Let’s be honest – networking doesn’t come naturally to everyone.
Whether we struggle to find the time or simply aren’t comfortable socialising in big groups of people, it’s easy to find an excuse not to build our business network.
Of course, the most recent (and understandable) excuse is the pandemic. It can be hard to get yourself out there when physical meetings are off the cards. But while it may be tempting to put networking on the backburner, in truth, it’s more important than ever.
So, whether it be a video chat over coffee or a socially-distanced gathering, let’s explore why networking is so vital, and how to go about it during these extraordinary times.
You never know what doors networking can open. By meeting new contacts – and strengthening existing connections – you could be exposed to new ideas, new opportunities, or even new business partnerships.
This is especially key today, when the business world is changing so fast. It’s never been more important to be innovative and think outside-the-box, or to be open to trying new things. Again, it doesn’t matter if it’s an in-person networking event or a more intimate, one-to-one video call – forge those connections, share ideas and watch your own business know-how grow as a result.
A good starting point is your existing network. Wipe the dust off old conversations by scheduling catch-ups with ex-colleagues and former clients. This will help you build confidence in your networking space. And as you already know them, your connections may be more willing to point you in the right direction for greater networking opportunities.
Raise your business’ (and your own) profile
Networking is a fantastic opportunity to market your business. Whether you’re looking for customers or simply want to be known as a player in your industry, the best way to get movers and shakers to notice you is to get out there and meet them, albeit remotely.
Use social media platforms to your advantage. Make connections with your industry peers – they might be sharing details of virtual events you’d like to get involved in. A great way to find out about events, is by joining groups and pages with like-minded business owners. Don’t forget your own personal brand and be vocal on your social channels. Share information from your own website, but also from other industry sources or fellow industry experts you aspire to.
Networking is your chance to prove your expertise and become a thought-leader in your own right – which will inevitably improve your credibility and help you achieve your business goals.
Many thought-leaders have successfully established themselves in the networking scene by becoming industry ‘curators’. To do this, collect information from across the industry and share it using your LinkedIn profile. This will significantly increase traffic to your page, strengthen your credibility, and position you as someone professionals want to network with. Remember, it’s all about being seen and being active in the industry that makes you memorable.
Networking not only gives you the chance to talk, but also to listen.
Try treating networking events as a fact-finding mission: find out all you can about other attendees, their businesses, and how they are navigating any challenges. Ask questions, find out people’s opinions, and get to know the state of play in your industry. It’s all valuable information that’ll ultimately strengthen your business.
Pinpoint people you’d like to talk to and conduct background research before you e-meet. Where do they work? What’s their job history? Are there any news stories about their company that could indicate successes or challenges? By doing this groundwork you’ll be armed with talking points, enabling a conversation that’s beneficial to you both.
While it may not be as widely talked about, a hugely important part of networking is to simply socialise with like-minded people.
Running a business can be demanding, stressful, and even isolating – especially in recent times. Plugging yourself into a business community can really help you blow off some steam. You’ll have the opportunity to make true friends and establish a support group that understands what you’re going through. And conversely, you’ll be able to offer support to other business owners in need of a friendly ear.
Online industry events are a route for this. There are many to choose from, so be selective in finding the most relevant ones that feature networking opportunities. You’ll be able to bond with other industry professionals over the content presented, as well as discuss your own challenges.
However, not all events have to be industry specific. As we’ve mentioned, running a business can be tough, so whether you need to blow off some steam or celebrate your success, how about joining a support group that you empathise with, such as an LGBTQ+ community, or perhaps a Women in Business or STEM group.
Online communities such as LinkedIn groups and business forums are another great space to connect with like-minded people. Many professionals use these groups to ask for advice on problems they’re facing. Be active and share any knowledge you have that might help them, and you’ll find you will get the same back.
It’s not always easy to find the time to network, but during these challenging times, it’s more important than ever to reach out. If not to be inspired, then at least to keep up those social interactions.
If you want to find out more, speak to a V-Hub advisor today.
Available Monday to Friday, 8am-6pm, our friendly team are here to provide guidance and support on the topics that matter to your business.