Everybody, in every industry, always seems bent on reminding us of that one irrefutable fact: It’s all about who you know. Networking is such a common command that many of us become exhausted with it, especially introverts. It feels like ‘networking’ really just means an endless stream of parties and cocktails, conferences and workshops, social media posts and blog commentary.
But if you’re exhausted by networking, then take it from a master of the trade, Selena Soo: You’re looking at it all wrong.
A self-proclaimed introvert herself, Soo is nonetheless a marketing marvel. Her ability to connect with the influencers of any industry is uncanny, and ultimately makes up the foundation of her incredible PR company. While you may not have heard her name yourself, top influencers and media have referred to her as a go-to expert: Marie Forleo, Danielle LaPorte, editors for Glamour and Oprah…and the list goes on.
And no, before you say anything — she hasn’t gotten those connections from social media. She has a Facebook page, and runs the ads for her launches, but besides that? “I’m not posting on social media all the time. Most of the time, the photos that are posted are not even ones that I post of myself!” Instead, Soo focuses on real-life relationships. “I organize a lot of dinner parties and events, and bring together interesting people, and, you know — develop relationships.” From the beginning, Soo has been an in-person, authentic relationship kind of woman.
“I was always drawn to meeting people I found to be interesting and inspiring, and connecting them to each other. The difference now is that it’s a business.” Her very first job was assisting with PR at a beauty shop, but she says that was mostly “putting things on the shelf and sitting around.” When she moved on to working at a non-profit, she helped manage a board of influencers to sell tickets and get sponsors for their brand. And now, she says, “It’s the same skill set. Getting people’s attention, getting them excited about something, having them spread that message and reach more people.”
It was a natural move for her to start connecting business owners and the media, but moving on from her day job wasn’t something she felt like she could do at first. “I used to see myself as this underpaid non-profit employee,” she explains of her initial reluctance, “not really a business person. Very hardworking, but always feeling like — I’ll never make that much money!”
But as she delved further into the coaching world, she began to realize that the skills she had naturally developed — connecting and building other brands, supporting the people she admired — could actually be a business in and of themselves. So she dove into business school. “During those two years I had time to do other things, to build relationships with people, and I got connected to people like Ramit Sethi and Marie Forleo. Them believing in me gave me the confidence to start my own business.” Sethi was her favorite author, and when she saw him on the street, she didn’t shy away like most people might — she actually went up to him. “I’m not someone who waits for opportunities,” she explains. “I’m someone who creates opportunities. If there’s someone that inspires you — let them know and find ways to help.” That conversation on the street began a career-long relationship with one of her most valuable mentors.
Sethi encouraged her to take her business to the next level. In addition to one-on-one clients, Soo developed a two-day workshop. That morphed into a two-month, then four-month, then six-month group program. Then she started running a year-long mastermind group! But she credits those mentors with her first initial push. “I was like, wow — they think I’m great at what I do?! And to me, they’re the best people in the industry!” A title that, at this point, could just as easily describe Soo herself.
Having those amazing mentors can help you make that first scary step, but those mentors don’t just drop out of the sky. Sethi has become a personal friend to Soo, and to this day offers her advice on her business endeavors. But it is perhaps her enthusiasm for his actual programs that shows how their relationship really developed. “I do my best to be a star student in his course,” she says, and with earnest sincerity. It’s clear she didn’t just want Sethi as a mentor because of his reach — she was (and continues to be) passionate about his message. She’s inspired by her mentors and excited to work with them. A refreshing take in a world where, too often, we tend to reach for mentors who can ‘get’ us something, rather than coming alongside those who truly inspire us.
Soo points out something else we tend to forget: when you’re trying to find a mentor, you don’t always have to connect with the Oprahs in your industry. “It could be someone just ahead of you, who has taken those first steps into entrepreneurship,” says Soo. Often, those are the types of people who’ll be able to help you the most.
But even the most sincere among us are not guaranteed an audience with our idols, even those who seem within reach. When I ask Soo exactly how she managed to make such incredible connections, her response was at once surprisingly simple and powerful: She offered them her help.
