Getting new clients is critical to growing your business– but how do you do that when in-person networking events are inaccessible? Small businesses are struggling more than ever to get their products and services out to new people as their doors are closed, and service industries that are heavily based in building client partnerships are having a difficult time finding ways to make a personal connection. Entrepreneurs want to keep pushing their businesses forward, but need to get their name out there. While it may seem like the impossible, there are many opportunities to network yourself and your businesses to make the right connections and money moves.
Ahead, I’ll walk you through networking opportunities that will help you maintain your current clients and find a new pool of potential customers and connections that will be happy they found you!
Nurture Real Professional Relationships by Checking In
So, you’re ready to step up to the plate and get your networking on?! Great! In today’s global landscape, it is critical to check in on the relationships you already have. If you went to the office before and now work remotely, have check-ins with your colleagues. Call your work bestie– the person you chat with at the water cooler– see how they’re doing. Just a phone call to say hello and see how they’re doing will make a huge impact on your relationship. You’re not asking for anything, it’s genuine. This will go a long way. It also opens the door for them to come to you for help if they need it one day– which is a great two-way road to lay out.
Ask what you can do for them– don’t just ask for things on rainy days. Showing people that you care makes a difference– people are appreciative of it now more than ever.
Keep tabs on your connections that are out of the office as well. Reaching out to someone you already know just to check in and say hello is such a small initiative that can make a big impact. Just reach out and say hi to someone on LinkedIn you haven’t talked to in a while. Ask how they’re doing. Let them know you’re there. I recommend starting with an outreach of 1-2 people a month to maintain your professional relationships. That’s not so hard, is it?
Face to Face is Still Important, But Make it Digital
My business started out through initial word of mouth and my colleague’s business referrals– which I am forever grateful for. I would meet with these prospective clients in person to chat about their marketing needs and how I could come in and build up their marketing efforts as a consultant. I still have new clients come in this way, but now that in-person networking has had a wrench thrown into the equation, I have pivoted to digital meet-ups.
I have moved my business to be a digital only business model, and I’ve learned something about people along the way. When given the option between a “normal” phone call and Zoom, clients will choose Zoom every time. There’s just something about a personal connection and seeing someone face to face to get a feel for who they are. After picking up on this, I’ve transitioned the consult calls to just a Zoom layout so there’s not even a back and forth on how we’ll chat. Zoom it is!
You’re probably well-versed in the Zoom game, as 2020 has entered the lives of almost everyone whether it be for happy hours with friends, work meetings, or doctor’s appointments. There are other options to consider when setting up your networking meet-up, I have listed some below for reference:
Pro tip: make sure to login early to avoid tech issues! Make sure your microphone is working, camera is on, and your screen is angled in a flattering way. 😀
Give More, Without Expectations
What do you bring to the table? Reach into that rolodex (is that even a thing anymore?) and use that brain of yours to think about who you can connect. How can you help your network using your own resources and skills? You’re full of skills and resources that could help so many people in your network– you just have to be thoughtful about it.
“Hey! I know you’ve been working on this [insert project they’re working on]! I have this friend that would be a great connect for you. Want me to make the intro?!”
Literally, something like that ^ is so easy to do and will really help build your networking relationship. When your friends meet someone that would be a great match for your professional network, they may think of connecting you in the same way.
Another way to help, is to be mindful of your friends’ job hunts. If you see a job post or hear of one that could be a great fit for a friend that is looking, hit that forward button and send it to them! Little things like these go far. Who knows, they may even land the job!
So many people are looking for jobs right now. Reach out to colleagues and friends and offer to write a testimonial for their LinkedIn page, or offer to be a reference. It’s just a nice thing to do! I’m one of those people that hates asking for testimonials. You’ll see on my website that I have them there, and let me tell you, although I have wonderful relationships with these people– I hated asking! I felt like it was an inconvenience for them (although they assured me 1,000x that they’d love to write it for me. Thanks friends!) Take the pain away from your colleagues that are on the job hunt and just offer it upfront to help them out! They’ll sigh an invisible *sigh* of relief– I would!
