The crisis that has taken over the world with the coronavirus outbreak has been devastating in many ways. It has forced us to redesign our existing way of life- particularly how people interact with each other. In the business world, taking a hit from the crisis are brands and professionals that rely on networking events, trade shows, business summits, conventions or just regular in-person meetings to network, learn and attract new clients. In this blog, we’ll explore some of the resources professionals can use to continue networking with clients and close those sales!
First, let’s look at the what you miss without opportunities for in-person interaction:
The importance of face-to-face meetings is something grand old business-people steadily believe in. This study from 2018 iterates that.
Source: Event Manager Blog
In another global survey by ‘HubSpot’ in 2019, 3400+ marketers revealed that ‘events’ are the 3rd biggest channel for their company to market their business.
Now, left with a calendar year that looks likely to be empty of events and opportunities to mingle with large groups of clientele, there is little option but to turn to networking online.
Something we might not experience for a while?
Does networking online have the same rules as in-person? Does it have the same effect? Let’s explore!
To start with, your thoughts probably turn to social media platforms immediately when you hear ‘online networking’. However, it is not the same and there is so much more in terms of platforms to use, strategy and unspoken rules.
Is networking online informal?
Just like the real world, there is a style that will change depending on the platform or the medium you choose and your objective. Our advice is to maintain formal but friendly language with potential clients.
What should I do first?
As a result of the current global crisis, many of us have a lot of time on our hands. Now would be a good time to connect with long-lost clients. Most of them will be home-bound as well and are very likely to be available for a chat about business to take their mind off things.
Pick a popular, easy-to-use video conferencing tool of your choice (we’ve listed the best ones below) and reach out to clients you would have met at conferences this year. To be more productive, set a goal for the number of people you will reach out to everyday.
How should I reach out?
At any time and more so in a time of crisis, be genuine and warm when you first reach out. (We’re sorry if it sounds like we’re preaching, but it’s nice to note). Start by asking your clients how they’re doing, ask about their families. Be honest and state that the time available now granted you an opportunity to finally reach out to them. Let them know if you can help in any way and if not, you are always available for a chat. Say if they are in the right mindset, you would love to talk about your new product/idea/tool, etc.
Writing those crucial reach-out emails:
‘The Muse’ has a ton of excellent resources to help professionals in tough spots. Here are some email templates you can use for polite, professional and strategic reach-outs in writing:
- How to ask for an introduction
- Templates to follow up with a client you met at a networking event
- How to connect two people on LinkedIn (Be helpful and make yourself look good in the process)
- The email template to get you a meeting with anyone you ask
- How to make professional introductions over email
- Thank you for the introduction email (Something that is non-negotiable to write!)
Tips for video conferencing:
Dress- Semi-casual dressing should be the way to go in terms of dressing. Looking professional does not necessarily mean putting on a suit or jacket. Acknowledging the state the world is in currently is alright.
Location- Pick a corner of your house where you can show a background that is neat. While platforms like Zoom enable you to have a virtual background, we are not so sure it will provide the right impression to the person who can see you.
Camera placement- Make sure your laptop is placed at the right level. Your head and shoulders must be visible! If your laptop is placed too low, the person you are talking to could get an awkward view up your nostrils. Use books or tissue boxes to prop up the height of your laptop. Check how you look in your video camera to be sure before getting on a call with your client.
Movement- Remember to use communication cues as you would if you were meeting someone in-person i.e nod for acknowledgements, wave, etc but don’t move too much as this might blur your visibility for your client.
Video Conferencing Platforms:
We’ve listed good ones with free plans-
Zoom’s popularity has skyrocketed in the last few weeks. Their free plan allows upto 100 users to video conference simultaneously. The platform is very user-friendly and the most popular feature is the ability to add virtual backgrounds while you speak to hide the clutter in your room. Note that the virtual background option is available only if you download the app. Zoom also has a ton of training resources to help people navigate the platform in a quick and easy way.
Hangouts is the free version of Google Hangouts Meet, which is part of G Suite. It is as user-friendly as Zoom and can be used either in your web browser or through apps on your phone. Google has also extended free access to Hangouts Meet in light of the crisis. This also includes:
- Larger meetings, for up to 250 participants per call
- Live streaming for up to 100,000 viewers within a domain
- The ability to record meetings and save them to Google Drive
The most familiar tool today, Skype is still a really good option with both web and downloaded versions.
Our top 4 for professionals:
- Meetup– If you haven’t created a meetup account before, now is the best time to do it. Meetup is the best place for like-minded groups to interact with each other, meet and learn. It is also a great place for you to find new, potential clients that you could meet. Till 2019, it was meant to bring link-minded people together online and then later meet in-person. In 2020, video conferencing meetups is the new normal. Create your own meetup if you have a great idea and don’t see it addressed in other groups.
- LinkedIn- While this is a first start for most people, it is terribly mis-used by most people. The top tip for anyone on LinkedIn is to not use it impersonally. Follow up those who accept your invites with a personal message or better, a phone call. Use the platform to post useful content that could show off your expertise to your network.
- Twitter- The only regular social networking platform I will include in this list. Following Twitter hashtags are a great way to keep up with trends in your specific industry.
- Xing– Not as popular as LinkedIn, Xing is still a good alternative to LinkedIn especially if you have clients in Europe.
You will notice that the advice revolves around karma!
- Give out genuine recommendations to colleagues, both past and present
- Promote/refer products/ideas of professionals in your network. A key point here would (again) be genuine. As much as anyone would love a good review online, people can instinctively tell a review that seems sponsored or too greasy.
While we are going through some tough times, here’s hoping you can take advantage of it to form some priceless (and unique) connections. Signing off -Snappy!