tone and demeanor will say it all. If you truly believe in your cause it will permeate through your words and stop you from pimping your network.
Giving Your Network a Rest
We’re all going to leverage our network at one point or another. It could be for a new job, a client lead, or a monetary exchange, but we’ll all do it. The key is to leverage our network only at key points in time. Look, believing in your cause is a great way leave the pimp cane behind when you speak to your network, but even an inspired network gets tired of you every now and again. Sometimes, they’ll get sick of you even more often than “now and again.”
Now, if you believe in your cause, you’ll quickly see that “turning your network off” is suicidal to your goal. Even saying things with conviction can turn you into a pimp if you’re saying it too often. It’s the right hook portion of Gary V’s “jab and hook” strategy. You can’t keep throwing right hook-level requests at your network without jabbing a little in the form of giving free value. The frequency in which you leverage your network has a direct correlation to how much you’re pimping it.
Be conscious about how often you’re asking your network to mobilize on your behalf. Just because you believe in what you’re asking doesn’t mean your network will match your belief. The willingness of your network rises and falls like the stock market: enthusiasm will have peaks and valleys.
In this way it’s almost like you have to give your pimp walk to your network and let them pimp you out for a while. You can’t draw down your social equity if you haven’t built up any in the first place. So, let your network use you by providing it with consistent value over time. Then, when it’s time to ask for help, people are much more willing to give it.
Give your network a rest. Continuously provide value so when it’s time to ask for value in return, you’re more likely to receive it. Duplicitous? Kind of. But if you believe you’re adding true value than it shouldn’t matter what your underlying goals are. If it helps, and if you also benefit personally, you’ve done good.
Look, I’m writing this because I recently pimped my network. I had a book launch last week and I needed to increase its reach as much as possible. Which means, of course, that I required reviews so the Amazon recommendation engine would offer the book to unsuspecting – but interested – customers.
Well, it had been almost a year to the day since I last asked my network for help (I launched a book in 2015), and in the meantime, I’d been providing people with weekly articles on business, philosophy, and self-improvement that I truly believed were beneficial reads. Further, I’d like to think that I’m a good friend to the people within my network. I feel that I’m a source of positive energy when I’m around the people who know me. This also adds to the value I provide my network.
And the book I wrote, although fiction, came from a place of nonfiction principles. It’s a parable, meant to be a fun read with actionable takeaways. So, I also believed in the benefit of the book.
Which leads me to pimping my network. No, none of the above things were done maliciously or strictly for personal gain. They were, and continue to be, things I love doing. So when I finally reached out to my network of friends, family, and acquaintances, roughly a month ago, the outpouring was almost overwhelming. People I hadn’t spoken to in years were willing to help me achieve my goal of a best-selling book. And people I speak with every day jumped on the opportunity to help within a matter of hours.
It was a humbling experience, let me tell you, and it continues to be. In fact, the action of pimping my network resulted in me having more reverence for the connections than ever before. I am so appreciative of every person who helped.
And the result? Well, the book launch was a huge success. But more, it’s inspired me to provide even more value than before. And in return? I’m sure what goes around will continue to come around. Thank god I pimped my network. The positive results greatly outweighed the dirty feeling of shameless self-promotion.
So, I implore you, when the time’s right, pimp your network like there’s no tomorrow. But, also remember in the back of you head that there’s always tomorrow.