What “networking” actually means

If I had a bet to place on what answer I expect to come back when I ask a consultant, “What’s been your primary lead generation source for new business?”

No hesitation, I’d put it all on…

networking

Now, when I probe a bit deeper and ask for specifics, it’s quickly revealed that “networking” is actually just a convenient placeholder for “I do a lot of talking, asking around, emailing people I know, presenting… and sometimes this turns into business.”

I have no doubt some people have it down to a science. But I want to know what that science involves.

Here’s an interesting illustration (with screenshots of actual conversations) from Tom Critchlow of what some of this may look like in practice.

There was one particular insight in there that caught my eye:

Staying “top-of-mind” is much easier if you have something to talk about.

Tom calls this “small b blogging.”

small b blogging. It’s a virtuous cycle of making interesting connections while also being a way to clarify and strengthen my own ideas. I’m not reaching a big audience by any measure but the direct impact and benefit is material.

Small b blogging is learning to write and think with the network. Small b blogging is writing content designed for small deliberate audiences and showing it to them. Small b blogging is deliberately chasing interesting ideas over pageviews and scale. An attempt at genuine connection vs the gloss and polish and mass market of most “content marketing”.

The promise of content marketing has always been, “build it and they will come.”

(“They” meaning large swaths of your target audience.)

And some people are good enough to make this model work.

But what if…

…and I specifically have the high-LTV, high-touch, long sales cycle, boutique consulting business model in mind here…

…content marketing was instead used as a lever to make “networking” more effective and systematic than the cross-your-fingers, spray-and-pray approach that’s become a mainstay of this type of work?

Curious minds inquire.

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