A typical networking event would be an enjoyable prospect. Pack up your team and some demos, fly to a nice city, meet some partners, meet some vendors, fly home, and PROFIT.
Now, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, networking in 2020 has become a very different place. No exciting events, no free swag, and how do I even find the right background for my webcam?!?
Many see this as a time of frustration with businesses becoming more isolated than ever but with the right approach you can come out with this period with new contacts, new opportunities, and a brighter future.
The internet is a deep place. Each subsection of each interest and hobby has a following and has a space where it’s the focal point of the dialogue. Use this time to find these places and make your presence known. Interactions with users are a great way to increase the public’s awareness of your product while showing that you’re invested in that community. Take this opportunity to release images and gain feedback from fans or give your opinion and become a voice in the room of your industry. Doing so will be beneficial both in the short and long term. Now you’ve got an established relationship with that community when that next convention comes around giving you a leg up on the competition.
Regardless of the subject matter social media can be very beneficial in finding the right eyes to get your product in front of. It’s important to remember that the style and language of every platform is different and know how to take advantage of each.
Twitter – Often the fastest moving social media platform and would be best for finding what the latest news is. Find what #hashtags are most relevant to your industry and search them often to see who’s a constant name in the discussion.
Reddit – Houses thousands of topics in subreddits, many of which are specialized. Searching here can lead you to targeted product users in focused communities. These forums can serve a wide variety of purposes and allow you to crowdsource support and service from your audience.
Linkedin – The professional corner of the internet. A great space to display think pieces or high level ideas. Can serve as the most direct method of reaching decision makers within an organization.
Instagram – A great way to display your content in a single location. Artwork, demo reels, and video clips all would fit well on this platform.
Before you’ve begun any outreach take some time and reflect on who you want to contact and the purpose of the interaction. This will allow you to think ahead and troubleshoot potential pitfalls along the way. Assume anyone contacted will want to know why they should add you to their network and will be wary of an opportunist during trying times.
Have an idea and plan tailored to the individual. Can you quickly demonstrate your value to the person? Can you explain why they should care about you? Be clear on the why and then you can confidently have a two-way conversation.
With everyone stuck at home you can bet people are online now more than ever. So why not use this as an opportunity to spread the word about what you do? Creating your own content is a great way to build your digital presence and show your industry what you’ve been working on. Whether it’s social media posts, articles, or podcasts, creating content that’s engaging is a great way to market yourself.
Use these pieces as a tool when introducing yourself. An exciting video may get you further than a “Hello” message. The right content can help elevate your status within the industry and make potential partners feel more comfortable about connecting and building a relationship.
Pro-tip: make your image similar across all of your social channels, too. This can help ensure consistency and recognition in your networking efforts.
2020 has been the year of the video conference. Programs like Zoom and Webex have joined Skype as the new daily tools for business. Regardless of what platform you use it’s most important that you make the effort. Organizations understand that we’re in uncertain times and no one will begrudge you for having your kitchen counter in the background as they’re likely working from home as well.
Have a checklist list to review ahead of each video call so that you’re prepared. Check that your microphone, webcam, and audio are clear and working properly so that you aren’t having audio or video issues in front of a potential business partner and ensure that your computer is fully charged to avoid having the scramble for a cable on a call. Focus on the camera when speaking to provide the best nonverbal communication to the listener. These steps will help you present your best self.
Sales teams were once known for keeping a Rolodex of contacts that they could call on to pursue opportunities. With many people sitting at home this gives you an opportunity to do the same. Any dormant ties you have can present an opportunity to reach out. A former coworker at another company? A roommate from college? An old advisor? All are having the same experiences as you which provides a great excuse to start up a conversation. Make them aware of what you’ve been working on during the quarantine without asking them to take action and see where the word might spread.
Another example of using past connections would be to look back at events and conventions you’ve attended in the past. Who do you remember sticking out? What companies were consistently showcased at multiple venues. Those are likely the groups you want to align yourself with.
Hopefully, some of these tips will assist you in creating a modern networking strategy during these troubling times. Take advantage of this time opportunity to think outside the box and try some new techniques. Doing so can help your business grow while remaining socially distanced.