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…
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?