The business community, like every other community, has been shocked like never before because of Covid-19. Things we took for granted just aren’t there anymore, and many firms are finding it extremely difficult to survive in such challenging and worrying times.
One of the things that a lot of businesses relied upon to bring in new work was regular networking, and this, of course, has suddenly become a lot harder. It’s not impossible, as the internet provides a myriad of online networking solutions, but it is so much harder to get your name known, your face seen and your business remembered.
So just how do you progress your networking when it is mainly limited to online? Here are a few thoughts – what would you add?
Choose your platform
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn… there are so many online platforms that businesses use to network with clients, suppliers and even competitors. It should be part of your marketing strategy to identify the places where your target audience is likely to be hanging out, so hopefully you will already have a clear idea of where you should be focusing your online networking efforts. But even when you know that, there are so many groups and organisations that are available – both freely and for a fee – that it can be really overwhelming to decide where best to spend your time. And if you’re not careful you’ll end up spending all your time networking and not seeing any results for it.
Where is your community?
You may not be able to network in person during a lockdown, but that’s not to say that you shouldn’t be keeping in touch with fellow members of your business community. Remember all of those connections you made before the pandemic? Now is absolutely not the right time to forget about them, and you don’t need to wait for a formal networking event to get in touch. Drop them a message with no sales agenda, simply asking them how they are doing. What are their challenges? Is there anything you can do to support them? They will remember that you reached out to them and they’ll appreciate the fact that you have been thinking of them. Maybe now isn’t the right time for a hard sell, but you can be sure they’ll be looking you up the minute they need your services.
Strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet
Approaching someone you don’t know at a networking meeting can be a pretty stressful experience for people who don’t enjoy that sort of thing. The pandemic brings advantages in that regard – a Zoom/FaceTime chat, etc. tends to come with fewer social anxieties. It doesn’t matter how you approach people you don’t know for a chat, it just matters that you do. So if hiding behind a screen makes you feel a little more comfortable, now might be the perfect time for you to ramp up your networking activities!
Don’t wait for the pandemic to be over before you fire up your networking again. It’s never been more vital to connect with people any way you can.