Zee2A's Marketing Edge Blog

June 12, 2009

Online vs Offline?

Philip Rosenthal sent Vanessa an email asking:

‘How much effort should a consultant put into their online presence versus offline face to face networking?

It may be different for different consultants, but how do you decide how much time to put in or what mix of time to put into different areas? I am concerned that online marketing is a potentially endless sink of time and am not sure what the returns will be compared with traditional marketing.

Also, I have been on [a particular online networking facility] for less than a month and have about 30 connections – some of whom are people I don’t really know but are members of professional societies of which I am also a member and live in the same city as me – I hope to get to know them better this way. Any suggestions?’

Hello Philip,

Great question, and one which I’m sure many other Marketing Edge readers are wondering about. You raise three separate points, which I’ll address one by one:

Online vs offline networking

How much time you decide to spend in one area versus the other depends entirely on where your prospects are and you may have to do some research of your own to find out where that is. As a business owner with many commitments you simply cannot afford to waste your time, money and effort in activities that have minimal impact.

Are your prospects researching and making buying decisions from behind their PCs? If so, are they building relationships with potential suppliers through social networking, or are they using search engines to find information on specific services? (Two distinctly different approaches!) Or are they making those decisions on the golf course? Do they read specific trade journals or attend business to business shows and exhibitions? Find that out, then find a way to regularly get in front of them.

The returns compared with traditional marketing

Any marketing you do – whether online or otherwise must fit in with an overall strategy. They cannot be adhoc events or activities that get done on a whim and without proper forethought and planning. Remember too, that not all methods work for everyone. You have to test it and measure it. If it works, do more of the same. If it doesn’t work, or doesn’t work well enough, change tactics.

For example: Just because you’ve always had an advert in the Yellow Pages doesn’t mean you should just keep on renewing it. Do you know how much business you actually get because of that advert?

The same principle applies to your weekly networking breakfast; your brochures; your website; etc. Don’t blindly keep doing something just because you think you should, or because you think that ‘doing something is better than doing nothing.’

Getting to know your contacts better

Well done for creating an online profile and getting active in making connections! (For some top tips on creating and maintaining your profile, see my article Revamp Your Online Presence in Four Easy Steps.) It is important that your connections have substance and that you can add value to each others’ networks.

What is the point of hundreds of connections that are just there to boost your numbers, but you know nothing about each other and never interact? It would be just as ludicrous to collect hundreds of business cards at face-to-face events and stuff them into an overflowing business card folder that never gets opened again, other than to add more cards!

Your approach to connecting with fellow members of professional societies you belong to and people who live in the same town as you is a good place to start. May I suggest you take the initiative in arranging a meet-up to build those connections into REAL relationships. Perhaps something like meeting for a drink after work – invite all thirty connections and see who turns up. Not only will you benefit from getting to know them better, but they will benefit from meeting each other too. (By the way: This suggestion works equally well if applied to that over-stuffed business card holder too!)

Thank you for your question,

 

Other readers with questions are invited to submit them here and we’ll do our best to answer them in an upcoming issue.

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