Marcus Sheridan Speaking

Speaking near DC last night at to a group of 130 business business professionals and entrepreurs– another blessing of joining Cadre and become involved with more face to face networking.

If you had asked me two years ago if offline networking still had the incredible importance to business success it had 20 years ago, I would have foolishly laughed at the notion. In hindsight, I think I may have been drinking too much of the digital and social “kool-aide,” causing myself to miss out on some incredibly important opportunities that were happening all around me in the non-digital realm.

But at the beginning of this year, I started to feel like something was missing in my professional life. Despite the fact that I had built up such a large online community with The Sales Lion and had “met” so many amazing people that had taught and inspired me so very much, I couldn’t seem to rid myself of the feeling that I needed to build relationships with other professionals in a way I hadn’t done over the previous few years—and that was face to face.

It was during this same time period that I was invited to an event where Chris Brogan was speaking in Washington DC that was put on by one of the city’s most premier networking groups—Cadre. Upon attending this event and the subsequent dinner afterwards with Cadre’s members as well as their incredible founder and super-networker Derek Coburn, I immediately knew I had found what I was looking for.

For 3 straight hours I shook hands, watched facial expressions, observed gesticulations, and listened to profound insights from entrepreneurs and business owners from the DC/MD/VA areas.

To say I left that dinner inspired would be an understatement.

I also knew that it was time my offline network caught up to my online one, which is why, despite the fact that I live 3 hours away, I joined the group and have worked since that time to establish relationships with, and give value to, its great members.

7 months later I can honestly say the best career move I’ve ever made, other than starting The Sales Lion, has been joining Cadre and building an offline network with like-minded professionals.

Other than the many friendships made, from this one group I’ve received well over a dozen speaking opportunities (like TED next year), multiple new clients, incredibly sage advice, and much, much more. In fact, the blessings just keep pouring in, and I’ve never felt so “social” in my life.

This Isn’t Just About Digits

As I mentioned in the article I wrote entitled 7 Reasons Why Blogging is Failing to Generate Leads For So Many Marketing Agencies, a huge reason why so many marketing consultants and companies are failing to generate stronger leads and relationships is they’ve become entirely dependent on their online efforts and forgotten the beauties of good old fashioned offline networking with face to face communication.

Frankly, many of the agencies I’ve seen achieve the most success are the ones that are active in the community, busy speaking to professional organizations, and unafraid to make a first contact with a handshake versus an email or blog post.

Finding a Balance

Please don’t get me wrong folks. I’m not here to say that networking will ever be what it once was, but rather, I see the future of great networking the perfect mix of face-to-face and digital where each makes the other stronger, and none are dismissed as irrelevant and outdated.

I guess like everything else in life, balance is key…

Your Turn

I’d be curious to know how you’re business and networking efforts have evolved over the last few years. Are you just using the Internet or are you more in the world of face to face? What’s bringing you the most results? And what do you do to strike a balance?

65 thoughts on “Online Vs. Offline Networking: Why Face to Face is Far From Dead

  1. Hello Marcus.
    First: you are lucky to have found a professional group.
    Most people waste time and money with what they think is networking.
    Second: You aren’t going into it blindly, you know what to do.
    Most people join and follow the pattern they see before them. Don’t work!
    Thirdly: The barrier is too low, despite the high costs involved.
    Most people pay lip service to the requirements and fudge on them.

    As someone who has a lot of experience in organized networking, evens started and lead an independent group for nearly two years, I have found it isn’t used rightly by most. My takeaway from being involved.
    You need three faces in your networking.
    Face To Face: with those that you meet up and connect with.
    Face to More: you need to have a structure that delivers value to people who recommend you. Classes, edutainment events on calendar etc…
    Face To Many: you need all the support systems in place to deliver your referrals through so that your recommending friends don’t have to think to much about how to help you. Your system does that for you.
    I see the Face To Face a lot and no more.

    • Billy, wow, I can tell this is very much in your wheel house my friend.

