Networking’s gotten a bad rap.
Just the word “networking” can send some people running for the hills, conjuring up images of schmarmy, slick haired snake oil salesmen oozing superficial conversation and business cards at every cocktail party they can get into.
That’s not real networking, though. Networking, properly understood, is about relationships, and networking increases your qualified leads online.
The entire premise of inbound marketing is based on the idea that people buy from you because they know and trust you. It’s that warm, fuzzy feeling people get when they realize you’re not in business for business alone but actually care about the people you’re doing business with. So that guy at the cocktail party who keeps looking around for someone more important to talk to? He’s not building relationships and therefore failing miserably at networking. If you’re not able to create new relationships you aren’t able to increase your leads online
Now you don’t have to have strong personal relationships with everybody in your network in order to be helpful to them. In fact, it’s a good practice to make sure you have a large number of people in your network you don’t meet with often but still share a degree of trust and respect. The variety of relationships you can have is greater.
What your network is not
The key there is sharing trust and respect. So connecting with someone on LinkedIn is not necessarily adding them to your network. If they don’t know you, if they haven’t vested trust in you, they’re not in your network.
However, you can have a huge chunk of your network be made up of people who have never actually met you, but still trust you. These qualified leads online are more likely to turn into customers and clients.
How to build a network when you can’t meet with everybody one on one
One of the best parts of helpeting is that it makes it possible for you to build relationships with thousands or even millions of people. It’s the difference between the old cliché, “It’s who you know” versus the reality that it’s who knows you. When the key is others knowing you, you can scale your abilities to serve millions, even billions.
For example, Seth Godin has a huge tribe of people who are more than happy to help promote his next book and spread the word about his latest project, all because he’s been helpful to his audience for years. Chances are, most of the people in Seth’s network haven’t actually sat donw and had a meeting with him, but they’re still in his network and they’re still a very potent part of that network. They respect and trust Seth because he’s consistently served then with the quality and volume of his content.
This is a principle you can start implementing immediately. Take a bit of the time you usually spend meeting with people one on one and start considering ways you can help your target market without meeting face to face. Make a plan and start doing more of these helpful activities to increase your network.