Back in 2014, I read Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time cover-to-cover several times, along with Jayson Gaignard’s book, Mastermind Dinners: Build Lifelong Relationships by Connecting Experts, Influencers, and Linchpins.

More importantly, I started acting on what I’d learned. Everywhere I traveled, I invited 5-6 strangers and 1-2 friends to dinner to catch up. As a formerly-timid guy, this didn’t exactly come naturally to me. Before I started doing speaking engagements around the world, the thought of being in a room full of hundreds of people made me feel totally overwhelmed. I’d just shut down, which meant conferences and networking events weren’t really an opportunity for me at the time.

I’ve always been best one-on-one (or one-on-a-few-people), so small dinners made sense. Over the last two years, I connected with more than 500 people by throwing 40+ dinners, spending close to $50,000 in the process. Even today, I still spend almost $2,000 a month hosting dinners, and I’m happy to report that doing so has had a huge impact on both my professional network and my comfort level talking to new people.

(As a funny side note, the people I’ve gotten to know through these events might think I’m totally into fine dining, but my favorite restaurant – if you can call it that – is actually Taco Bell. I’m a very picky eater, so the fancy dinners I throw are more for my friends and network than they are for me.)

Here’s how you can grow your network the same way.

Step 1. Make a list of all the people you want to meet

Sit down right now and think about everyone in the world you want to connect with. Don’t limit yourself by thinking, “Oh, that person would never want to meet with me.” Put the big fish on your list, along with anyone else you’re hoping to work with in the future.

Think broadly. Don’t just think about influencers in your industry. Are there sports stars that inspire you? Authority figures in other niches you love following? The bigger your list, the more opportunities you’ll find to connect with influencers wherever you travel.

Step 2. Map your list to your travel plans

A few days before you go on your next trip, go back through your list and make a note of any influencers who live or work in the city you’ll be traveling to. Then, make a separate list of people you know in the city (ideally, people you can confidently say will meet up with you if asked).

As you’re planning your guest list, don’t get too far ahead of yourself. Generally, I like to keep my dinners to 6-8 people, though I’ve done events with as many as 10-15. Remember that the more people you have, the harder it’ll be to talk to everyone. The last thing you want is for people to leave feeling like they never really had the chance to connect with you.

Step 3. Message your friends and target influencers

With your list in hand, email the people you know first and let them know that you’re throwing a dinner in their city. In my case, I pitch it as a dinner for marketers and entrepreneurs; that tends to get people excited so that I know I’ll have at least a few people committed.

Then, email the people you don’t know that you want to meet. Introduce yourself and invite them to come to dinner on you. Make it clear that there isn’t an agenda to the meeting. You’re just in town and looking to connect with like-minded people who might enjoy each other’s company.

If you aren’t sure how to reach certain influencers, a warm introduction is your best friend. Ask existing members of your network if they can help, the way Chris Brogan invited marketer Dorie Clark to attend a dinner being hosted by Canadian entrepreneur Scott Oldford. In a Forbes article written by Clark, Oldford shared the thought process behind his invitation approach. “Whenever I’m going somewhere, I’ll reach out to random people and people I know in the area,” he says. He makes sure they are not trying to push an agenda. “I want to make sure they’re not trying to pitch people.”

Step 4. Make a dinner reservation

I’m partial to Italian restaurants for these types of dinners because they usually have big tables and private rooms available. However, any well-reviewed restaurant with enough space for your small group to have a semi-private experience will work.

Step 5. Be a good host

I like to invite a few people I know to arrive early so that we can catch up before the dinner kicks off. Even if you choose not to do so, arrive early. Don’t make your guests sit around waiting for you and wondering if the dinner really will be worth their time.

As your guests arrive, introduce them to each other and share personal stories that give guests something to start a conversation with. If you have two entrepreneurs, for example, and you know one just closed a funding round, share that with the other to give them a natural jumping-off point.

I also like to make it clear throughout the dinner that the people I’ve invited can reach out to me for help any time. Nobody has ever taken advantage of that offer, and – like Hiten Shah, who argues that helpfulness is one of the best assets brands have – I’ve found it’s an easy way to get great relationships started.

Finally, this should go without saying, but stick to your “no pitch” word, and make sure your attendees do the same. Launching into a sales pitch when you’ve sworn not to is a serious breach of etiquette that’ll trash the relationships you’re working so hard to build.

