By Bradley Hatchett – Founder of Network My Club
Back in May 2020, still early in the pandemic, our business suffered considerably.
As did many of our members – with lots of B2B industries impacted.
And in those first couple of months, when the world came to a grinding halt, we pivoted to online events. It was the only thing we could do.
To my surprise, people came. They continued to come, week-in, week-out.
But cynically, I didn’t really know why, as very few members were buying or doing business with others.
So we posed a question for a discussion point during an online event:
“Why are you networking right now?”
Which was when one of our members, Shirley, taught me two things:
- The true meaning of networking
- The importance of doing so when times aren’t so rosy
Shirley runs a business that provides promotional merchandise and branded items. A lot of which are for clients attending business/sporting events, exhibitions, conferences etc.
So as businesses go, hers couldn’t have really been impacted much harder.
But in response to the question, Shirley said:
“People don’t need what I do right now. But they will. Therefore, I’m networking so when they do, I’m the person they think of. I need to be front of mind, not my competitors.”
Fast forward to when the world emerged from the pandemic, as events restarted, members were first and foremost reaching out to Shirley with enquiries.
Even event visitors who met Shirley only once were reaching out to me asking who the ‘promotional merchandise lady’ was, and if I could connect them with her.
I’m inclined to focus back on this learning as we head into another period of economic uncertainty.
Shirley’s approach alone is one of the big reasons we now talk so often about how networking really is ‘becoming the person people think of’.
Many will be expected to cut their marketing budgets. Including networking events and memberships.
Many will bury their heads in the sand, waiting for it to pass.
But the impact of doing this down the line is that you’ll only be playing catch up.
You may not see it now, but your future self and business will be thankful for remaining consistent with your networking, and keeping yourself out there.
People are quick to forget. And you don’t want to be back networking when your business really needs to, or only when you feel you can get something from it. That’ll be too late.
There’s a phrase in Keith Ferrazzi’s best seller, Never Eat Alone, that I encourage others to remember; “build it before you need it.”
Or even a book by Harvey Mackay named; “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty”.
Which put simply, translates to – the best time to be networking is when you don’t need to.
So, if business has slowed, or if you’re fearing it could do, here are 7 ways to use your networking time effectively over the coming months to dig your well:
- Get closer to clients – take time to listen how you could better serve them, if they are having to evolve or adapt, or by simply how you can support them further by connecting them with someone you know. This could be at events you attend together, or outside of them.
- Get closer to prospects – learn what challenges they are going through by leading with genuine curiosity, finding how you can either evolve your offering or offer value and experience to help them overcome them.
- Use your network to help others – you might not be receiving as much as you’d like through your network, but you can support others by finding ways to give and connect them using with your own. This one is a big one that’ll come back your way down the line.
- Adjust your offering – maybe there is a new opportunity to explore or emerging problem you feel you can solve, either short-term or long-term. During the pandemic we had to adjust our offering to online, but embraced it so much that we continue today. Is there an avenue you could explore going down to unlock a new service and revenue stream?
- Learn from other businesses – different sectors, size of businesses, age of business, they will all be going through different challenges. Improving your knowledge here will arm you better to help or provide insight to others, ultimately adding value to your network.
- Surround yourself with others facing similar challenges – being a business owner is lonely at the best of times, but it can feel even lonelier in times like this. Being around others to share challenges with, being open and honest as to where you need support, you’ll find others want to help. Let them in and let them do so. It’s easy to think networking is all about the new business, but sometimes it’s the support network around you where the value is.
- Speak to your networking membership organisations – update them on current challenges, changes in your business, where you need support, or where the growth opportunities are. Look beyond the events to see what other business support is on offer. They are there to help you!
By all means assess your current networking activity. Reduce spends accordingly, yes. Manage risk, yes. Work smarter, yes.
But whilst a lot may feel out of your control, one thing that you can ensure is how you consistently show up.
So, avoid burying your head in the sand. Don’t go off the grid. Don’t be forgotten.
Because when people are ready to buy, or they know someone that is, is it you or your competitor they’re going to think of?
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