Networking is not only about trading information, but also serves as an avenue to create long-term relationships with mutual benefits. It is a source of information to help you enhance your business, your knowledge and even gain referrals. In addition, it can lead to a support system as well. It can be a group of individuals who understand the same challenges you’re encountering and they can provide insight into how you should handle the barriers you’re up against. Or they can just be an ear to listen, which is sometimes all we need!
Most people, especially entrepreneurs, understand the importance of networking for their business.When COVID-19 hit last year, business owners didn’t know how to continue networking. Many businesses were negatively impacted during the pandemic and they were challenged to find new and innovative ways to pivot their businesses. For many, networking began to become a thing of the past as business owners were too busy focusing on other areas in order to try and stay afloat.
In this month’s blog post, we’re going to discuss how to enhance networking opportunities as well as provide you with some ideas of how to start building new relationships to foster your business.
To understand how COVID-19 has impacted networking, we’re going to look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. If you don’t remember from your introduction to Psychology class in college, Maslow’s Hierarchy is a motivational theory in psychology comprising a five-tier model of human needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid. From the bottom of the hierarchy upwards, the needs are: physiological (food and clothing), safety (job security), love and belonging needs (friendship), esteem, and self-actualization (McLeod, 2020). According to Maslow, needs lower down in the hierarchy must be satisfied before individuals can attend to needs higher up.
When COVID-19 began to impact our lives, people were losing their jobs, they were worried about paying their mortgage, finding hand sanitizer and clorox wipes; all while becoming a teacher to their children as they navigated virtual schooling. If you look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, none of our lower tier needs were being met. People were worried about their basic needs and because of that, their social and emotional health began to suffer.
Right now, 42% of employees are now working from home and 19% of remote employees report loneliness as their biggest challenge (Marinova, 2021).
Networking has become a challenge for most businesses because they are used to doing all of their networking in person such as attending networking events, going to lunch and learns, conferences, or having in person meetings with other organizations. Now that those areas have shifted with how things are done, business owners are confused as to how they can develop new relationships or cultivate current ones.
Instead of looking at the limitations that this pandemic has provided, we are going to focus on how this is going to help connect us and improve our networking moving forward.
We’re all in the same boat
Prior to the pandemic, when we would meet new connections for the first time, it could be difficult to strike up a conversation; especially if you are an introvert. Now, we all have something in common! An easy ice breaker both in person or in an online networking event is to ask everyone..
What challenges did you experience?
How are you staying motivated?
What new hobbies have you taken up?
This is something that everyone can relate to and it gives a great opportunity to strike up a conversation.
Find out what people need
Based on the statistics, it’s apparent that people are in desperate need of socialization and connection. Because of that, it’s a perfect time to put networking opportunities together!
“Connecting to another is one of the most important things in the world and you can keep expanding that connection- one person, a family, a community, a country, a society, a culture.”
Set up a once a month networking group (either online or outdoors). You can have different topics each month for everyone to talk about. You can give other organizations the opportunity to discuss helpful information or provide tutorials.
As an example, many people are struggling with understanding the technology in order to create powerpoint presentations or run tech friendly and efficient online meetings. You can have someone do a demo of useful technology (such as Slideuplife.com) to help business owners have an easier time making presentations.
Find out what people need and meet them there.
By doing this, you’re not only helping other entrepreneurs but you’re creating new connections, fostering current ones and positioning yourself as a leader and resource within your niche specialty.
Don’t forget about having fun
Networking doesn’t need to be all about learning and identifying referral sources. It can also be doing something fun and enjoyable with colleagues.
Since everyone is desperate for connection, reach out to your contacts to see if you can get a group together to do a live online fitness class or outdoor fitness class. This is something fun, enjoyable and people are able to look forward to it.
Obe Fitness is a great option to find live online classes.
If you reach out to your local town or library, you most likely will be able to find outdoor workout classes as well. This can be a great option to get outside, see people and get a workout in!
Make sure they know you’re thinking about them
If you haven’t been able to see some of your referral sources for your business or great connections that you have in the industry, make sure that they know you’re thinking of them. You can make up little baskets with cute gifts (such as a mug that says your business, note cards, water bottles, healthy snacks, etc). It’s a really nice surprise for people to get in the mail and it also makes them think of you and your business. Check out your local gift shops in your town. Many will do free deliveries!
Let us know in the thread how you’ve changed your networking strategies!
Marinova, Iva. (2021). 28 Need to Know Remote Work Statistics. Retrieved from: https://review42.com/resources/remote-work-statistics/
McLeod, Saul. (2020). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Retrieved from: https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html#gsc.tab=0