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  • Writer's pictureDavid Armes

Networking vs Marketing: Who Will Win?

The oldest form of marketing is networking. Leave the office, drive to an event, get up close and personal with people who have been drinking coffee all day (their coughing is just allergies, definitely not COVID). Hang around and chat with new people in different industries. Try to guess what people do before you talk to them or who might be a good connection. After it’s over, brave the traffic and it’s back to the office or heading home to get dinner. In-person networking can be great – you meet a variety of people, collect business cards, and it’s easy to set up a one-on-one meeting later. In-person relationships can also be easier to build than on Zoom or a phone call, but they take a lot more time and need to be targeted. Contrast the networking approach with marketing: drawing people to you from the comfort of your own office. But does marketing really work that way? Are networking and marketing mutually exclusive or can they work together? Today, we’re going to look at how networking and marketing play off each other and how you might want to split your time between the two.

First, our best advice for in-person networking:

  • Bring business cards. No one wants to hear you ran out because you only have 2 cards in your wallet, leave a stack of cards in your car, in your jacket, in your purse. (The only exception to this rule is I once met someone who had metal business cards that cost $5 each! Assuming your business cards are like everyone else’s and cost between 5 and 10 cents, have ‘em ready!)

  • Have your elevator pitch ready. This is a hard one as many people don’t know how to explain their services in a couple of sentences. Start with why it’s valuable to your customers, a little on how you do it, and let them ask for details.

  • Leave them wanting more. Don’t take up too much of their time unless they are excited and it’s a good connection for both of you. More touches and shorter meetings are usually better – they see you more often and the meetings feel short and productive.

  • Go to the right events. The MOST IMPORTANT piece of advice. If you’re an accountant looking for clients in the home building industry, go to home building conferences and events. Going to an event for accountants is great, but you’ll only meet other accountants, not your customers. It bears repeating: go to where your ideal customer will be.

Online marketing – also called digital marketing and internet marketing

Photo by path digital on Unsplash.

It’s 2022, if you don’t know by now that you need to be online, here’s a good quote for you: Digital Marketing is like Visa – it’s everywhere you want to be. Good online marketing keeps you top of mind and helps others see that you’re an expert in your field. It requires content creation, management, interaction, and maintenance, but it’s worth it.

Here are our best tips for marketing yourself or your business online:

  • Build a modern website: start with the why and how and make it easy for people outside your industry to understand (like fifth grader easy). Lots of people consider their website an afterthought, or just put up some basic contact information and wait for the customers to come rolling in. You can do more! Add images, case studies, testimonials, and write content so that anyone who’s remotely interested in what you have to offer can get the information they need quickly. Ideally, you should have a summary up top, important info first, then details farther down.

  • Create content: write articles and blogs, engage on social media, make videos, or start a podcast. No matter what you do, you want to be creating something useful for your customers and prospects. Consistency is key, even if you can only write one article or record two videos a month, stick to it – it will create a stockpile of good information that you can always revamp, edit, and republish later.

  • Social media: be on it. Again, consistency is key – you don’t have to spend all day on LinkedIn, but you should post regularly with content your customers find interesting and helpful. This one must be repeated: content your customers find interesting. Let’s say you’re a lawyer who works with businesses between 10-50 employees. Find and create content relevant to them – they probably want to know how to stay legal, what a good contract looks like, and how to minimize their legal expenses. You can also join groups where you provide free advice to those who need it, which can lead to paying customers.

  • Create a Newsletter: get in their inbox. People still spend hours of time in their inbox and will continue to do so until Meta figures out how to beam messages into our brain (I hope there’s a good spam filter). The rules have changed on emails: build a curated list and email them often. Once a week is just fine, but once a month is easy for them to miss. Just like your social posts, most people won’t read every email, but when they’re ready, there you are in their inbox.

I know, I know, that’s a lot of words, so let’s take a look at the following table that lays it out visually.

Image from West 34th.

Networking vs Marketing, pros and cons of each:

Networking Pros:

  • Build relationships in person

  • Meet a wide variety of people

  • Get out of the office!

Networking Cons:

  • Face to face with lots of strangers from all types of companies that aren’t in your niche

  • Travel time to and from events

  • The best events may not be nearby

  • Cost of good events and conferences that can run into the thousands per event.

  • Time away from work or family

  • You have to kiss a lot of frogs

Online marketing pros:

  • Huge potential reach

  • Can target your market with the right content

  • No travel time!

  • Pull people to you

Online marketing Cons:

  • Time investment (sometimes it feels easier to go to an in-person even than spend a few hours on your marketing)

  • Monetary investment of getting an expert to help

Photo by Freddy G on Unsplash.

This may look a little one-sided, but the reality is marketing and networking go together like peanut butter and jelly. They both drive leads, they can capture different markets, and sometimes, you just need to get out of the office. Leverage your marketing while you’re networking and vice versa: invite people to check out your newsletter full of great information or let people on social media know what events you are planning to attend. We’ve heard many clients talk about the benefits of going to in-person events and hear people praise their activity on LinkedIn: “I saw that article you posted last week!” and “Wow, you pop up all the time on my feed!” are common refrains. The most important part is to keep trying new marketing techniques and going to different events. If you find a specific online platform is working well or you are getting a lot of good leads from one event, stick to it! You never know when events might get cancelled or you take some time off social and the algorithms change. No matter what, you need to be doing something.


Networking and Digital Marketing fit together well, but which one should you do? Ideally both, but if you’re short on time, here’s what we recommend: figure out your audience.

Create customer personas – a profile of your ideal customer. Once you have a few customer personas, get in front of them: create targeted content, join online groups, and attend industry conferences and niche networking events. The more specific you are with your focus, the easier it will be for people to see how you can help them. So start creating and start networking! If you’re a small business providing a B2B service like software or technology, reach out us at West 34th. We cut the learning curve and provide you effective marketing from day one. No matter what you do, make it targeted!

Happy Marketing! Here’s an adorable goat:

Image by Peppi2017 from Pixabay.

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