      GREAT points and tips…love the perspective.



  2. Hey Marcus, as someone who spent the 1st four years of business offline (not even website), the online world was so different for me – or it appeared to be at first. I agree with your article — I’ve heard many people say they miss the real face-to-face networking. In my work (training) trainers have said (who have put together great online programs) they miss the real world events and live atmosphere, so much they are focusing back on these. What I love is how social media has cut through the fake ‘traditional networking events’, the suited and booted affairs before social media grew up – I find online networking, individuals are more transparent and that is being transferred into the real world. Even when meeting people for the first time. Agreed: both can live beside each other very well and one is not more important than the other. Maybe we are all just realising it is about connecting?

    • Loved your thoughts here Dawn. And you’re right. This really isn’t (nor should it really be although the title would indicate otherwise) about one vs the other, but rather “connecting”—and doing it well,by all the means that are available to us.

      Thanks so very much for stopping by,


  3. TED? Good for you, man. That’s exciting.

    • Yeah brother…for the first time in a quite some time, I’m pretty nervous about it. :-)

      • Good for you though. Just wait until you can put a “Featured on TED” banner on your site 😉

  4. This was a good post for me to read, because I’m very comfortable with the online world, and haven’t messed with in-person networking since I started my business. This is a good reminder to me not to neglect that world. Thanks!

    • It’s all about getting “uncomfortable”…isn’t it Rebecca? 😉

  5. Good reminder, Marcus. I admittedly do all of my “networking” online, other than some local stuff that really isn’t intended to get me business but to help businesses in the community. I need to get to some conferences, if for nothing else to buy you a beer.

    Keep it going…

    • Yeah Loomer, what’s up with that?? How come I haven’t seen you at any conferences man??

      And if you’re looking to speak at one, let me know, I’d love to recommend you to one of these events. Seriously man, think about it.


      • Well, it’s a combination of things, Marcus. While I continue to invest more and more in my business, it’s still early and the budget’s tight. That’s only a partial excuse because I could always get sponsored or speak… man, that’s WORK!

        This is all my way of saying I’m still not all that confident in my public speaking yet, so I’m breaking myself in slowly. I appreciate the encouragement though!

  6. TED? TED? Are you stinkin’ serious? How awesome is that?! Congrats big-time. When? Where?

    Regarding your post, while I love the social kool-aid too, I always remind myself business is P2P=person to person. In my experience, there is simply no substitute for experiencing the deepest, most meaningful interactions that occur only face-to-face. In some ways, it’s like the sales funnel.

    We screen visitors and capture initial leads online just like we make initial contacts and make connections/friendships via social networks. But the deepest relationships, where we people become customers or real/true friends, are solidified by having offline interactions. The relationships might start online, but the best ones move offline too.

    I think of getting to have dinner with you in the Cities and talking family, philosophy and business. That face-to-face time not only solidified my respect for you, but it deepened it on a level that couldn’t have taken place over the phone, via Skype or through a social network. It made the friendship much more real to me and made me a bigger fan of TSL movement!

    Thanks for sharing your thought as always and congrats again!

    • Exactly my friend. Our dinner is the perfect example of what true relationship-building is all about.

      Thanks for all you do buddy.


  7. In the past, I had a lot of involvement with networking groups and for the last few years I’ve been focusing almost exclusively on the digital side of the equation – thinking that’s what I needed most. (I think they’re serving the same kool-aid in my area that you’re getting!)

    As you know, I attended the Cadre event last night and it was exactly as you state – a pretty amazing group of people with a very different vibe than the typical networking group. A nice balance of energy, experience, brainpower and deep relationship-building intent.

    Nothing will ever replace human interaction and networking done right synergizes the digital effort.

    Really enjoyed your presentation but I’m going to sit in the way back next time so I’m safe!!

