I bumped into an old friend of mine today who happens to be leading a small local non-profit.
He relayed that he was struggling with how to grow his small network as he did not have any marketing expertise and he already had too much on his plate and not much time to spend on this.
He also mentioned he was hungry, so I suggested two ideas.
First, since we were standing outside a hotdog resto, I suggested we grab a few dogs and some hand-cut fries.
Next, considering we had food in our hands and his dilemma to discuss, seeing how we were two blocks away from a park with picnic tables, I suggested we go eat there and do a quick brainstorming session on-the-fly.
When we got to the table, to facilitate the process, I pulled out my trusty black paper Rhodia sketch pad and some white inked pens.
I decided to ask some simple questions that might make the best use of our limited time.
My friend spoke spontaneously while I wrote out his ideas and comments in my pad.
Q. Who else is doing what you are doing in your area/city/Province/Country and can you contact them through their social media to make an introduction/connection?
They might be facing the same or similar challenges as you are and might be open to brainstorming.
Also, you will quickly get a glimpse of what they are doing with their social media and have as a reference point for social media marketing.
Q. Who are the organizations that you interact with and rely on for delivering your service and when was the last time you interacted with them aside from conducting a transaction?
Key vendors for example.
Q. Can you make it a regular point to just have interactions with them and not just buying/selling transactions?
If you are able to build a relationship with them that is not just transactional, they can become ambassadors for your organization.
Since they already know who you are, there might already be trust and you won't have a gatekeeper to get through for an introduction and maybe even be able to talk to the the C-suite.
Q. Or, can you think of new vendors to build relationships for future projects and contact them now?
The same idea as above applies; build the relationship beyond the business transaction.
Q. Aside from donations and services provided, can you think of ways you received or showed reciprocity to anyone or any organization in your existing network?
Q. Can this reciprocity continue year-round and not just done ad-hoc?
For example, perhaps a journalist gave you the chance to be featured in a press release in a local newspaper, can this happen regularly when it works well for both parties?
Q. Lastly, is there any organization that would represent a dream collaborator and what might that project look like and entail and how might it benefit you both?
It is ok to dream based on a realistic meaningful collaboration, you never know what might come.
At this point, 15 minutes had past, and our hotdogs were done, and I had to leave and so did my friend, yet not before taking 6 ideas in white ink on black paper with him to explore with.
Brainstorming does not have to be complex, does not necessarily require 3 kinds of post-it notes and 5 different colored pens, and does not need to take a great deal of time.
You just need some good questions and maybe some hotdogs and hand-cut fries for inspiration.
Brainstorm for thoughts.