For marketers, networking in the digital era adds extra challenges. It takes a huge investment of your time to keep up with online platforms, on top of getting those in-person events and conferences on your schedule. So when a networking venture falls flat -- and you go home feeling more disconnected than ever -- it can be quite a disappointment. Networking is a challenge for many professionals, but there are some proven tricks for success that might surprise you. We asked veterans in the industry for their personal tips and success stories. So when the time comes to make a great new connection, you can thank these marketers for sharing their words of advice, thoughtfully gleaned from personal experience.
Purple cows are real
Kent Lewis, president, Anvil Media
My greatest networking accomplishment was connecting with Seth Godin, the World's Most Famous Marketer. I set a goal many years ago to meet him (and/or Malcolm Gladwell) in person on my bucket list. I used a combination of sales, PR, research, and networking skills to accomplish my goal. A year later, I was helping our local marketing association, SEMpdx, secure a keynote speaker and I nominated Seth (due in part to setting the goal previously).
I determined from my research and network outreach that Seth doesn't like to travel and charges a significant sum to speak as a result, so I took a unique approach. I found his email address and sent him a note. I told him I was aware he may have an upcoming book tour and our organization would be bringing in 500 Portland-area marketing professionals and would like for him to present. I told him we didn't have any money but we could make it fun for him and his family (should they choose to join him).
Two minutes later, I got a response to my email to call him. Of course I called him back immediately. We talked for 45 minutes or so about the event and he verbally committed to seeing if he could change a city on his eight-city book tour to Portland. I told him about my networking group, pdxMindShare, and how it could help promote the event, despite not having a solid business model. I hung up and went to lunch. When I returned, many friends shared this link with me.
I was grateful for the coverage and we continued to nurture the relationship (even after they canceled his book tour so he was unable to speak). A year or so later, I sent him another note that I was going to be in NYC at a conference and would love to treat him to lunch. He agreed and we spent two hours together at a mid-town vegan café. Best time of my professional life. All because I had the courage to reach out, demonstrate I understood his hot buttons, and continue to nurture the relationship over time.
The one and done trick
Adam Kleinberg, CEO, Traction
Here's a great tip for networking. Most people -- sales people in particular -- treat networking like Pokemon Go with business cards. Grab as many as you can, especially if you can get a card from a high value Pokemon. Oooh. Look at the combat power on that CMO. I've got news for you: Business cards are not the outcome of successful networking -- relationships are. The "one and done" trick is to be yourself, find somebody you have a genuine connection with, and be done. By "done," I mean don't look over their shoulder at the name tag of the person standing behind them. Get a drink. Go out for dinner. Get to know them and turn that connection into a relationship. That will do you a far greater amount of good in the longer run than that stack of pidgy cards ever will.
Channel George Costanza and do the opposite
Jim Nichols, VP of marketing, Apsalar
So many times in my professional life, I have made negative judgments about individuals based solely on awkward first encounters. I have reacted to some initial event and assumed the worst about the other person, instead of the best. Because, like, I am soooo perfect. LOL. I've come to realize that many of the people that I have judged quickly turn out to be five kinds of awesome. When someone initially raises your hackles, take the advice of George from "Seinfeld," and do the opposite of your instinct. Make yourself spend more time to get to know them. Forgive unintentional faux pas, because we are all human and imperfect. By giving someone a second chance, you'll find people who are really great -- professionally and personally.
First get involved, then create value
Tom Edwards, chief digital officer, Epsilon
I have found over the years the easiest way to network is to invest time in speaking and participating at industry events. This establishes credibility and also provides an opportunity for you to make new connections in a more natural way. One trick I also use is to have one card and let attendees take a photo of my card vs. handing them a physical card. After years of conferences the "stack" of cards may not always make it to the next round of connection, but having an image on their device may differentiate you just by being on their camera roll.
I consider my professional network to be an incredibly important asset both personally and professionally. I focus on creating value for my network whenever possible, whether it is creating original content with a unique POV to provide insight into a potential topic of interest or helping a colleague in need with introductions. The more time you spend cultivating and supporting your network, the more of a valuable asset it can become.
Be authentic and honest
Chris Evans, vice president of media, R&R Partners
Having been in this business 15-plus years now and having gone to numerous conferences, I would say the one thing that stands out to me is when people just simply be authentic and honest. Far too often people put up a barrier and just spit out the company line, which makes everyone sound the same and be forgettable. But a great way to catch people off guard and get them to open up is to ask, "Why shouldn't I use your service?"