Is inbound/content marketing actually about making friends?

Is inbound/content marketing actually about making friends?

Making friends with customers and prospects: the real root driving force of inbound/content marketing?

Reading a discussion recently on LinkedIn about an article written by my good friend, the intrepid Jacky Sherman of the Referral Institute, I suddenly had a bit of a lightbulb moment.

In her article Jacky said, “I always ask people “what are the benefits of networking?” Someone will often say that one of the side effects is they have made great new friends. I’m not so sure this should be seen as a side effect.”

“True friendships are the most rewarding relationships humans have.”

Agreed totally: friendship springs from genuine emotion expressed by real people

In my comment on Jacky’s LinkedIn post I said the following…

“I think what binds many of us together as friends as well as clients/suppliers/colleagues is the fact that for many of us, me included, our work is also our hobby … or at least it’s something we do that isn’t ‘just a job.’

Although I hate to use the word “passionate” because it has become such a cliché, it is true to say that when we are “passionate” about the work we do the emotion cannot help but filter through to the broader relationship we develop with people with whom we network. This tells them a number of things about us a people, most of which are good – so establishing a strong and hopeful basis for a personal friendship.

Further, I think this kind of personal “passion” is something that larger organizations are desperately seeking to grab hold of in their inbound/content marketing … trying to make their brands become friends with their customers. Of course it doesn’t work in quite the same way, but certainly it does improve their credibility – and humility – in the eyes of their customer bases.

Personally, I’m all for it, and really treasure the genuine friends I make through my work and my business networking. WTG!”

So how does this translate into inbound/content marketing?

Much as the inbound/content marketing intellectuals may fancy up the whole process, with this already we know we are looking, simply, at the following –

1.A way of doing business that does not involve up-your-nose selling

2.A way of doing business that depends on developing  good relationships with customers and prospects

3.A way of doing business that depends on nurturing an honest, open and above all trusting relationship with those people

4.A way of doing business that IS about people, and the people within the brands, not normally the brands themselves

Funny: that all seems a lot like the basis for a friendship

I know I always ask people on here to share their views on this and that but of course you may think that’s just a “call to action” to get me more brownie points on Google.

That’s not true, by the way. Google likes me. Well, a bit.

But in this instance I really would like you to contribute your views on this.

Do you feel that despite all the science, technology, algorithms and other exponential whizzing bow ties we see in the field of inbound/content marketing currently, that essentially it’s all about making friends with our customers and prospects … with all the ancillary implications that involves?

I am beginning to think that’s the case … but I’m very happy to be shouted down.

Over to you…

photo credit: GGL1 via photopin cc




  1. Matt, Great point.
    However business networking is about generating business. So it’s OK to have relationships that have that intent. And who is more likely to want to help you: People who are your friends. I bet that happens for you.

    • I agree with you here, Jacky. See the comment I made to Matt on the Google Plus section above ^^^ … the “getting to know you” and trust building elements of friendship apply equally to colleagues as they do to clients/customers, IMHO …

    • You never know who knows whom or how long it takes until you get business. If what you’re looking for is business right away – you won’t get it in many networks. Sales is about creating and building relationships in my experience (though I don’t sell to corporations ) and networking is a way to do it.

  2. Since I became self employed in 1980, my friendships have come from my biz relationships. I only have a few friends I met outside of my biz. There are many people I have known from biz for 20 to 30 years! I can call them up after 5 years of not seeing them and it’s as if we talked yesterday (see the post below) – so yes – I think one of the purposes is to meet “new” friends — I would consider you one Suze 🙂

    • Nice article. Thanks Suze – and Jacky. I think the benefits that come from a feeling of connection with others are immeasurable – connection with people who manage similar day-to-day challenges, who have to make the same kinds of decisions, who have similar values and aspirations, etc. For me, whether or not networking and connections lead to specific business is of lesser importance than the rewards I gain from a support network, an idea network, a crowd of followers and a network I can support too. Hope that doesn’t sound too idealistic…! I think business flows naturally as a result.

      • I think you’re right, Angela. And what we can learn from each other is simply invaluable: I’m a great believer in peer education and find that the best “training” you can have in a business context is a guided discussion amongst peers, rather than formalized training. That in turn strengthens mutual respect and ultimately, friendship.