    • There are no safe spots when the Lion speaks, don’t you know that by now McElaney?? 😉

      Thanks for all you do my man,


  8. Hey Marcus,

    I was there last night at the Cadre event and enjoyed our table conversation about the unique opportunity that exists for help boomers move into the next phase of their lives – entrepreneurship.

    My grand mother used to say, “there’s nothing new under the sun”. And the further down life’s journey I get the more I realize just how right she was.

    As you so supremely communicated in your presentation last night, business is, at is essence about relationships; finding them, forming them, growing them, cultivating them, and yes, in some cases harvesting them.

    There is NO better way to crate relationships than face to face…period, end of story.

    The value of the investment made by taking a direct personal interest in another, face to face, live and in person cannot be measured.

    I was there when the ‘dot com’ boomed. Built two wildly successful companies while it did. Back then, people used to say the online shopping would eliminate the need for in-store retail. They were wrong….REALLY wrong…and you know the rest of the story.

    People are tribal….we want to be with other people….

    The greatest asset I have from my 4 decades of entrepreneurship is the thousands of relationships I’ve found, formed, grown and cultivated.

    And I didn’t do it through email, a blog, linkedin or a facebook page…=0))

    Ciao my friend You did an amazing job last night.


    Steve Little

    • Steve, what a great pleasure it was chatting with you last night and hearing a bit of your story…but something tells me I’ve got a lot more to hear…and want to hear!!

      Hope we’ll be able to catch up again soon…seriously.


  9. One thing I have found is that you have to find groups that fit you. I started out with bigger groups, 150-200 people and they just didn’t work for me. Never really got to know anyone. Then I started going to groups of 25-40 people and it clicked. I was really able to get to know the people and build some connections.

    • GREAT point Michael. This is something we’ve got to experiment upon and then allow ourselves to find what truly works the best for us and our needs.

      Thanks for stopping by man,


  10. I’d love to know what it was about this group that resonated? How was the vibe, or the membership, different than others you’ve tried? Is it a case of “when the student is ready, the teacher appears”? and you were just more ready for this experience, or is the group really differennt in some way?

    • Rhonda, thanks for asking. Frankly, I think the answer comes down to the quality of the people in the group. What I didn’t mention in the article is that it costs $500 a month to be a part of Cadre DC, but for me that’s laughable considering the returns, connections, etc.

      And when people are spending that much money a month, they take it pretty seriously I find.

      Thanks again,


  11. Good Morning Marcus,

    What a great topic to delve into- just because the web has made it so easy for people to connect does not make it the only way for people to connect.

    Networking for me has evolved over the years, as I explored the online networking but never ceased to give up on the in-person engagement. I think one of the most important components to networking is the fact that online and offline networking leverages the value of one another: If you have a blog, people can get a sense of your message; but discussing the very same topic in-person sheds an insurmountable light on your passion, your personality. In turn, when the people you were connecting with in-person then read your message online, the perceived sincerity and emotion behind your online voice grows ten-fold (and vice-versa).

    Taken one step further, our online networking can help us maintain top-of-mind awareness with our in-person connections (and vice-versa). Again, each one leverages the value of the other.

    Finding a balance varies by the individual; the key is never putting all of your eggs into one basket. I wouldn’t say that online is the only way, but as life allows us to be “always connected”, we should learn to value (and not abuse) online networking- whether it be through blogging, sharing great content, or simply emailing the people with whom we share a common goal. I try to use in-person networking more often than online, but when geographic and time constraints are tossed into the mix, online networking is always helpful.

    This is an excellent topic for companies who put all of their marketing eggs into the blogging basket, believing that the blog will fully replace the ‘salesperson’. While a blog may augment the salesperson’s insights, the most crucial element that it cannot replace is the uniqueness of human voice, personal interaction, and the undivided attention given when communicating synchronously.

    I’m amazed at- and appreciative of- the fact that your topics continue to remain so relevant to the minds of today’s marketers; it says a hell of a lot about how down-to-earth you are with today’s marketers.

    Keep changing lives,


    • Jeremy, what an awesome and relevant comment my man….thank you.

