Is business networking your marketing ‘missing link’?
Meeting people at business networking may seem a hopelessly antiquated way to find customers in the digital era. Yet despite specialising in online marketing, James West of Perfect Motion says that overlooking business networking is a big mistake and explains why it is the path to building a successful business.
For smaller businesses and start-ups, business networking can be intimidating, formal and a bit, well…old-fashioned. For entrepreneurs, bloggers and freelancers, it may invoke images of stuffy businessmen in suits. In fact, business networking may appear to represent the rigid structure and protocols that inspired many of us to leave the corporate rat-race.
And yes, there are business networking groups that enforce some of these stereotypes. But overlook business networking at your peril because, in my experience, it is hands down the most effective way for smaller businesses to grow. Let me explain why.
Blinded by social media
Marketing in 2018 is all about the online world, right? Social media, blogging, keyword optimisation etc, are the preferred small business marketing tools because they are cutting edge, free to use and allow us to build our businesses from the comfort of our laptops and phones.
I’m not here to dismiss these tools. On the contrary, I know they are incredibly powerful when harnessed correctly and I spend a lot of time advising business owners how to do just that. But despite being deeply involved in digital marketing, I’m a huge fan of business networking. Why? Because despite my experience and expertise, business networking has proven itself to consistently be my best source of new business.
The missing link
Online marketing is amazing. It allows you to connect with people around the world, find communities of people with shared interests and target the ideal prospects with your products and services. It is also possible to build genuine and fruitful business relationships with people online if you are dedicated. But to truly cement these relationships, in my experience, you need to meet face-to-face. And this is why business networking is invaluable to support online marketing, because it provides the definitive and lasting connection that online marketing instigates.
When you meet people face-to-face, you gain an immediate understanding. Shaking hands with people and looking them in the eye enables you to develop empathy, trust and discover shared interests much faster than is possible online. And by nurturing these initial connections, you create perhaps the most important building block of successful business relationships: trust. The old adage is true: people buy people so when you build a bond of trust, other business owners are likely to buy from you and recommend their peers to do the same.
I’ve attended a lot of networking groups over the years and I have built lasting relationships that I treasure. But most importantly - at least for the purposes of this blog - I’ve gained business from networking. In fact, if I add together the time and cost I've invested in business networking, it is by some margin my most lucrative marketing activity. And if you support business networking with intelligent online marketing, the two activities dovetail so beautifully that you create a never-ending pipeline of new business.
However, it’s not enough to just attend business networking. Just like any marketing activity, there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. To help you get more business from networking, take a look at this article: 21 Pro Tips To Get Amazing Results From Business Networking. It’s a great guide put together by the members of ONLE Networking. Take heed of this proven advice and come along to an ONLE meeting - you’ll meet some of the members and see for yourself why business networking is the missing link in your marketing.