Step 6. Share your contact info

At the start of each dinner, I like to give guests my phone number so that we can stay in touch after the event (and so they know I’m serious about it being a non-salesy, relationship-building thing).

Afterwards, I send out an email to everyone who attended and invite them to join my Slack group to stay in touch. Not only does that help my guests, it’s been a great resource for me as well. Now, if there’s anyone I want to get in touch with in the world, it’s virtually guaranteed that someone in my group can make the introduction.

Step 7. Arrange one-on-one meetings after the event

Sometimes, I meet people at my dinners that I want to get to know more. Maybe they’re entrepreneurs with great ideas, or maybe they’re marketers who have unique insight into strategies I haven’t heard about before.

Regardless, I’ll shoot an email to those people to arrange to follow up with coffee sometime later in my trip. It’s a great way to build deeper connections than can be achieved in a single dinner alone.

Step 8. Lather, rinse, repeat

I do this every time I travel, and you should too. Think about it: you’re already going to be there. Why not spend a little extra time getting together with interesting people who could help you down the road?

Now, though, I want to hear from you. Do you make an effort to meet new people when you travel? Would you ever consider doing a formal dinner series like this? Leave me a note with your thoughts in the comments below:

So you want to grow your business. I get that. You probably wouldn’t be here if expansion wasn’t on your mind. But while strategies to help you increase your customer base and boost revenue are – on the surface – a good thing, growth alone isn’t enough to support and sustain a company if the right conditions aren’t met.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for businesses that excited about growth to accept – or even create – challenges that they’re not equipped to handle. Continue reading Growth Isn’t Everything: 7 Lessons Learned from 5 Failed Companies

Recently I launched our new email outreach tool called Maishake. What better way than to celebrate than writing a blog post on how to write the perfect outreach email! Because I write for a few Forbes, Inc., & Entrepreneur Magazine I get a lot of cold outreach emails arriving in my inbox (20-30 a day). Some are good, some are bad, and some are very, very bad.

Unfortunately, only a handful of them are what I would classify as “great,” and yet “great” is what you should be aiming to achieve with each and every email you send. To quote Moz, good just isn’t good enough:

To inspire a response, you have to get to “great”.

That’s easier said than done, but I like to think that being on the receiving end of so many outreach messages (and sending a good many myself) has given me a pretty solid idea as to what a “great” outreach email entails. Continue reading How to Craft the Perfect Outreach Email

Guest Post by Ross Simmonds. I’ve known Ross for the last two years. Over the last few years I’ve witnessed Ross do two amazing things : drive massive traffic to Slideshare & How to build a six figure consulting business. I invited Ross to guest post to share his tips on how you can do the same. Take it away Ross:

Today I’m going to show you some of the tactics I used to build a freelance business that last year did more than $250k in revenue.

And this was accomplished without spending any money on advertising through efforts like Adwords, Facebook or LinkedIn. But before I get into that, let me give you a bit of background on myself.

My name is Ross Simmonds and I’m a digital marketing strategist, author and entrepreneur. Over the last few years, I’ve worked with everything from startups to Fortune 500 companies around the world. I’ve recently written a book that includes my top 100 tips for making your first $100K in revenue after I was able to crack the six figure mark the first year I quit my job.

And in this post, I’m going to share with you some of my best tips.

Be aware – This isn’t a blog post filled with the generic advice like ‘add value’ or ‘engage’ with your audience. I’m talking about straight to the point pieces of advice that I wish I knew when I first got started.

Let’s get to it… Continue reading Three Actionable Tactics That Can Help You Make Six Figures As A Freelancer

Guest Post by Dan Scalco. Dan is the Director of Growth at Digitalux and blogs at GrowthSignal.com. He specializes in SEO and Conversion Optimization. When he’s not working hard to bring in more leads for his clients, he enjoys fixing up his old motorcycle, playing with his dog Max, and binge-watching documentaries on NetFlix.

When it comes to starting a new business, a little planning goes a long way.

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a launch, but laying groundwork prior to that is critical to success in both the short and long term. Luckily it’s possible to build a solid foundation in just a few short days, while avoiding critical new business mistakes. Here’s how to go from floundering to polished in the course of a weekend.

Step One: Validate your idea.