      I love how you mentioned not putting all your eggs in one basket. I think that’s a key to all of this as many have done just that and then been burned—bad.

      Continued success my friend!


  12. Ahh, very nice; TED is keeping you out of your comfort zone…

    Don’t ever stay there Marcus, the sky is the limit for you if you don’t.

    Just bring your “A” game – that’s what Lions do :p

    Congrats, bro!

    • You’re too good to me Harai….thanks for all my man.


  13. Marcus-

    Great post. It’s easy to bury ourselves in our computer screens and think we’re connecting. Marcus…it’s no surprise that you picked up a ton of work up by attending a group like that. What I’ve seen is that MOST of my clients have been found by real, in-person relationships…and introductions. They meet me, like my style and feel we’d be a good fit for a coaching relationship. My biggest opportunity thus far has come from an event I attended…which led to an email several months later from someone who attended and thought I’d be a good fit for what their company wants to do…to me submitting a proposal…then attending another networking event last week (invited by the person who met me at 1st event) and getting an introduction to the decision maker for the company. Then, I spent 15 minutes face to face talking to the decision maker…point being–> people connect us to other people.

    We are all likable to someone! We all have a ‘way’ about us that people will resonate with. We all have experiences, skills, a certain sense of humor, etc…that can come through when we’re face to face with someone.

    Get off your butts and get in front of people on a regular basis (in addition to what you’re doing online)!!!


    • Tom, LOVE your passion and points here brother.

      You speak of that ‘it’ factor and yes, that’s the one thing that is really dang hard to replicate online. In fact, I don’t think you can, at least not to the same degree.

      Thanks again my man,


  14. Marcus
    You might be interested in LI group- inbound networks

    Like minded Hubspotters combining traditional networking with the best inbound practices to boost one another.

    • Appreciate the recommend Don, I’ll check it out. :-)

  15. Great post Marcus!

    I have run networking groups, and at one point in time was going to an average of four events a month. Face to face is always going to be valuable but I feel that there is always a flow of relationships. Sometimes you feel like going out all the time and chatting it up, and sometimes you don’t.

    Just like you said, if you have the proper balance, anything is possible. Relationships built F2F or online all take time and I think that they are both interchangeable. Take us pet sitters – we knew each other virtually for years and in Jan 12 met in Vegas just to say HI F2F. At the core, we are all human beings and I think it is important to SEE people. Even if it is just on video it makes all of our messages that much clearer and our bonds that much stronger.

    You can get in contact with many that you normally wouldn’t have a chance to face to face. Online relationships create business for me all over the USA and world. Chances I wouldn’t find locally. Although the locally gives me the every day face to face support of PEOPLE in life.

    So yes, you have to balance, and also realize that they are both great for different reasons and POWERFUL when they both collide! :)

    I have already tweeted your article out!

    • Love, love, love your take and approach on this subject Bella.

      Balance in all things is it….Heck, just ask Yoda 😉

      Thanks for all,


  16. Matthew Stock

    Preaching to the choir dude. All my leads have come from face to face networking. Just too much content out there about Internet marketing.

    You trying to model for J. Crew in that pic? You’re no Patrick Swayze.

    • True big dog, Patrick is dead, and I am not. :-)

      Funny thing though, Ralph Lauren filled out my contact form after seeing this post (Hahaha)

      Keep crushing it man….I’d kill to be in a market like that!!!


  17. Congrats on TED – very exciting! As for off-line networking, I think that you’re spot on. Companies that rely solely on “online” networking are missing out on a great opportunity. I am passionate about online marketing, and a big believer in its benefits, but still find it worth while to drive over to Boise (2 hours away) a few times a month to meet face-to-face with people at Chamber events and networking leagues. There is nothing like face-to-face to speed up the personal and business connection and to help with the trust factor – people still like to work with people they know – although it can be accomplished online over time, face-to-face still has a much stronger impact. A combination of online and offline has been ideal for me, and is what I recommend to most clients.