Connect on Social Media Groups
Guess what? You’re an expert. Don’t you like the sound of that? You may smirk- but it’s true. You are in some field of work and are an expert– especially compared to someone in the opposite field. Share your expertise with your network! Hit ‘share’ on that blog post you just wrote. Post a business life hack you just discovered! LinkedIn is the perfect space to showcase your expertise. You never know who may be reading your posts– it could truly help them out, or maybe they’re looking to hire someone like you with your exact skillset!
Your social network isn’t just for posting memes and keeping in touch with your classmates from back in the day, networks like Facebook and LinkedIn make it easy to connect with like-minded people. You can find your target audience, people in your field of work; every type of person you could possibly want to network with is covered!
Find your peeps. My background is based heavily in the fashion industry and entrepreneurial endeavors. On LinkedIn, I am connected to a ton of fashion industry related groups. On Facebook, I am mostly connected to entrepreneur-related groups.
Be confident, and know that you have something special to bring to the table.
Ask questions. Post that new tip you learned that helped you tremendously, comment on other peoples posts when you can participate. It IS possible to network this way! I am always so amazed by how complete strangers will go out of their way to help me when I ask questions.
Speaking of which, I’d love for you to join my Facebook group! You’re invited to join the Successful Small Business + Entrepreneur Community. Follow that link and click that “join” button, I hope to see you inside!
On LinkedIn, post updates about you and your industry! Represent yourself as an expert that people will be drawn to. When one of their friends needs help in your area of expertise, they’ll remember that tip you posted and send their colleagues your way.
After connecting with these groups you’ll start to recognize some of the members and you will start to form genuine connections- almost as if you met them in person! Make sure you contribute to the conversations and post valuable content that will help others– networking is not a one way street!
Attend Virtual Conferences
(and Actually Login for It)
Want to connect with potential employers or listen to that dynamic panel of speakers? Say hello to virtual conferences! Attending these are great learning opportunities but also a way to listen to business professionals that are going places (they were invited to speak, so they should be at least!)
Someone spark your interest at the panel discussion? I recommend emailing panel speakers within 24-48 hours of the conference if you want to continue the dialogue. When you reach out reference something they said or a topic that interested you. You’ll want to make it obvious you were there, loved the conversation and topic, and would like to engage more, if possible (and within reason.) Ask if they would be willing to speak with you briefly to brainstorm on individuals and companies in the space you are targeting. Take a risk and put yourself out there – the worst that can happen is that they will say no or ignore your email. Respect that they are busy (so don’t be a nag or a superstalker!) just be happy if they respond back at all. You might be able to find their emails in advance by doing research through my BFF, Google, or find their email on Linkedin.
Remember: keep it professional! Whatever you do, do not slide into their DMs on Instagram. For a professional work relationship, they hate that. That only works with friends!
Join a Membership Organization
With most membership organizations going virtual, networking has become more widespread and a better opportunity to connect with people around the world. Look at this as a silver lining! A local organization you’re a part of has most likely pivoted networking opportunities to become digital events. Look up the organization you’re a part of to see where they’re connecting and sign up.
Keep Your Online Presence Professional
Surprise! Everyone has a personal brand– including you! For better or for worse, that’s how the world works now, so be ready. People are going to look up your social presence (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc). Make sure you are looking clean, and professional. Adjust your privacy settings if you don’t want to change a personal social network like Instagram or Facebook. You can guarantee that someone you’re networking with will look up your social network- so put your best foot forward.
Networking Will Always Be In Style
People love and appreciate the human connection, now more than ever. Don’t let your networking skills and momentum fall to the wayside. Now is your time to thrive when you’re networking! You can make the perfect professional connection in the comfort of your own home, sans commute. Now get out there and make some business moves!
Have you been networking lately? What do you find works the best for you and your business goals? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
hi there, I'm blaire!
I’m an expert at marketing & entrepreneurship, and completely obsessed with helping business owners transform their dreams into booming success stories. Sometimes it just takes an extra set of hands and another person’s perspective to make the business magic happen. Contact me today and let's talk shop!
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