There’s an adage that says “the more things change, the more they remain the same.” Certainly, over the past decade we have seen wild fluctuations in our economy, the rise and fall of entire industries and the house market ping-pong across the scale. Those weren’t the only changes, though.
In 2004, YouTube didn’t exist. The first iPhone was introduced in mid-2007; since then, seven generations have hit the market. This time 10 years ago, “the Facebook” was a little something just for Harvard students; MySpace was just gaining speed. And I guarantee you that nobody knew how much mobile and social media were going to impact marketing efforts.
So how was marketing done back in the day? Well, for the most part, it was all about relationships — both between marketing professionals and their clients as well as individual businesses and their customers. If you ask me, that’s still hands-down the way it works best.
Too often we as business professionals are hiding behind screens of every shape and size instead of getting out there to shake hands, talk about what’s happening and creating those authentic, fantastic moments of, “You know, I can help you with that.” Whether you’re a new business owner or a more experienced one, adding networking to your marketing mix is critical.
In my agency, I’m not the only one doing networking. Every member of our team is involved in the process at various levels by being involved in volunteer organizations, attending events hosted by the Chamber or Big Sky EDA or joining professional groups.
So you may be wondering if the networking that I (and my team) do is solely about marketing the services our agency provides. The answer is absolutely not. Do marketing opportunities arise? Yes, they often do. But I can tell you first-hand that the benefits of networking far exceed merely marketing. Each of us has gained a variety of excellent skills as a result of networking — some focused on our technical abilities and others targeted on leadership, problem solving, conflict resolution and a host of other capabilities.
One of the most interesting networking opportunities that has been introduced to me lately came through Greg Kohn, who you may be aware of as a result of his ongoing work with the Big Sky EDA, Billings Chamber of Commerce and countless boards and committees. He was selected as a chair for Vistage International, and is in the process of launching CEO peer groups. These groups allow CEOs to meet monthly and work on business-related issues facing one or more members. As a business owner, the opportunity to benefit from the wisdom and experience of others — and to share my own experiences that have come over the years — is priceless.
Are you and your team members actively networking? Are you involved in community organizations that you care about? Are you out there shaking hands and getting to know people instead of hiding behind phone calls and computer screens? If the answer is no, you are not only missing out on fantastic marketing opportunities, you’re also missing out on remarkable ways to develop the skills you need to grow both personally and professionally.