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How to Network and Build Business Relationships Online
We came across an article a few weeks back in The Wall Street Journal that made a big claim: “Coronavirus brings business networking to a standstill.”
Sure, things have changed since the pandemic started, but networking hasn’t stopped. Quite the opposite in fact. There are more ways than ever to connect virtually, and many of you are growing your network faster thanks to these opportunities.
If you haven’t started yet, it’s okay! We’re here to help—over 175 expert networkers on Alignable shared their best tips for networking in the world we live in now. We gathered them up in one place so you have a guide to help you get going. And if you’re already virtually networking but want to get better at it, we have tips for you, too.
Here are some of the questions our experts answer:
- Can you really make strong connections over video chat?
- What are the best ways to get in touch with potential clients?
- With so much virtual networking happening, how can you stand out?
Let’s get started.
Why Network Online?
We know that networking, in any way, is important. The only difference here is the medium. And there are opportunities that medium offers that in-person networking can’t. For example, you can make connections all over the world just by jumping on a Zoom call or attending an online event.
Simply put, there are so many possibilities.
Because of all of those possibilities, we saw one consistent theme emerging from our expert networkers: They’re connecting more now. “We are doing more online networking than ever before,” says Sabrina Pistritto of Pistritto Marble Imports, Inc.
Of course, there are also some challenges, as Gavin from Monalo Media pointed out. “With virtual networking you don’t know if someone has another tab open and is distracted, so you’ve got to demand attention and really engage them,” he says.
Luckily, we have experts like Gavin and Sabrina to help us navigate both the challenges and possibilities of our business networking efforts. What else can we learn from them?
7 Tips for Building Relationships During the Pandemic
Here are seven strategies we found from our conversations with super networkers to help you make the most of all things digital networking. Take a look and let us know what ones you try.
1. Get to Know the Tech
You’ve probably jumped on a Zoom call by now, but what else can you do with it? And what about some of the other tech platforms (there are so many!)?According to our experts, it’s worth it to dig into all of them.
He’s bringing positivity and productivity to his online networking approach by using a combination of “online communities like Alignable, LinkedIn, and other, more niche, industry-specific digital platforms” to reach out.
Regardless of the tools you try, Gheran also points out how important it is to be adaptable, no matter what is going on around you. “Networking via any format, is truly an art that requires a certain depth of self-awareness, adaptability, and consistency,” he explains.
Check out some of the below tools to help you finesse your approach:
- Video conferencing platforms like Zoom
- Video conferencing solutions like WebEx
- Video chat options like Skype and FaceTime
- Networking platforms like LinkedIn and Alignable
2. Don’t Sell; Build Relationships
Building relationships is what small businesses are all about, and, according to our experts, a big goal of online networking. As long as that’s your focus, you’re getting the word out there about your business effectively and growing your network.
As long as you’re not trying to sell during this crisis, you can make amazing progress in your marketing and brand awareness.
Aside from connecting with other business owners, some of our experts are using this time to get close to their clients. Amy Geffen from Geffen Careers is focusing on “contacting current and former clients just to check in and find out how they and their loved ones are doing.”
We love the empathy.
3. Show You Care
Speaking of empathy, our experts talked about reaching out and showing care to their network.
For Binal Patel from Shore United Bank, though there’s very little business going on right now, he’s been sending emails and calling current and former clients to let them know “we are thinking about their business and see if there is anything we can assist with.”
The goal is to show them that “we are there for them,” says Binal.
4. Say Thanks and Be Kind
This is a tough time for all of us, no matter how much the crisis affects your business. When there are fires everywhere and you’re working double time to make ends meet, your time is truly precious. And networking takes time.
That’s why our experts recommend a little extra kindness.
I’ve used the crisis as an opportunity to reach out to even more people and am so happy and grateful to them for their time.
“It’s a great joy for me to connect with others and share my love and bring some joy to others in these challenging times,” explains Bea.
“In my opinion, this virus has made everyone more compassionate,” she says. “I was doing the same [activities] before the virus and was not receiving the generosity I now am.”
5. Take Advantage of Virtual Networking Events
There are so many awesome events happening online right now. We’ve taken some virtual courses, attended worldwide summits, and met tons of new people. And you’ve been posting events on Alignable for your communities too.
If you haven’t gone to one yet, try it. Our expert networkers are finding great value from them and expanding their networks by showing up. You might too.
John Marchiony from Paragon Payment Solutions is enjoying all the events his local community has to offer. For example, he’s “continuing to participate in Networking Group USA virtual meetings with the Southcoast and MetroWest chapters.” And the “Cranberry Country Chamber of Commerce has at least two virtual networking events every week.”
If you need ideas, Networking Group USA has a free app with their online events. Try it out.
6. Focus on Grabbing Attention
To take on some of the challenges of online networking like distraction, we loved Gavin’s advice to work on your introduction. He recommends using “a question instead of a statement as your intro line.”
7. Build Your Brand
Aside from connecting with new people right now, our experts also talked about getting the word out through social networking.
Kim Green from Blank Page Consulting is doing so in a unique way. She’s “taking creative writing workshops via Zoom, which [she hopes] will increase visibility among writers who may consider taking on a writing project and, someday, may consider getting a coach.” Now that’s a smart idea.
In particular, he’s focused more on “inspirational, educational, branding, and informational messages.” Doing so has increased his “1-2-1 networking.” Great work, Matthew!
What Will You Try?
There are so many ways to virtually network, so see if any of the above tips work for you. And tell us what you tried, how it worked, and what else you’re doing to connect.
After all, we’re one big community, and supporting each other helps everyone succeed. We can’t wait to see you out there!
For more great networking tips, check out these articles:
- For introverts, this might be the ideal time to learn how to network. Check out: An Introvert’s Guide to Building a Referral Network
- To get the most out of your virtual business networking groups, learn 26 of the best networking tips from business networking group gurus.
- Learn How to Host a Great Business Networking Meetup in person and online.