[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]It used to be that we could go to networking events, grab a coffee, shake hands, have a conversation, and end with exchanging business cards for follow-up. Now networking is almost all virtual. It seems this will not change any time soon. We may not like it, but as business owners, we adapt as part of the game of running and sustaining our businesses.
The way we network has changed significantly over the last year. Most in-person networking events have either moved to virtual or have suspended meetings until further notice. During the past 12 months, we have learned effective ways to meet new people and engage potential customers and business allies in a virtual world where you cannot shake hands or exchange business cards.
Here are a few ways to make online networking more effective.
Build your online brand. During in-person networking events, we begin building our brand the moment we walk in the door. From wearing a shirt with the business logo to a firm handshake and sincere “Hello” while looking the other person in the eyes. People begin to know us personally and our company by what we wear, the tone of our voice, and clearly explaining what we do. Does your online brand have the same impact and deliver the same message? When you share your website address or LinkedIn profile, do they look clean and clearly tell people what you do? Do your logo and profile picture look professional or are you using an image that was just laying around? Do the words come across as confident? Do your portfolio images make businesses want to hire you? Now that our online brand is more important than ever, it cannot be an afterthought. More people are checking out your LinkedIn profile and website, so the question is, would you want your website or LinkedIn profile to walk through the door as the first impression?
Save the chats! This sounds like some kind of protest, but it is not. It is an effective way to capture contact information and ease your follow up fatigue. Before an online networking event comes to an end, many participants leave their name and email in the chat. Save the chat and train a virtual assistant to copy, paste and clean up the data making it ready to import into your CRM. The faster you get this contact data into your CRM, the faster you will follow up and close more sales. Leads become stale when follow up is slow and sporadic. Use your CRM to reach out and nurture your contacts with personalized messaging while reducing follow up fatigue.
Respect the time. Many online networking events encourage interaction, but it is different from in-person events. With in-person, you could have multiple one-to-one conversations. You could talk about your favorite sports teams, the state of the economy, or if man really landed on the moon. Online events are not the same. They are in group settings for a limited time. This means we do not have the luxury to talk about a personal story about Tom Brady when someone mentions vacationing in Florida. When you speak at an online networking event, be mindful that time is precious, and it may not be the place to “shoot the bull.” Save the stories for when you connect personally outside of the event.
Look for new online networking events. One of the benefits of online networking is that you can expand the list of online events to attend. Each networking group requires investment so choosing the right one will increase your closing rate. The only travel time is walking from your Keurig to your desk. This opens the opportunity to attend new events. If you did not go to A Million Cups because the round trip commute would have been 1-2 hours, you can reconsider now that it is online. Online networking events allow you to branch out and meet new people from your desk. When you look at other events, consider broadening your search to include industry expertise and specific potential customer or audience. For example, if you are an electrician, consider joining a realtor or property management group where you know they need your services.
We all yearn to return to in-person networking. At CCC, we are optimistic about the future and excited by the way our clients and business colleagues have adapted to online networking. It is most important to meet new people, make more connections, and sell more. We love helping businesses like yours build connections and fill your sales funnel with qualified leads. Networking is just one way to do it. If you would like to learn more about using networking to increase sales or how to fill your sales funnel with qualified leads, reach out to us for a free consultation. You can call 301-332-0613 or fill out the contact form.