If business networking is important for your business, the time of covid has been hard on you. However, that doesn’t mean all networking had to stop. It simply means your business networking has to pivot with the times. How can you still meet new people and connect with potential clients and referral partners without going to events? The internet and social networking have to be your friends.
I hate cold calling. You probably hate cold calling. The vast majority of the world hates making and receiving cold calls. So, why do we still have this practice? It is safe to say that I’m not advocating anyone cold call or even cold email someone to try to get their business. However, there is one instance where I still see cold emailing as a viable option.
When you’re looking to create some sort of partnership that benefits the person you’re cold emailing as much or more than yourself, that’s a good time to reach out without knowing them first. For example, late in 2020, I reached out to Habitat for Humanity Durham to see if they’d be willing to be interviewed for another site of mine. They loved the idea and were given the opportunity to showcase what they’re doing and create a greater reach. I got fresh content for my site and got to know more about Habitat and what they were actively doing during the pandemic. It was a win-win.
However, I would never have reached out to Habitat in a scenario where I was selling them something or requiring that they do a lot of work for the potential of a reward. That’s where cold calling fails. If I had a warm introduction to them, I’d be in a better shape to make that pitch as long as it was still a win-win for them and me.
Reconnecting with Old Clients & Colleagues
A better approach to expanding your network is to reconnect with old clients and colleagues. If a relationship has gone stale, it’s a great opportunity to reach out to them and see how things are going. Chances are, things are weird right now. It’s weird for everyone.
A reconnection is basically a warm introduction from yourself. And, don’t worry if it has been too long. Your client or colleague also hasn’t taken the time to reach out to you. It’s a great time to see how their personal and business lives have been going, if their business has changed in any way, and who they’re looking to meet. Nothing sets the tone better than asking how you can help them grow their business. I find that most people are more than happy to reciprocate.
The Introduction Game
If you’ve reconnected with someone or met someone for the first time, always be prepared to ask who they’re looking to meet. This can be for potential clients and for potential referral partners, though it is always easiest to refer potential referral partners. Then, when it is your turn, have a narrow description for who you’re trying to meet. For me, I’m always looking to meet CPAs, business coaches, marketing professionals for small businesses, and of course, small business owners. The more narrow your answer is, the easier it is for your connection to refer to you.
For example, if you want to meet residential trades, don’t just say that. Tell them you’re looking for handymen, plumbers, electricians, drywall, landscapers, and cabinetry designers for homes and other residential projects. This will jar their memory faster than “residential trades”.
You score some points with people if you make quality introductions for them. That way, you’ve already built up some goodwill in their eyes when they need to make introductions for their clients or their network.
It’s rare, but sometimes people don’t reciprocate when you ask who they’re looking to meet. It happens and you shouldn’t push too hard. Instead, I’d recommend following up with an email that says it was a pleasure to meet with them and that if they happened to know anyone who fits X description in their networking, you’d love an opportunity for an introduction.
Zoom & Other Video Conferencing
If you’re the type of person who still needs to see your connection’s face (I’m not), then Zoom or other video conferencing software is your go-to. Zoom is free as long as your meetings are 45 minutes or shorter, and your networking meetings absolutely should be.
Switch to Other Varieties of Marketing
Work from home might be a time to look at other forms of marketing. If it can work for you, it is usually a good idea to diversify how you get business. I’ve recently written on content marketing. It’s a slower way to gain business, but it has the advantage of being long lasting. A good bit of content can carry you for years if it takes hold.
During the pandemic, I’ve seen a lot of creative ways people have learned to get their brand out there. These range from staring new groups or hobbies to revolutionizing the way their industry is run. There’s a wide range of ideas in front of you. The hard part is figuring out what those are and what works for you.