    • Thanks for that Brent, I’m quite excited about the opportunity.

      And nice job making the sacrifice to have balanced networking my friend. That’s what it’s all about. :-)


  18. This post made me smile – the offline hustle will never die – it like trying to argue email is dead. Not happening.

    Those who know you in person are far more likely to buy from you than any online connection.

    Prior to my online existence I was all about face-to-face, my business could never have survived without it. I then changed country, became a mother and was faced with living in a foreign land, a foreign (unknown) language and no connections.

    I went online. Yes, it rocks. BUT a year on it’s those offline connections that are pulling my business to the next level (I sipped the online kool-aid but never drank fully from the cup as you well know) … now I am in a game where 50% of it couldn’t care less about their online presence as the international conglomerates I’m working with have bigger fish to fry.

    Bottom line, never, ever, forget FRANK
    – Friends
    – Relatives
    – Neighbours (and colleagues)
    – Kids – if relevant …(as we get older “kids” can often be movers and shakers!)

    Look at all the most successful people around – they either travel the world to make their connections or happen to live in the heart of where it’s at; NYC, SF, London, Paris, Dubai, HongKong, etc .. it’s not some uncanny coincidence.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Ameena, and yeah, you’ve been onto this for a long time. That’s what I’ve always loved about you. You push from all directions and then follow what works– without the limitations.

      Hope you and the fam are well!!


  19. I really don’t do any business face to face. I would love to start speaking at more blogging conventions. I was recently asked to speak at a convention in Louisville, KY about 2 months ago, and to tell you the truth it boosted my site tremendously. Face to face is a whole lot more powerful than online stuff.

    The reason for this is because it’s more personal and people can get to know you or make a more positive opinion of you faster than you could get it online. Face to face is the way to go, but sadly, a lot of people don’t do this.

    • Congrats on the speaking opp Wade, that’s great. Hopefully we’ll bump into each other at a conference soon!


  20. I do all my business online Marcus. My core business is paying the business and my part time business has yet to yield the results that I seek. Most people in this line of work love the face to face stuff. Personally, I want to spend my time productively so that I can spend more free time doing “me”stuff. I long for the day that enough people will want to work the same way that I do.

    • I feel you buddy, and just keep on pushing, I know that day will come. :-)



  21. Marcus, I think that it’s interesting when similar independent thoughts happen simultaneously. On Friday, I posted a cartoon “Einstein on Sales” and followed up on Saturday with “Mediocrity and the Middle Class” while we were preparing to publish Casey’s guest post below. Pete Caputa used to laugh at me because I used face to face networking to begin to build my blog readership over six years ago and, as Casey points out in his guest post, continue to grow and maintain my real network as well as my virtual, on-line network.

    Thanks for sharing this post with me, Don.

    • Wow, face to face to build a blog….Love it Rick!!

      And thanks so much for stopping by,


  22. Right now I’m doing most of my networking face-to-face, I personally prefer meeting someone in person and then using online networking to help grow those relationships. Yes, offline networking can be intimidating and uncomfortable, but if you go to a networking/professional event, most people there are open to meeting new people. That’s part of the reason they’re there in the first place!

    • Good for you Felicia, I’m sure it’s paying off!

      Thanks for stopping by,


  23. Hi Marcus!
    Great article :)
    Answering your question – I try to balance my life between online and real world – but this is really hard as I love online world. Since a kid I was obsessed with technology and thus I am raised being old geek.
    I do not do any face to face business anymore – just from time to time I will socialize with friends.
    Tricky question for you – could you stop using internet for 2 weeks without hassle?

    • Yep, I could stop in a second Kate…and I’d probably catch up on all those books on the shelf I have waiting for me!!

