This post was written by MBA candidate Ari Sefton. Check out his website for more insights about relationship building, impact, marketing and more.

by Ari Sefton

This post was originally published on February 3rd, 2016. Click here to view original on LinkedIn

In the MBA there is a lot of chatter about networking. If a student isn’t reading a case, editing an assignment or drafting a cover letter, they are probably networking.

Why do we network? I’ve heard people say it is about “getting your personal brand out there” and making sure the right people see your resume at the right time.

Enter human to human marketing. Instead of getting a product with a brand into the right consumer’s hands at the right place at the right price, we are trying to get ourselves in front of the right person in the hopes there will be an opportunity to agree on a price and place in the near future.

In other words, by networking we, as human beings with a brand, are engaging other human beings, representing their own brand, in the hopes that a relationship can be built. Not always purposefully to leverage that connection into a job offer or business sale, but sometimes simply to learn or be inspired. Or even to make a new friend.

I believe this style of human to human marketing can also be used for businesses to solve business problems. Especially in small businesses or businesses where you might have a tremendous amount of face time with your customers.

Like, say, restaurants.

I remember facing a problem of declining sales in the restaurant I was managing. In order to reverse the decline, we first identified who our guests were, (segmentation), and then we decided which ones we would focus on, (targeting); then we made a decision on how best to reach these now targeted guests and what we wanted to say to them when we did (communication).

We quickly realised that the best way to talk to our guests was to actually talk to them. As human beings. We felt that if we got to know our guests they might get to know us too. Which would lead to them coming more often to our restaurant to continue to foster the relationship which we had now built.

They would be a part of our network. And we a part of theirs.

It worked. It worked because our team wanted it to work. We would walk into service with tactics such as giving out a specific amount of business cards in a day, or learning an explicit number of names or ensuring the manager on duty got to a certain amount of tables.

But the strategy was about getting to know people. Building rapports with people.

Human to human marketing.

Now, don’t get me wrong. We were incredibly fortunate. Not only did we have an amazing team who quickly bought in to what we were doing, we also served delicious food and we were located in a space that provided ample opportunities for first time diners to try us- with each first-timer being treated as another person to build a relationship with.

Not all industries have the customer face time built into the business model, but it shouldn’t matter.

Which brings me back to networking. Every time you meet someone new, or reconnect with someone old, it is an opportunity to build a relationship. They might not have a job to offer you. If you are representing a business that other person might not need the services or products that it sells.

But their cousin might. Or their colleague. Or even that new connection that they just exchanged business cards with by leveraging networking as a form of human to human marketing.

And, if it is the right person and the right time, they might just recommend you for that person’s network.

What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Do you have any stories similar to mine? I’d love to hear from you – let me know in the comments below.