Like many marketers, over the years I’ve built up a significant network of business contacts that I maintain across a range of media (including social media and email). But building a successful network is more than an exercise in simply adding numbers to your list of followers or email subscribers.

Like turnover without profit, a large network is sheer vanity if it is not put to work.

And here’s the thing, working a network does not mean constantly hitting it with marketing messages and sales pitches.

If your network is to be truly useful, you need to be useful to it.

Adding Value to Your Business Network

Journalists/Bloggers: Building solid relationships with journalists and bloggers is vital if you want to reach a readership beyond the scope of your social media networks and email marketing lists. Try offering them assistance even when you don’t benefit from it. I regularly send news tips to journalist/blogger friends knowing that when I do need to pitch to them, they will be more likely to listen.

Business Partners/Marketing Peers: What goes around comes around. Offer to help your marketing friends and business partners with referrals, testimonials, co-branded marketing opportunities, etc. and they’ll be on hand to help you out when you need assistance.

Clients/Customers: It’s not all about sales. Sometimes a little insight (which they can profit from) will do more to keep a customer engaged (and keep them spending money with you) than any upsell opportunity.

Colleagues/Employees: Everyone in your organization has the potential to contribute to the marketing effort. A little encouragement and a bit of freedom can go a long way. Tear down any barriers (but set boundaries) that prevent anyone on your payroll from helping to spread the word.

How do you add value to your business network? Share your comments below:

This post first appeared on the iContact Email Marketing Blog.