How I'm working to expand my network in a thoughtful way

Philip Morgan

#ProfessionalsDo: Expand Their Network In Thoughtful Ways

Authority-building is great. Content/digital marketing are great. But those are not the low-hanging fruit that all of us can harvest. Functioning like a professional is.

This idea is the foundation of my recent business pivot. I'll periodically share over-the-shoulder looks at how I and the folks at OpportunityLabs are implementing this larger idea that the low-hanging fruit comes from acting like a professional. That's what this email is about.

I think that somewhere along the way, I was told that "being a professional" means specific stuff like not cussin' on the job, not being late, or doing a good job even when you don't feel like it. Sure, I guess that table-stakes stuff counts. But as I've observed the differences between us and the licensed professionals, and between the exceptionally good performers in the unlicensed professions and myself, I've seen some deltas that aren't accounted for by expertise, charisma, or content/digital marketing output.

From the gestalt-vibe of that corpus of deltas I've developed this list of what professionals do:

I'm starting my implementation of one of those items: Professionals expand their network in thoughtful ways. For me, "thoughtful ways" translates to:

  • Low cost/high leverage means of meeting people
  • Be generous, but conserve emotional energy
  • Meet people who have a reasonably high probability of needing my services at some point
  • Create a better context for the interaction than "please buy my services"

I'm curious how others would meet those 4 criteria? (Reply and share your ideas with me if you wanna.) Here's how I'm doing it:

  • I used LinkedIn Sales Navigator,, some Python scripting (thx ChatGPT for the JIT help with this part!) and to build a list of founders/owners of digital agencies and custom software dev shops who do not also have a sales/bizdev person working there. These seem like good prospects for OpportunityLabs.

  • One by one, I'm reviewing their LinkedIn profile to see if there seems like a potential fit, and if so I'm sending the email below. The only customization is I'm greeting them by name at the top of the email, and changing the wording that references the kind of business they own to match that kind of business (indie developer, dev shop, or digital agency).

    The kind of customization where you research some personal detail about the person you are reaching out to (ex: "I see you're a $SPORTS_TEAM fan too! Go $SPORTS_TEAM_NAME!!") is well-intentioned, but I'm not convinced it helps that much, and it's so often used with high-urgency/pressure or low-relevance outreach that I'm concerned it's more of a turnoff than getting straight to the point ever could be. We respond to un-personalized offers all the time if the offer is attractive (aka, relevant) to us, so I think relevance trumps personalization when it comes to outreach.

Here's the indie developer version of the email I'm sending:

I'm the founder of a bizdev collective for indie developers called OpportunityLabs ( OpportunityLabs provides practical ways that developers can intercept more opportunity without content marketing, and ways nerds and introverts can comfortably build a better professional network.

I'm writing to invite you to a new series of events I'm hosting called "bizdev jam sessions". If you sign up for a free 1:1 session, we meet to rubber-duck any business development problems you're facing. Sometimes just putting this stuff in words for another person can bring new clarity, and often I have specific ideas that can help. If you'd like to set one of these 45-minute sessions up, please hit reply and let me know.

This email is a 1-time introduction, not part of a sequence, so you won't hear from me again unless you want to.

Sincerely hoping to help,
Philip Morgan

The name for the free 45-minute call was inspired by Rob Fitzpatrick, who -- when he was promoting Write Useful Books -- invited new customers to a "book jam" to discuss their book project. My "bizdev jam session" is the most generous way I could think of to introduce myself to relevant strangers while not asking every single one of them for a virtual coffee (likely would be received as a bit forward by them and def would be emotionally exhausting for me if lots of people say yes). There's a bit of a "need filter" embedded in that invitation because it's unlikely that someone who has plenty of new business coming their way would say yes to that invitation.

If OpportunityLabs was at capacity, I would be doing more scalable or leveraged things to promote it, but it's not, and so I am "doing the unscalable things" you sometimes need to do to get something new off the ground.

I elaborate on this way of thoughtfully expanding your network here, with more detail and commentary:

It's early days with this outreach, so no successes or failures to report yet. If you would like to set up a bizdev jam session with me, hit REPLY and let me know.

Updates and miscellany:

  • I've wanted to hold myself to a higher standard of helping my clients achieve measurably improved business results, as per this #Professionals-Do item. That's why I've added a Results table to the OpportunityLabs home page: It has baseline numbers for participants and in 6 months it will have an update.

  • I used to broadly advise everyone embrace as much business risk as they reasonably can, including when specializing. I now think that's wrong, and so I'm writing a new book on positioning/specialization that advocates a low-risk approach. If you want to peek at the WIP: It's messy, but feel free to peak and comment.