- The past year has shown us the importance of virtual networking and not relying on face-to-face conversations and events.
- Virtual networking isn’t that much different from traditional networking, and there are many ways to find new business opportunities online.
- It's important to set up a process, be consistent with it and don't get discouraged by a lack of response right away.
- In this article, we share some virtual networking tips to help you grow your small business in 2021 and beyond.
Networking used to mean going to in-person events, handing out business cards and talking to people face to face. If nothing else, 2020 showed us that those days are long gone.
Even before last year, I used virtual networking to help each of my small businesses grow. I run a small personal finance practice, an SEO consulting firm and an online firearms blog called Gun Made. My enthusiasm and passion for each project is what helped me spread the word.
In the beginning, I reached out to other small business owners in my industry, sent them a personalized introduction and sent promo items out via mail.
Virtual Networking Tips for Small Business Owners
There are plenty of ways to bring visibility to your small business using virtual networking. Below are some virtual networking ideas for small business owners and entrepreneurs:
- Leveraging other small businesses in your industry
- Find local business groups
- Give action items
- Follow up
1. Leveraging Other Small Businesses in Your Industry
Small business owners and entrepreneurs tend to stick together. By reaching out to other small business owners in your industry, you can use the passion they share for your industry to your advantage.
You already know they love and care about what you’re doing, so you don’t have a lot of educating to do. The only thing you need to do is sell yourself and your business idea well.
This kind of virtual networking is so easy because if you draft something that you can reuse and tailor to the individual you’re reaching out to, you can save time and make it feel much more personal.
These businesses don’t have to be local. They can be anywhere in the world. As long as they’re in your industry, reach out, tell them who you are and tell them why they should connect with you and help you grow your business.
A great business networking application to look into is Clubhouse. It allows you to network with anyone across the globe 24 hours a day, and it recommends different groups to network with based on your interests.
Just remember you should always try to provide value for anyone you connect with. I try not to ask for favours unless I can offer something in return.
2. Find Local Business Groups
As I said, small business owners stick together. If you’re a local business or you’re an entrepreneur who wants to network with other entrepreneurs in your area, find a local startup group where you can get support, advice and other local networking tips.
Facebook or your local Chamber of Commerce may be able to steer you in the right direction.
It doesn’t matter that these business owners are in a different industry than you. These local support systems are invaluable for local businesses and entrepreneurs.
Contrary to small businesses in your industry, it doesn’t matter which industry these businesses are in, it only matters that they’re local. They can help connect you with like-minded people who started exactly where you are.
3. Give Action Items
No matter how you’re connecting with people, give them action items. If you’re sending out emails, make sure you give them a short and sweet bullet list of simple ways you can help each other.
Whether it’s a simple follow on Facebook or an introduction to a mutual contact, make sure you make it easy for them to follow up.
They should be able to skim your email, figure out why you’re contacting them and execute a follow up in less than 30 seconds (or else you might not hear back from them).
Rarely, you’ll connect with someone, hear back immediately or engage them in a task that takes more time. However, if you think there’s a genuine connection, it may be worth drafting a more complicated email asking for a more time consuming follow up.
4. Follow Up
Virtual networking is all about the follow-up. Much like in-person networking, you have to follow up after your first introduction. You can’t count on your first meeting making an impression.
The most important thing to remember is that it takes at least 3 touchpoints (e.g. email, voicemail, etc) for someone to remember you or take notice.
That’s right. You have to touch on someone at least 3 times before they’ll remember who you are, read what you’re sending or even think about responding.
In other words, don’t get discouraged by a lack of response right away.
Get into a regular cadence of first, second, third and fourth follow-ups. Tuesdays and Thursdays are the best days to send promotional emails.
This makes it easy to keep track of where you are in each stage of the follow-up process and with which person.
Virtual networking isn’t that much different from traditional networking. It can be time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Set up a process, stick with it and measure the results.
If it doesn’t work, revise it and try again. Leverage the tools, knowledge and expertise you have to grow your business in 2021 and beyond.
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