      Thanks much for stopping by :-)


  24. This is an important post. Every one of us has a different situation; we’re trying to accomplish different things. For me, on-line marketing is super hard. This might be because my products – art, ceramics, books and B&B stays – are very tactile and personal. If I speak with someone personally, there’s just such a better connection for what I do. I’ve delved into how you sell more books, etc. through building your tribe, but in reality, it is not for every genre. Sure, I need a web presence. But the web presence has to be a highly personal, niche one. I’ve refocused my online efforts in this way.

    There’s another thing. A large part of marketing online is us getting our message out. But as you’ve always stated, Marcus, it’s ALL about listening to your audience. We forget that too easily on line. Connecting with people personally is about exchange. Everyone is telling me that it’s not worth it financially for me to tour for my book and visit indie bookstores. But I am going to do it anyway, as best I can. Why? Because I want to talk to the people that are buying my book. I want to hear what it is that they have to say. This is not easy for me because I am in Italy and my audience is mostly in the USA. But I feel I want to do it anyway, that somehow I will come away richer from connecting with them. And I think that is what you’ve gotten from going out and meeting your audience, Marcus. They’ve feed your very real need to connect, and that gives you both information and energy to move forward with your highly creative work.

    • LOVE this comment Diana, seriously. And btw, if you’re touring anywhere close to Virginia, please let me know!! :-)

      Hugs and Happy Thanksgiving,


  25. It’s a great point, Marcus. One aspect of speaking is that we are forced to network simply by being on the stage. So blogging can force networking.

    But if I really do believe my business would survive a long blog absence if I was networking face to face regularly. It would change it, but in some ways strong personal relationships would make sales much easier, too. Right now I come in with a top down credibility play. People want to do business with their friends.

    • Yep, that’s just it Geoff, they want to do biz with friends–and somehow I whiffed on that quite a bit these last few years. Sure, I’d make friends with clients over time, but not in reverse. Not saying all the online networking wasn’t well worth it, because it was, but clearly I was missing many other opportunities.

      Thanks so much,


  26. I know networking away from my iMac and outside of my office is important, but my pajamas are just so comfy my friend. 😉

    Seriously though – every year I make getting out there a priority, and every year I slack off on the getting out there.. after spending too much time/money not finding the right biting fish. Some SMB networking has been too small or I get lots of pitches, lots of brain pickers but nothing in return; or it’s like SoSlam – great to meet people, but not exactly a target rich environment. It is a ‘who you know’ world Marcus – only way to land a job, a client, advance a career. So once again, offline networking will be on the 2013 To-Do List and hopefully this will be the year I get it To Done. FWIW.

  27. Face to face networking also really can contribute to building ones digital inbound marketing efforts. You make a deep enough friendship and build some good inroads with the right people then you can establish the trust it would take to set up co-marketing efforts. I recently set up a situation where my company and another large company are co-marketing / co-sponsoring a webinar. So, we will both promote through our traditional marketing mediums and we will share the list of registrants to the webinar after the event. Some of those registrants will be from us and some from them. Its a win-win, we both acquire new leads.

    • Ryan, really good point about co-marketing and co-networking, something I didn’t talk about nearly enough in this post.

      Thanks so much for stopping by,


      • Glad to! :)

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  29. Marcus- Great article and thank you for the plug! :)

    I think one important consideration is the quality of the person’s business and the effectiveness of their story. In the case of The Sales Lion, you have a great story and are doing something revolutionary. Connecting with people offline gave you an additional audience. If someone is not finding offline (or online) success, changing their environment probably won’t help. For some, it may make more sense to refine what they are doing in one space and then focus on expanding their platform. If, however, they are killing it offline but do not spend a lot of time online, they should make it a priority to expand their presence (or shorten their learning curve by hiring you).


    • Derek, thanks for stopping by brother. Your point is a very good one—regardless of where we are or what platform we are using, We’ve got to be doing it well. And you my friend, are doing it extremely well! By the way, make sure you stop by and pick up your avatar photo. :-).


  30. Great post, it can be so easy to just rely on technology to do our networking for us since it’s right at our finger tips, this was a great reminder!

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