Creating and maintaining relationships is critical to our human experience, and we must now find innovative ways to do so without actually meeting in person. Not only do we need to stay in touch with our family and friends, but we must also continue to build our business networks.
One of the ways we can do that is by connecting through virtual networking. This allows us to create environments where meaningful connections can happen, while also counteracting the negative mental health effects that come from having reduced physical human interaction.
As entrepreneurs, we have a much greater need to network in order for our businesses to thrive, and luckily, we are typically better suited to pivot and adjust our actions to fit current needs.
Here are my five tips for staying engaged and connected from the comfort of your home office:
Get yourself a really good webcam, lighting, and a microphone. And please, put on pants. Just because you can roll out of bed and show up to a networking event in under two minutes doesn’t mean you should.
If you’re setting out to network and grow your business, you still need to make a good impression. These days, that means presenting with HD video, good lighting, and clear audio. There are some really inexpensive webcams that can make a world of difference. Feel free to reach out to me for recommendations.
Connect with your current audience and ask them to share your message with their friends. If you’re having trouble figuring out whether to go live on Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram, take this advice: Go where your people are most engaged.
It’s super easy to go live on either Facebook or Instagram, no matter how many followers you have, and doing so can be a great way to gain even more. YouTube is a bit of a different beast, as you need to have a minimum of 1,000 subscribers to go live from a mobile device.
If you can find someone with a good live-streaming setup, you can use a stream key to go live to your YouTube channel (no matter how many subscribers you have). If Youtube engagement is foreign to you, I would suggest working on building up your subscriber numbers first, or just stick with Facebook.
Make a point to email your contacts directly, at least once a month. Not just the public stuff you share on your social channels. Make it personal and vulnerable. Tell the stories of your business and connect with your email list in more meaningful ways. Maybe you’ve been struggling with something in the business lately, talk about it. Or if you’re having doubts about a new product line, voice your concerns. Give your audience a chance to provide input directly to you.
Your communications should be done on a consistent basis, and should be targeted or personalized to your audience. These people have explicitly given you access to their inbox — you should view that as a privilege. Break your lists into divisions that get their own version of targeted communications. Craft your message to speak to those audiences about the things they are interested in.
The return on investment of your time spent making sure your data is up to date and tagged with good meta-data will be well worth it. Also, invest in a good CRM to help you organize your lists and manage your communications, and conversions will follow.
Join (or, better yet, start) a monthly networking meetup to meet new prospects. There are groups out there for pretty much every industry. Whether they are meetup groups, online forums, Reddit channels, or hashtag streams, the audience you seek can be found.
You can find specifically focused groups on Meetup.com or Eventbrite, or just Google “_ meetup groups in (your state).” Take the time to check these places out, and just start to engage with people.
Answering questions and chatting with others can help you be seen as a “thought leader” in the group, and without being too spammy about it, you can drop links to your website or social channels to let people know how your business can help. I have had great luck connecting with like-minded clients, whom I love working with, in a group focused around a common interest or industry.
Sign up with local organizations or groups to present about your business/services. You can do a quick Google search for your local:
All of these organizations have a need to provide relevant business information to their memberships. Make sure what you’re presenting is a good match for the organization, and that it will be beneficial to their members. I recommend recording yourself giving the pitch a couple of times, so you can perfect things before you go live in front of the group. Adjust your references and anecdotes to match the audience you’re presenting to, and make sure your slide deck or follow up emails include your business information.
And lastly, be diligent in your follow-up with interested folks. They wouldn’t be interested if they didn’t feel like they had connected with you and your message in a meaningful way.
This is a difficult time to be an entrepreneur, but it’s not impossible. New needs are arising, and the things that once worked might not work anymore. One of the most beautiful things about owning your own small business is that you control the focus and you have the ability to pivot and address the needs of your customers in creative ways. We are only going to continue to be connected online, so now is as good a time as any to maximize your virtual connections.