“Don’t just think online” said the Digital Marketer. Yes, I know that as a digital marketing consultant I should probably be telling you that digital marketing is all you need to think about in order to build your business…but its simply not true. In large-scale marketing, Digital Media should work harmoniously with traditionally known Offline Media. In the world of small businesses, this also rings true, although the media mix differs. Budgets are smaller and the ROI on some offline media is just too small to consider them reasonably.

As a result, the power of Social Media opened many doors to SMBs due to its networking capabilities - reaching new customers, creating conversations, research opportunities, and increasing word-of mouth. The same benefits can be seen from attending Networking events aimed at small to medium businesses within local areas.

As with Social Media, Networking Events expand your reach beyond the person/people you speak to directly. Once you’ve made a connection you can indirectly tap into their network. In addition, Events allow you to create deeper relationships more quickly than Social Media sometimes can. Research* suggests that a face-to-face request is 34 times more successful than an online request via email. Your audience is also a captive audience – they are there for a reason, the same reason as you most likely – and therefore may be more receptive to you. You could say it is Offline’s version of Behavioural Targeting!

That said, in order to get the most out of Networking, you can’t think of it as another Advertising opportunity. Don’t just sell, also buy. In other words, listen to what others have to say, and genuinely take an interest. Opening yourself up to opportunities doesn’t start with you sitting back waiting for people to come to you. Even if you don’t get any new leads immediately, don’t be disheartened as you might be rewarded for your efforts at a later date. If you can help someone solve a problem or recommend a service at no benefit to you, you stand out in their mind and are more likely to be recommended should an opportunity occur. With Nielsen Research quoting that “92% of consumers trust referrals from people they know” this should pay dividends.

The benefits of Networking Events are numerous - from customer leads and connections, to tips and advice, to confidence building and presentation skills – for SMBs it can also be a way to socialise and get feedback on your business when your business support network is little to none.

Of course, being a digital marketer I will encourage you to use digital channels to circle back and follow up on the conversations had offline. Email directly, connect on social platforms, join business community groups, follow and share each others’ content. Where face-to-face derives better response rates, digital channels provide ease and scale.

I know it can be scary, especially for any introverts out there (I’m one myself, so feel your pain!), but once you’ve been to one good one, you start to feel relaxed and enjoy them. As a little inspiration to go for it, Erin Hansen puts it nicely…“What if I fall? Oh but my darling, what if you fly!”.

Now, please excuse me, I’m off to sign myself up to my next event :-)

* Source: Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 69, March 2017, Pages 223–226