I talked to a friend about how the lockdowns and periods of quarantine have affected our teenagers. We both realise that our older children have to remember how to connect with people and “relearn how to be sociable again.”
I’m suddenly aware I might have forgotten how to be sociable myself! Have I lost the art of connecting in the mire of the new normal?
The conversations also got me thinking about how this works in the new post-pandemic business environment.
Having just rebranded ourselves, the Bear Content team is aware that it is time to figure out how to build up our social and professional networks with our “new face” in a post-pandemic world.
I work from home permanently now. I admit I may be out of the practice of being “out there” talking to people regularly.
Many of us are learning and adapting to develop intra-office and inter-business connections in a hybrid work-from-home, work-in-the-office environment.Are you re-learning how to connect with people in the real world post-lockdown? Click To Tweet
The business world is very different from when we all left our offices to hunch over our laptops more than a year ago.
Location is no longer a barrier with virtual technology, so there is a more extensive reach and broader audience with businesses to connect. Many companies and individuals are happy with this.
But I am now pondering, “what is the right balance between remote communication and personal connection?”
Virtual communication doesn’t replace face to face, and with our new brand, how do we raise awareness and network post-pandemic?
Networking is one of the cornerstones of any marketing strategy, especially for a small business like ours; it remains vital for new business opportunities and partnerships.
The first principle of networking – whether virtually or in-person – is to understand that networking is not synonymous with selling.
The second is to ask what you bring to the relationship. Ask yourself: Why would this person want to connect with my company or me?
Before you make a new connection:
-Make sure your online presence is how you want to be portrayed.
-Make sure you are clear on your purpose – for instance, do you want to learn about a company, an industry, a technology, an interest, or a hobby?
Find out who the leaders (companies or individuals) are in that area. Determine who you already know in this area and to who they might be able to introduce you. Your existing contacts and LinkedIn are two great sources for this.
Getting back out there in the real world
There are still in-person networking events and opportunities taking place, with social restrictions and limited capacities that can still work to your advantage.
It is essential to meet like-minded businesses and individuals and derive energy and motivation from fellow entrepreneurs and business brains.
Networking inspires, and having like-minded people enthused about your product or service can create a real buzz.
Learning from others and increasing credibility
Most smaller businesses can’t afford to pay for the advice, help and mentoring support you can derive from networking. It is a chance to listen to other business people, learn from their insights and recognise that whatever age you are and experience you have, you don’t know everything!
However, it is crucial to reciprocate by contributing the benefits of your own experience, which has its rewards, in terms of a feel-good factor and the goodwill that you bank in the mind of someone who could one day return the favour through a business referral or contract.
Networking is also a great way to increase your credibility in your local business market.
Your knowledge, insights and experience can all be imparted to others, enabling you to knock down any barriers that may have otherwise been in the way of other businesses using you or recommending you.
Non-verbal communication and feedback
In my PR degree, we learnt “half of all communication is non-verbal.” I have been fascinated by this ever since. It is fundamental for me in a social situation, so I’m a massive fan of face to face communication.
Unfortunately, increasingly, we are losing such opportunities to adjudge reactions. Put it this way; I am not alone in struggling to spot non-verbal cues on Zoom!
Presenting your business and its offering to other attendees on a face-to-face basis is a great way of eliciting feedback through facial expressions and body language.
In addition, networking is an excellent means of collating feedback to tweak or redefine a product or concept.
Forging alliances/generating new business
Not all networking is about seeking or finding customers. Networking events are also great for forging alliances with new business partners, suppliers, investors and employees.
Many business deals are signed and sealed purely because of networking.
While some networking is a slow burn, there is much more that isn’t, and it is an ideal marketing platform to seize upon if you wish to bring new business through your door quickly and in the longer term.
The rate of return on networking can be much higher than that of advertising. Networking also has the advantage of generating word-of-mouth recommendations that I rate so highly!
People buy from people
A cliché, but it’s true. We tend to prefer to deal with people we like and trust, and being able to build a picture of someone before opting to work with them through face-to-face encounters in the non-committal environment of a networking arena, is a huge bonus.
Getting out of the office
Working from home can be a rather lonely place to be at times (the novelty soon begins to wear off) and somewhere from where it’s hard to benchmark where you sit in the market.
Getting out there and networking will give you some vital social interaction, help you realise you are not alone and give you a feel for what others are doing and where your business should be heading.
Meeting up with other business people* and engaging in conversation with them can be a great way to build up both personal confidence and your belief in your product or service. It can also help you segment your target audience and create sales messaging for different people.
You will meet people from across the business spectrum, with an array of different needs and wants that your product or service may be able to satisfy if pitched correctly.
Networking involves vibrant exchanges of information and fosters creative thought and problem-solving. It is an excellent catalyst for new ideas, concepts, and ways of doing things, so use them as a springboard to innovation, and you will derive even extra value from the time you spend.
Never look at a name badge or in a virtual world – their job title, and decide someone isn’t worth talking to, as you have no idea whom they know or who their customers are.
Introductions to the people on your preferred client wish list are like gold dust, and the more you network (virtually or in-person), the better the probability of you one day getting that much-coveted mobile number or personal introduction.
If you still aren’t ready for face to face or the opportunity isn’t there right now. Have a look around.
Virtual conferences are growing. Obtaining attendee lists may not be feasible, but you can quickly get details of speakers and panel representatives, along with their company names.
Consider emailing these individuals afterwards to ask questions or offer feedback. Ask if they would be willing to speak with you briefly to brainstorm on individuals and companies in your targeting space.
Take a risk and put yourself out there – the worst that can happen is that they will say no.
Finally, consider how you can bring value to a conference or webinar.
If you or one of your clients participate in a session or panel, it could open new opportunities to expand your network. Encourage employees to attend online networking events, webinars, and chat rooms in groups (they don’t specifically relate to their jobs, what interests them?).
To sum up, networking, even in a post-pandemic world, is multi-faceted and should still produce numerous benefits. The entire networking infrastructure has been compromised during this pandemic.
The secret is to approach it with an open mind, a willingness to talk to anyone and share information, and always have an outstanding strategic follow-up process (respond quickly to leads and ideas)!
*Remember, social distancing measures still apply, and you decide if you want to shake hands or not!! Only do what you feel comfortable with and be honest and communicate to the person if you are shaking hands or not. I have found an elbow bump is still acceptable!