Many marketers spend countless hours plugging away at one marketing plan or media release or the other, and many also labor – often begrudgingly – to create optimized blog content to attract search engine traffic to their websites. That is all well and good; marketing plans, media releases, and SEO and SEM are building blocks in all fields of endeavor and in companies of all sizes.
But one tried-and-true (and often overlooked) way to attract business is to meet people eye to eye, shake their hands, and learn a little about who they are and what they are passionate about. Attend networking events and focus on having meaningful conversations with a handful of people, rather than having a 30-second “what do you do?” chat. Explore how you might be able to help them before asking them to help you. Maybe you can offer to volunteer at their nonprofit organization or attend a fundraiser, or you can provide introductions or refer them to people in your network.
Networking is extremely important to start-ups, small businesses and freelancers alike. It is also important for local representatives of larger organizations, such as banks and technology companies, because they see the value of building mutually beneficial relationships with SMBs that can last many years.
Having recently moved to Arlington, Virginia, from Atlanta, I am interested in finding organizations and people who’ll teach me something or make me feel connected to the community. I also want organizations and people who need my writing and editing talent and my creative energy and outside-in ideas. And I am interested in building a social life.
In every city, in every industry, in every field of endeavor, many opportunities exist to rub elbows, shake hands, and make eye-to-eye contact. Local chambers of commerce, for example, bring together people of many different backgrounds for a common purpose: to develop relationships with like-minded, “Main Street”-minded people or groups. There are member-based organizations and Meetup Groups and homeowner associations aplenty. Take the first step … join and become involved.
Today I attended the Arlington and Alexandria Chambers of Commerce networking breakfast. I attended as a “prospective member” and was delighted at the number of people who showed up and really engaged with another. I enjoyed several interesting exchanges with smart, confident, interesting and fun women. Several men also impressed me; it was just a great group of people.
I spoke with one gal who runs a PR agency. I perused her website to understand better what she does and who she serves. In one of her blog posts from a couple of months ago, Karen Bate writes about how women are being recognized more often in the workplace as leaders and as mentors and, with an intuitive sense of business and life, are thriving. She provides excerpts from an article that I also read. Rather than rehash it here, I’ll provide the link to Karen’s blog post.
At another recent networking event (Web Content Mavens), I listened to two fabulous speakers, both women, who spoke at great and entertaining length about content marketing. Rebecca Lombardo is a “Digital Marketing Empress” at Sutter Group. What an enlightening, enlivening speaker. She made her subject matter come alive. Check it out. “Content Marketing: Are You Doing It Right?”
The other speaker was Stephanie Hedean, with Smart Brief , a publisher of 230 different newsletters, in 13 to 15 different verticals (and formerly with USAToday). Also very engaging as she spoke about how critically important it is to use content marketing as an integral part of brand-building and inbound marketing campaigns.
The list of interesting women (men, too) I’ve met at networking events – or in my apartment building or my coffeeshop – goes on and on. I see successful women everywhere. I have long been surrounded by lots of fabulous women in my professional and personal lives.
Allow me to shift focus a bit here. While there may be inequality in pay and barriers to entry and glass ceilings in many sectors of the economy, women nonetheless have performed and continue to perform at high levels throughout the world. I am looking forward to the day when it’s a routine occurrence for women to rise through the ranks, when women are paid the same as men, and given as many opportunities as men, when it’s no big deal that women are succeeding at a record pace.
It may still be the topic of articles in the big business publications today: “Women are Really Going Places,” and “Women Really Can Do Math and Science,” and the like. But soon, I hope it won’t be big news that women are great. I hope it will be so commonly accepted that women are innovators and leaders and role models that no one will make a big deal about it.
Instead of publishing articles about women’s success, maybe they’ll publish articles about how women leaders – and their male counterparts –should band together to effect change in ways that solve some of the daunting problems we face in our communities and in the world at large.
Until that ideal scenario is our here-and-now reality, however, get out there and shake some hands! Meet new people – men and women, old and young – and listen to new ideas. Stay relevant. Be inspired and inspiring. It’s worth the effort.