As businesses across Hampshire return to some form of normality following COVID-19, one question is; how will social distancing, our economy and the winter months impact business networking events? Now don’t get me wrong, I was never one for business networking breakfasts or golf club B2B events. My business Tidy Design has always been pretty busy, a combination of our Google search results and client recommendations. That said; we are all entering a new chapter, so business to business networking may well form part of a future growth strategy. Never say never…
Having had an office space for near on a decade, day to day networking has always been there in the background. Be it chatting in a communal kitchen or saying hi to a neighbouring office, it’s good to talk and network as/when opportunity arrives. Our Google search results and existing client base aside, I have been fortunate to meet a few other business owners at my local gym. Obviously lockdown and the past six months have been tricky for us all, however I am exciting to start networking a bit more in the future.
There are many ways to network online, be it via your blog, a newsletter or social media accounts. When it comes to online networking I’d suggest picking a platform that works best for you. Do a couple of things really well and don’t commit to doing everything. Like most I am on a few social media platforms, the most business related one is probably LinkedIn, however I do prefer twitter. Once you have picked a platform that works for you it is important to assess your objective and message. What do you want to say? What do you wish to achieve? Who do you want to communicate and network with?
I get it, online networking is not for everyone. But with so many people glued to their phones and tablets 24/7, it makes sense to utilise your screen time. Online networking removes a few barriers, it takes away time zones and location based restrictions. If you are based in Hampshire and want to network with someone in New York, then online is a tangible option.
I don’t believe successful networking is about how many business cards you can hand out, or how many business cards you can get. The same applies to online networking, following everyone or buying followers to appear popular is not cool. You do you, however I’d always opt for quality over quantity when it comes to business contacts. So without further ado, here are my five tips for business networking.
As mentioned above, I’d always seek out quality over quantity, aim to make genuine connections with people. Take the time to connect, it will help form stronger bonds. People will likely remember you if you give them your time and full attention.
Look and listen for problems to solve. If you can identify and fix problems then good things will surely happen. Maybe we should all step back and ask others “how can I help you” more often. We all have stuff in our heads, internal battles or debates, questions that are difficult to answer. Sometimes some help or a nudge in the right direction can be really appreciated. So, can you help to solve a problem?
Aim to connect on a personal level as well as a professional level. Consider telling a story or two, mention your kids or a recent trip to the cinema. I believe a healthy balance is needed, people invest in people, you are the brand. Overselling could impact a potential business opportunity, it is good to talk business, but try connecting with people too.
When you are passionate about your business it is very easy to talk talk talk! But when it comes to business networking, the opposite is required, we need to listen listen listen! I guess the trick here is to ask the right questions, giving others an opportunity to talk shop. There is going to be common ground when you ask questions such as “why did you setup a business” or “what motivates you”. Everyone has a story to tell.
It is easier to network with familiar faces, those of a similar age, the same sex, I guess we are all guilty of navigating towards similar folk. My fifth and final business networking tip is to turn left when the “comfort zone” says turn right. Why not mix it up, aim to network with a variety of people and different groups.
There are some great websites for building and maintaining relationships online, we are spoiled for choice when it comes to social media and networking opportunities. So, I am planning to add a section to this post that lists upcoming networking events in the Hampshire area. If you run a networking event in Hampshire then please contact me below, I’d love to hear from you.
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