The importance of networking – especially during COVID-19 – should not be overlooked. While many business owners have been struggling to stay afloat in the economic downturn that has resulted from the events of 2020, they may have been neglecting one of their key resources in maintaining their success.
Good networking skills are one of the most valuable business assets that any business owner can possess. How you connect to others in your field of work (and this includes your competitors) can have a marked effect on your ability to make the right decisions at the right time with the right resources at your disposal.
Naturally, networking does not come easily at a time like this, when social distancing measures are, even by optimistic projections, set to stay in place for quite a while. How then can you, as a business owner, keep expanding your network, your knowledge, and your connections under the current conditions?
Here are five tips:
1. Curate your new first impression (your digital presence)
Handshakes, networking events, and comfortable face-to-face meetings are no longer an option for the time being. For this reason, having a digital presence is vital to your continued networking success. Business owners would do well to remember that in the absence of personal contact meetings, their digital presences form the basis for any potential connection’s first impression of them.
So, remember that social media and email are your friends so long as the framework of your media networks is steady, and you curate your current content so that whoever lands on your or your business’s page immediately has an understanding of your identity and the identity of your company.
2. Plan a strategy
Don’t make the mistake of coming out of the gates guns blazing. The Coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll on many business owners, and if your business is struggling, the worst approach would be to start something that you cannot see through to completion or one that demands too much attention from others. Focus your energy on one or two platforms, where you will be able to keep your dots connected.
3. Revise your elevator pitch in a new medium
Finding new ways to present your core message and goal in an effective way will be pivotal to digital networking. An elevator pitch is often only as successful as the way in which it is presented. You can no longer rely on traditional charisma and body language (although for some, this may come as a relief). Become familiar with etiquette and conventions in different kinds of media and find new ways of displaying confidence and digital charisma by knowing when to break the mould. The fastest way to make a real connection will rely on a presentation that stands out among others like you.
4. Start small
Since you no longer have the ability to connect in the same ways as before, people will be naturally apprehensive at first. One of the simplest ways to build the initial rapport is by either offering something small (without expecting anything back in return) as a token of good faith, or asking for something reasonable that does not demand much time/resources from your recipient (which expresses your faith in their knowledge/ability). Even business relationships are, after all, based on the principle of give-and-take – just try to keep a balance.
5. Persevere through failed connections
Take time to keep track of each individual attempt to connect with other professionals and of instances where these attempts are already in the process. Follow-up communication can go a long way to solidifying a relationship that would otherwise just have fallen by the wayside.
You don’t want to come across as being too pushy, but the reality is that many emails, especially on busy days, are missed or actively dismissed because of time constraints. Following up a day or two later can help you connect with those who missed your email or trigger a memory that an email had been sent from your address previously. Even a third or further follow-up can help you make your mark where others give up.
Are you ready to make the kind of connections that will lead to more business or improve the way that you do business? While networking in the digital age (especially when paired with social restrictions) can seem daunting, many businesses are missing out on real success and growth because of it. Make your mark, expand your professional network, and set yourself apart from the rest.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)