Why Networking Works Best When You Forget What You’re Doing

by Cathy Miller on September 26, 2016

networking-post-imageHave you ever had a coach give you great tips?

What would you think if the coach then told you to forget what you’re doing?

  • Would you think he or she was a little crazy?
  • Or at least a bit misguided?

I bet you think business networking is great marketing strategy. I agree. But, what if I told you I think it works best when you forget what you’re doing?

Call me crazy, but let’s see if I can convince you.

Defined Networking

Think about business networking. Now, imagine you’re the head of a sales team. How would you define the marketing strategy to a sales newbie?

Need some help? The following is the Business Dictionary’s definition.

Creating a group of acquaintances and associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit. Networking is based on the question “How can I help?” and not with “What can I get?”

That last part is what I’m getting at.

Doing it Even When You’re Not

Not So Absent Marketing

Two posts inspired this one. The first one was from writing colleague, Lori Widmer.

Lori’s blog, Words on the Page, offers advice for freelance writers. Her practical pearls work for any business owner.

In a recent post, Lori confessed she had not actively marketed in the past year, yet she is busier than ever. How can that be?

Because Lori forgets that she never stops networking. It just doesn’t feel like networking. I’ve observed Lori’s networking first hand.

  • Staying in touch through social media
  • Sharing good information
  • Interacting regularly

See? Business networking. And that’s good marketing.

Not So Traditional

That brings me to the second post. It is a LinkedIn Publisher article in which Allan Collins professes he has stopped networking.

If you read the article, you’ll find that Alan has not really stopped networking. Instead he has moved away from the “traditional” mindset of networking.

  • Going to industry events/having dinner with a prospect
  • Exchanging business cards
  • Talking about yourself
  • Following up with email
  • Pitching your need (to secure a job, sell a product…)

Sound familiar? Alan’s advice?

“Stop networking and start…helping!”

Making it Second Nature

How do you know when networking has become second nature? That point when you forget you’re doing it? Here are a few signs.

  • You’re truly interested in what others are doing or saying
  • The thought, “how can I help,” beats out the “what can I get” reflex
  • You share something because you want others to enjoy it, too

Your network understands your intent, perhaps better than you do yourself. Let me give you an example.

I receive regular emails from a LinkedIn connection. We share common business interests and I find his insight fascinating.

However, I’ve noticed something he does that is off-putting. I receive an email each time he publishes a new article. The emails are engaging and typically end with a variation on an invitation to let him know if there is anything he can do for me.

I responded to that invitation once. I asked if he knew someone who would benefit from my business writing services, that he’d keep me in mind.

His response? Silence.

  • No acknowledgement (not even – I sure will keep you in mind)
  • More emails, each time he published an article
  • The same invitation to let him know if he could help

Does that sound like his intent was in helping me? Or himself? The invitation sounds good. It loses all meaning when a response is met with silence.

However, I continue to share his articles because they’re worth sharing. Call it an effort to practice what I preach.

How about you? What networking stories would you like to share? Are there any you’d like to forget?

Please share your thoughts in Comments.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Roy A. Ackerman, PhD, EA September 26, 2016 at 7:21 am

Those are among the (many) folks I remind that my eMail address is not their private repository.
Whether it’s networking or common courtesy, it’s always best to help others. Not at the expense of your own revenue, but up to that point- you bet!
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Cathy Miller September 26, 2016 at 7:26 am

Funny, I think I have those same misinformed marketers at my email address repository, Roy. 😉 Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
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Lori September 26, 2016 at 8:06 am

Thanks for the mention, Cathy! And you’re so right — I’m doing the absentminded marketing. I forget sometimes I’m doing it. Like Allan, I’ve shifted away from the traditional. Not that traditional won’t work, but that for now, other ways are working better.

I get similar “invitations” and “helpful” stuff from LI. One guy practically begged me to write a guest post for him. When I responded with “Sure. What topic did you have in mind?” I got nothing. Zero.

Even mediocre marketing can be effective if you engage beyond that salesy-note-disguised-as-helpfulness note. It would have taken your contact five seconds to type what you were looking for. You’d still respect him too perhaps.

I think the marketing/networking that doesn’t work for me (and I know you share this particular peeve) is when the notes are too frequent, always asking you to buy one more thing, and coming at you from all angles. I opted out of an email that was one note a DAY (some weeks he’d send only four notes, though). What happened next? I started getting snail mail.

Seriously, I wish there had been an option to tell this guy why I was opting out. I’d have told him even though I think he has great products, he’s way, way, way too pushy.
Lori recently posted..Why Freelance Writers Should Separate Networking from SellingMy Profile

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Cathy Miller September 26, 2016 at 8:24 am

Thanks for the inspiration, Lori! 😉 And since I also received the same daily emails (in which I ALSO opted out from) AND the subsequent snail mail, I feel your wrath.

You know this brings up another point I hadn’t really thought of before now. That person gave a ton of great information away at no cost. Have you noticed that has all but disappeared? Almost feels like a trap – lure them in with the free stuff – then pound away with the fees and forget the freebies.

As a fellow writer, I have no problem with pitching your services, but when that becomes your only focus, you will lose loyal followers – like this gentleman lost you and me.

Thanks for your insight, Lori.
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Paula Hendrickson September 26, 2016 at 8:47 am

Nice post, Cathy.

I think some people confuse networking with sales. When well done, the two activities share an end result of boosting business, but selling someone on a product or service is a short-term goal, while networking is a long-term goal of building mutually beneficial relationships.
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Cathy Miller September 26, 2016 at 9:03 am

Well put, Paula! 🙂
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Anne Wayman September 26, 2016 at 11:56 am

I’ve never really understood networking – not as a marketing tactic anyway. I love a good mastermind group where how can I help is what makes it sign.

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Cathy Miller September 26, 2016 at 1:55 pm

But, see that’s the thing, Anne. By my definition, like Lori, you already do it, too, by sharing items of interest and promoting others. 🙂
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Sue-Ann September 26, 2016 at 12:12 pm

Hmmmm. I thought I was sharing, learning, chatting with folks I respect and like. Am I networking, Cathy?

P.S. So happy that my networking has found you. I appreciate it everyday:)

Very Sincerely, Sue-Ann
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Cathy Miller September 26, 2016 at 1:56 pm

By my definition, absolutely, Sue-Ann. 🙂 And I am happy to have found you as well. Thanks, Sue-Ann.
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Anne Wayman September 26, 2016 at 2:03 pm

Thanks!

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Ben October 6, 2016 at 4:02 pm

I agree Cathy. We’re more likely to make a good connection with someone when we are just having a conversation. Traditional networking, especially from a newbie, can feel forced and uncomfortable. When you forget what you’re doing, and just engaging with someone, the pressure goes away.
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Cathy Miller October 6, 2016 at 8:12 pm

Thanks, Ben. You make an excellent point. In my opinion, it always works when you are just yourself. Thanks for your insight, Ben.
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