Networking by the (New) Law of the Jungle

Dog eat dog. Survival of the fittest. That’s (theoretically) been the rule of the free market system…that competition improves the quality of everyone’s product, and only the strongest survive.

But the other night, I attended a networking gathering that was practically an online marketers’ convention – out of the 30 women there,  at least eight provided services related to web-based business promotion.

Sounds like a tense situation, doesn’t it, with all those competing businesses? Actually, no. It was pure magic. Instead of going into a competitive posture, we began seeking opportunities for connection…

  • Where did our businesses not overlap?
  • Where could we cross-refer, joint venture, collaborate?
  • Where, in relation to each other, were our services or approach unique?
  • How did our missions and markets align?

One woman’s service package might not include exactly the service that another woman offered. And even where we provided similar (or identical) services, we found we served different niche markets, and could create collaborative products for a crossover audience. Several of us discovered we were passionate about similar missions, and pursued complementary approaches. We came away energized, with a sense of connection, possibility, and mutual support, and plenty of appointments scheduled for discussing new opportunities.

How different this is from the traditional networking model, where similar businesses are assumed to provide basically the same limited products and services, in competition for the same undifferentiated audience.

But think for a moment – could the same marketing package and approach, for example, could serve every audience? Not by a long shot! And I would venture to say it’s the same for many other fields of business. By knowing your essential approach and your ideal audience, you can not only serve that audience better, but you can also create relationships with other businesses who might otherwise have been your competitors.

Yes, times are tough. And yes, budgets are thin, and prospects may be fewer. But that networking meeting proved to me that while the market may be more challenging, opportunities can actually multiply…if we honor our uniqueness, honor others’ uniqueness, and work together.

Oh, and about that Law of the Jungle? Actually, science has established that the natural law of the jungle  is one of interdependence and self-regulating balance…a living system in which each part has a role to play in relation to the others. Rather than competition for dominance, there’s a dance of complementarity.

There’s no reason why businesses can’t do the same.

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