Take, for example, how she met Danielle LaPorte: “I just reached out to her and I just offered to be helpful, and to connect her with some media people that I knew. That’s how I kind of got on her radar; I just really admired her and wanted to be a helpful person in her life.” Now, LaPorte’s testimonial graces the front of Soo’s website, enthusiastically declaring, “For the love of god, THANK YOU!”
And that, perhaps, is what makes Soo’s method stand out from the pack so strongly. She gives much more than she takes. These big names, these people we admire, often seem so inaccessible — but they all have needs. “A lot of people need the same things. A lot of people are looking for more clients or customers, they’re looking for more publicity and attention, they may be looking for resources to grow their business.” Instead of thinking what that influencer can do for you, stop and consider what you can do for them.
“The act of giving is its own reward. It’s very rewarding to support the people you care about and believe in.” If only every entrepreneur operated with that perspective! Alas, how often have you been to a ‘networking event’ where some greasy guy tries to convince you to sign up for his latest course, without taking so much as a second to shake your hand? It feels gross, right? He’s trying to get something from you without giving anything. Now, ask yourself: has that person ever been you? Or, on the flip side, have you avoided making any kind of sales pitch, ever, for fear of being that person?
Take it from Soo: focus on offering support, instead of asking for sales.
In fact, if you do, you might never have to make a pitch again. Although Soo makes pitches on behalf of her clients all the time, doesn’t ever need to pitch herself. “It’s mostly referral based. My clients become my biggest fans…some of them are even doing bulk purchases of my programs for their students.” When I pressed her about when she first did sales — didn’t that first client have to come from a pitch? What was her turnover like? — it all came back to referrals. Soo can’t even remember a time she had to pitch herself. “I haven’t had to reach out to people and say, hey, I’d like to work with you,” she says. They usually come to her. Isn’t that the dream?
“There are definitely times in my business where I’m not comfortable,” she says, remembering her first-day jitters (she was terrified of public speaking), “and that’s one of the biggest lessons in business: You have to start before you feel ready.”
Soo recently celebrated her five-year business anniversary, and it’s fascinating to see the company she’s developed. Her current team consists of a couple full time employees and a stable of contractors (copywriters, ad managers, and the like) to support her programs. It’s an efficient business model that keeps costs low and revenue high. As far as marketing?
“Affiliates are my number one marketing strategy,” she says definitively. Affiliates, or the practice of having your community market your product in exchange for commission, makes perfect sense considering Soo’s history. Her community naturally shares her product anyway! She does some Facebook ads, some email marketing, but mostly it’s all “word-of-mouth-ish marketing.”
That word-of-mouth-ish will lead you to several online classes and, most interestingly, a mastermind group of high-earning entrepreneurs. You can sign up for the online classes if you catch them while they’re open (make sure to get on her mailing list at www.selenasoo.com if you want to be the first to hear when one opens up), but the mastermind group is invitation-only. Very exclusive, and very expensive.
“I’m basically working with people who are already successful with their business, but want to get to the next level,” Soo explains. “I help them with platform building, reaching more people, getting connected with people who can give them publicity opportunities, and just advising them on their business growth strategies.”
The mastermind group is made up of only ten select students right now, although Soo says that will grow to fifteen in the near future. Currently the mastermind is invite-only and geared towards high six figures to multiple seven figure entrepreneurs. Each clients makes a hefty five figure investment to join the program.
Her three core programs, on the other hand, are available to anyone, and the upcoming Get Known, Get Clients has been touted as a godsend for any level of business owner. “It’s about setting up your foundations for attracting incredible clients,” Soo explains, comparing it to her other classes. “You don’t necessarily need to reach millions to get the clients you want.” At $2997 for six months, you’ll learn how to discover and build relationships with high-paying, one-on-one clients, which can be especially useful for coaches and other service providers.
Whether or not you can take her class, there’s one piece of advice she has to offer for anyone considering starting their own business — advice that clearly worked for her.
“The most important thing is to surround yourself with the right people. Being an entrepreneur is not for everyone, and if you talk to someone who plays it safe, then they’re going to tell you, don’t take that risk. Surround yourself with people who have accomplished what you want to do, and just ask a lot of questions and learn from them. That’s the fastest way to uplevel: Change your environment and be with the kinds of people that inspire you.”
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