Many businesses fail because they were started on a whim before determining whether there’s a real market for the product or service being offered. Too often, would-be entrepreneurs barrel full-steam ahead to product development or designing fancy business cards. They eventually pay the price when customers don’t come knocking. Continue reading 7 Steps for Launching Your Business This Weekend

Eighteen months ago, I decided to chase my passion by taking a great opportunity with an incredible company (When I Work) in Minnesota. This was a huge change for me, since it followed the sale of the company that had been my life and blood for more than five years.

Unfortunately, this move meant that for those 18 months, I’d be living away from my wife (FYI: it sucks) and I’d have quite a bit of time to kill.

I’m the kind of guy that needs to keep busy, so by December 2014, after almost a year of doing pretty much nothing else except going to work (and skydiving on the weekends), I began to get really antsy. The need to be doing something a little different got my creative juices flowing, and I started to think up and work on some new ideas.

The first project I really got my teeth into was the growth hacking eBook I wrote with my good friend Rob Wormley: 100 Days of Growth. Now my latest ebook on Content Marketing is up for pre-oder.

Getting the book to completion took around 50 hours each (of my time and Rob’s time), including a whole bunch of time spent testing new marketing tactics.

However, as “that guy” that always needs to be doing something to keep busy, I’m also not the kind of guy to do things halfway. Once I put my mind to something, I work my ass off until it’s finished. This meant that, between my day job and my work on 100 Days of Growth, I spent 6 months working more than 13 hours a day, 6 days a week.

It was tough going, but thankfully, our efforts paid off. The book has been a great success and sold over 10,000 copies, which has given me a ton of confidence as I move forward with other new projects. This is the story of how I did it… Continue reading What I Learned from Working 13.3 Hours a Day, 6 Days a Week

Chilling in your car on the way to the office? Killing time while you hit the treadmill at the gym?

Forget music or audiobooks! Use your time wisely to improve your business skill set or expand your mind with any of the following 35 must-listen podcasts for entrepreneurs:

Mixergy, “How Brian Scudamore Built a $150M Empire with $700 and a Pickup Truck

The Mixergy series is another good source of inspirational interviews with successful business owners. If you’re new to the site, start with the Brian Scudamore episode for the fascinating story of Brian’s history founding 1-800-GOT-JUNK.

Continue reading 35 Must-Listen Podcast Episodes for Entrepreneurs

It’s a big day for me soon… it’s going to be the 10th anniversary of my digital content creation career.

In that time, I’ve built up blogs and content strategies for more than 47 companies and written and published more than 700 articles (which, between them, have received around 10 million views). On that note, I want to say a huge, huge thank you to every single one of you who has ever read, shared, or commented on my work – I wouldn’t be here today without your support.

However, as exciting as the last decade has been, I’m not going to lie to you: it hasn’t always been easy. I’ve always pushed myself very hard and for a period, I was working 13.3 hours a day, 6 days a week.

That said, while I wouldn’t change the memories I’ve made and the things I’ve seen and done through my work for the world, if I knew what I know now, I’d most certainly go back and do some things a little differently.

Stay with me, and I’m going to talk you through the biggest lessons I’ve taken away from the last 10 years of publishing digital content… Continue reading 15 Lessons Learned from 10 Years of Publishing Content

You’re a good writer – should you start a freelancing service?  But you’ve also had a great idea for an app – would it be better to invest your time and money there?  Or maybe you’ve been frustrated with Dropbox and see the opportunity to disrupt the marketplace with a cloud storage competitor.  Should you pursue this idea, even if it means leaving your job and exposing yourself to a tremendous amount of risk with no certain rewards?

Having too many business ideas might seem like a great problem to have, but in reality, it can be just as challenging as having no ideas to work on at all.  When you have too many ideas, you run the very real risk of “analysis paralysis” preventing you from moving forward with any of them.

The key then becomes how you evaluate and validate each of your ideas.  If you find yourself struggling with more good ideas than you know what to do with, the following framework will help you clarify your personal mission and find the business idea that best suits this purpose. Continue reading What To Do When You Have Too Many Ideas

You didn’t learn to ride a bicycle on your first attempt, and chances are the first dish you cooked left something to be desired.  We all make mistakes when trying new things – and building a business is certainly no exception. But just because mistakes are bound to happen doesn’t mean that you can’t educate yourself on common pitfalls in order to avoid as many of them as possible.  Below are 17 common mistakes made by new entrepreneurs, including a few examples from my own experiences.  Take these lessons to heart, as applying them to your new business venture can save you time, money and hassle.

Continue reading 17 Mistakes Every New Entrepreneur Makes