Marketing and Networking are Kissing Cousins
Friends, I’ve had an epiphany.
I used to have separate categories for networking and marketing when tracking my time. Chambers of commerce meetings, membership organization events, coffees, and anything else I needed to shave for, I put in the networking bucket. Sales meetings and working on my own content marketing--designing my new website, email marketing, managing my social media, and writing this blog post--I filed under marketing.
Then it hit me. When I network, I learn about people and what they do, and they learn about me and what I do. In doing so, I’m creating awareness about me and my services. If marketing is creating awareness of your products and services then isn’t networking marketing?
It sure is! What has two thumbs and now consolidates all that time into the marketing category?
A couple of clarifications:
Thumbs not pictured
This post has nothing to do with network marketing, when you buy into a company--like Avon or Mary Kay--and earn a commission on selling their products.
While all networking is marketing, not all marketing is networking. It’s kind of like how all bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon. It’s an apt analogy because booze is served at most non-breakfast networking events.
Both Get You Noticed
Marketing is about getting noticed in the right places at the right times. If a company wants people to hear about its marvelous new widget, then that widget needs to constantly show up in commercials, digital ads, the trades, or wherever your audience is looking.The same can be said about networking. When you join a professional organization or any other networking group, you’re creating an opportunity to meet new people, add them to your network, and earn exposure to their network. If it’s about getting noticed, then the more you network, the greater your visibility.
They Increase Your Brand Awareness
Brand awareness takes marketing to the next level because, beyond getting noticed, your company’s image--its discerning qualities and specific products or services--become embedded in the consciousness of your target customers. It doesn’t just happen on its own. Creating brand awareness (and ultimately brand loyalty) requires the most strategic of approaches.As a business owner, you are the face of your brand, and the more you show your face at networking events, the more familiar others become with you and your company. HubSpot nails it when they say that brand awareness fosters trust, creates association, and builds brand equity. They drive that nail deeper by advising business owners to, “be a person, not a company.” Remember, people don't buy what you do; people buy why you do it, which means they’re buying you.
They Show You Care
Marketing is more than simply selling your stuff. If all you do is barrage your audience with promotion, you will piss them off, and they will leave. While freebies, deals, and personalized offers are nice, the no-strings-attached touches really show that you care. Blogs, for example, educate customers and prospects and provide helpful takeaways (beware not to make them promotional). Curating existing and creating original content that you share on social media for the benefit of your audience also demonstrates that you’re thinking of them.Smart networking works in a similar fashion. In my green networking days, all I did was ask for favors because I didn’t understand the art of it. Could you pass my resume along? Can you connect me with so and so on LinkedIn? I didn’t offer anything in return. A pal took me under his wing and taught me that networking is about giving and showing an interest in the other person. It’s not aggressive, in-your-face marketing. Rather, it’s learning about someone’s story, their why, and always asking, “How can I help?”
How They’re Different
Like bourbon and whiskey, marketing and networking aren’t always the same. Targeted marketing like direct mail and news and sales letters certainly has its place, but it is different than networking. You have to earn the right, and networking and establishing relationships should happen first before including someone in your marketing campaign.
It's time to recognize networking as an essential member of the marketing family. The best outcome of networking is that people know, like, and trust you, which makes marketing your business that much easier.