Team meetings and industry conventions have moved online, the pandemic has opened as many doors as it has closed. Consider how much the geographical limitations that have been lifted.
For many the thought of physically networking at the office or striking up a conversation over a boxed lunch at a convention will have filled them with fear and dread, but after half a year working inside their own four walls, has provided an opportunity to network and have the internet as a physical and mental barrier.
Expand Your Network
When looking at your networking objectives consider every facet of your life, including your civic, school and social groups. They can also be discovered in new settings, perhaps on the neighbourhood walks you take to break up the work-from-home day. People you reach out to maybe more open to connecting now, because they are no longer commuting or taking business trips, and have more time to talk.
If the people already in your network are much like you in their education, race, geography and industry, focus on diversifying will be key to growing your network. It’s also acceptable to join groups that are not for you, you main gain insight into a new perspective and network connections.
Consider diversifying your network by aiming for more “cognitive friction” — connecting with people who have different ways of approaching problems and getting things done or have different priorities or values, however, keep an open mind to their opinions. Consider why they do what they do?
Go Beyond Geography
For many businesses the pandemic has leveled the playing field, people aren’t bound by location, personal obligations or financial circumstance that had prevented them from being able to attend conferences or join after-work events. Your product/service portfolio might be able to take advantage of this situation?
Networking from home can even offer higher-quality interactions because you are reaching out to someone intentionally, someone you’ve done a little research on in advance, not just striking up a conversation with whoever you run into at a conference.
One of the true benefits of business networking is a warm introduction to someone is via a mutual connection. Prior to engaging with that person, consider engaging in mutual discussions on social media. Of course, if relevant to your business the world is your oyster for introductions.
First (Online) Impressions Count
I cannot express the importance of making a great first impression online, most people will do a little digging prior to any connection being made, even when recommended by a mutual person. Are you representing yourself and your business correctly online?
The goal is to share what you and your business are proud of and “inspire the person to want to meet with you and get to know you better, and potentially do business with you. Include aspects of yourself that shows your human side.
Think About What You Can Offer
Look at relationship marketing rather than transactional marketing, consider how you can offer advice and knowledge to pull people into your influence rather than pushing your services from the word go. When you have a terrific conversation with some or all let them know, the thank you culture is popular for a reason. It is also an excellent way of continuing dialogue.
Review and Amend
Start perhaps with a goal of reaching out to one new person each week, even if you feel satisfied with your existing contacts. In fact, the time to invest in your network is when you least need it, so by the time you do require assistance, you have created a strong support system.
Remember there are several ways to network from home and you need to regularly review the effectiveness against your business growth objectives.
As always if you need support in maximising your business growth through networking then please reach out.
September 22nd, 2020