If your first thought after reading this blog’s headline was something along the lines of “That’s silly - networking is so old-fashioned that it couldn’t possibly have any place in something as 2.0 as inbound marketing,” fear not – you're not alone. It’s easy to assume that this ever-developing digital world of ours has completely replaced the need for any sort of real-life human interaction with services like Amazon, Netflix and webMD. We've got emails and FaceTime; what need could we possibly have to step outside of our homes or offices to network in the real world?
The fact of the matter is that you shouldn’t dismiss the idea of using old-fashioned networking methods so quickly. Inbound marketing may be all about finding and attracting qualified prospects to your website (and ultimately to your products or services) at the highest level, but there’s certainly no rulebook that says you can’t work to attract some of your leads offline.
It doesn’t matter if your organization identifies more as B2B, B2C or B2G. Your organization must be first and foremost H2H – human to human. If you’re skeptical, let’s take a look at a few of the key benefits that can come from networking, and how networking can complement your inbound marketing efforts:
Networking Is Mostly Defined by Geography
Networking is based on a geographical region that is somewhat close in proximity to where your business operates. While it’s true that we live in a digital world and have more opportunities for long-distance business relationships than ever, there are still a number of businesses that rely on having a local customer base to a certain extent. Even if your organization is one that can truly put geography aside, sometimes your best leads can be right under your nose (or at least down the street).
Networking Enables Qualification "by Feel"
Networking offers you the opportunity to get an immediate feel for whether a prospect is marketing or sales qualified (or not qualified at all). Networking allows you the unique opportunity to hear a prospect’s story, pain points and needs in real time directly from his or her own mouth. In this case, you can use networking as an alternative first-touch in the inbound marketing process. Immediately after you’ve done your networking and collected some business cards, add each new contact's information to your list of prospects (this is a great time to connect with them on LinkedIn, too). If you’ve talked to somebody who showed particular promise, enroll them in a workflow or make it a point to send them specialized information that you believe they will find helpful.
Let’s face it: if you’re not networking, somebody else in your industry is. What are you missing out on by giving your competitor the opportunity to network with your local prospects?
Wondering how to find opportunities for networking in your area? Chambers of Commerce typically have no shortage of opportunities for networking events, so a simple first step is to start by checking out your local Chamber's events calendar. Another great way to find networking events is to join local, regional or state-level professional groups for your industry.
As marketers and sales professionals, we can’t forget the importance of knowing good old-fashioned business skills and etiquette. Meeting someone new, shaking his or her hand and being able to hold a face-to-face conversation remains critically important in the business world - and adds a nice human touch to your inbound marketing efforts.