I’m one of those guys who regularly attends networking events. I also happen to be a content marketing specialist. After years of doing both, it finally occurred to me that there’s an enormous amount in common between the two, which are discussed below.
1. Content Marketing and Networking Both Involve Storytelling
Content Marketing: Content marketing is all about storytelling. The stories brands tell are aimed at bringing real value to their audiences. They are about finding a need or problem and then satisfying that need or solving the problem. Hopefully, the stories are told with clarity, logic and maybe even in an entertaining or amusing way. Brands that craft compelling and engaging content win over their audiences, create loyalty and boost sales.
Networking: When you are at a business networking event, you should be in full storytelling mode. You tell stories about yourself, your business, your experiences. Those who tell their stories well are far more likely to make meaningful business contacts than those who have lousy stories to tell and/or deliver their stories in a boring or jumbled way.
2. Content Marketing and Networking Both Require Listening Skills
Content Marketing: Any content marketer worth his/her salt knows how important it is to be a good listener. Listen to what people are saying about you in the media. Listen to what’s been said in social media. Engage your audiences in conversation. Listen to their stories. See what they like, what they want and, perhaps most importantly, what they don’t like. Not only will it be appreciated, it will help forge a better relationship.
Networking: Attend a few networking events and you’ll find there are precious few good listeners out there. There are so many people at networking events who are just there to hit you with their elevator pitch or regale you with their views of what’s happening in business in the world. They clearly couldn’t care about what you think or what you’re about.
Listening accomplishes a few key things. For one, it shows the other person you’re not a complete narcissist. Secondly, you may actually learn something. Third, it makes you a whole lot more human.
3. Content Marketing and Networking Are all About Being in the Right Venues
Content marketing: The best content in the world is worthless if it is delivered to the wrong audience. If you’ve written a brilliant article on opera, it won’t do you a lot of good if it’s published in a sports magazine. If your brand sells luxury goods, then the content should be delivered to the appropriate demographic and should be designed and presented in a way that appeals to that specific demographic.
A great example of this is the Ralph Lauren Magazine :
Networking: There are millions of events out there that are are just for socializing. While those can be a lot of fun, they’re the places to be if you are looking to make business connections. You need to do your homework. Research events where the attendees dovetail with your business goals, whether they be potential clients, vendors or partners. If you are an entrepreneur or startup, that means being at events where you are likely to find VCs (venture capitalists).
Meetup  and Eventbrite  both offer excellent, searchable calendars for upcoming networking events. Similarly, virtually every industry has its networking events and conferences. Sure, they’re fun to attend and socialize, but always keep in mind you’re there to make contacts that can further your business interests.
4. Content Marketing and Networking Both Require an Engaging “User Interface”
Content Marketing: The best content is also worthless if it is presented in a bland, unappealing way. Some of the best content marketing is presented in a way that more than just presents a boring block of text. It’s ugly. It’s boring. It’s not going to be read.
Content marketing is so much more effective when it is presented with compelling design, video, animation, fonts, etc. Would you rather download a white paper that looks like a doctoral dissertation or would you rather interact with a content piece that’s beautifully designed, interactive, engaging and entertaining?
Networking: I’ve been to dozens if not hundreds of networking events and it amazes me how many people present themselves as the human equivalents of “boring blocks of text.” They show no personality, no animation, no nothing. I’m not talking about physical attractiveness here. It’s all about how you present yourself, how you look someone in the eye, how you show real interest in the people with whom you are networking, how you can show confidence without crossing the line to arrogance.
5. With Both Content Marketing and Networking Once is Never Enough
Content Marketing: Content marketing is not a one-night stand. You can’t just produce one piece of content and then rest on your laurels. The last person to get away with that was Harper Lee. If you’ll recall, her first novel was the brilliant “To Kill a Mockingbird” and never again published another novel.
That may have worked out okay for her, but it certainly won’t work for brands. To properly execute an effective content marketing strategy you need to be able to create quality content on a consistent basis. In this way you not only create an expectation in your target audiences – you satisfy it.
Networking: The same thing applies. Going to a handful of events a year isn’t networking, it’s party crashing. Networking on a consistent basis will accomplish a number of things for you. Obviously, the more you network, the more you hone your networking skills. But the real results of regularly networking include:
- Meeting a greater volume of the right people who can help your business.
- Make deeper connections with the people you meet.
- Learning more from other’s knowledge bases and experiences.
- Finding quality people to hire (if your business is looking).
- Finding quality businesses to hire you (because you never know).
- Landing new business.
Ultimately, it shouldn’t come as any shock that there are so many similarities between content marketing an face-to-face networking. Relationships are built on effective communications and success is built on a foundation of strong relationships.
Networking Concept  Photo via Shutterstock