It has never been easier to connect with potential customers. And that’s all thanks to digital technology.
Does this just mean social media? We don’t think so.
In this article we look at how networking has changed over the years and the digital tools available to make every connection more personal.
Old Fashioned Networking
Way back when, people lived in small, self-sufficient communities. The average person knew, at most, around 150 people.
Then came the industrial revolution. We needed to collaborate with a wide range of people to be able to deliver complex, large-scale business.
Ties were often extended by family, religious, political and cultural connections. This led to the development of a system of common values and rules between business people that reduced conflict and eased transactions.
The basis of the foundation that these relationships were built on? Trust.
Building Trust in Person
When we think of networking pre-internet, it’s likely we call to mind Victorian-era gentlemen’s clubs or boozy 1980s networking lunches. Yet there were also other methods that were not that dissimilar to those we use today.
Although the technology being employed was very different, historic networking methods shared many of the characteristics of modern social media. People used handles or aliases, they adopted ‘in-crowd lingo’ and blurred the boundaries between private and public conversations.
The most recent game-changer – the internet – brought people together via online platforms, as Time magazine states:
“Although social media’s rise has been sudden … it didn’t occur in a vacuum. Before Facebook and Twitter, before MySpace and Friendster, there were Usenet newsgroups, AOL chat rooms and online bulletin boards.”
From static mediums, like TV, radio and print the internet brought networking and connectivity alive. People could interact with others one-on-one or in groups. This made relationships feel more intimate at the same time as expanding businesses reach.
Of course, today, when we think of business networking it’s LinkedIn that springs to mind.
With over 500 million users, LinkedIn’s membership equates to over 60% of the UK workforce. These powerful stats have encouraged an upsurge in numbers with people flocking to this platform over the past 18 months.
However, many users visit the site on an ad-hoc basis. With that in mind, here are our three tips to help you make the most of LinkedIn:
- Use the site regularly – only about 20% of LinkedIn users turn up regularly on the platform. Keep being seen to build relationships and create the sense of trust required for you to do business.
- Build your personal brand – unless you’re a large corporate, you’ll promote your business through your personal profile. This means you need to present yourself in the right way. This is particularly true for smaller business owners as you are often your brand’s unique selling point.
- Develop a testimonial strategy – trust is key so let your happy clients tell prospects just how great you are.
- Follow up in-person networking – any time you meet someone new, get a business card or attend a networking event, find your new contacts in LinkedIn. This is an easy way to build your network, fast.
Social platforms are useful but they do have their limitations. What happens if you want to understand each individual’s place in that network or evaluate how important that connection could be for you?
Most of the best-known platforms don’t offer this functionality. However, new platforms are being rolled out that do.
Take Lifograph. This platform describes itself as ‘the Wiki of people’ and provides a visualisation of connections with a handy graph. Unfortunately for UK entrepreneurs, it’s specific to Silicon Valley business owners and venture capitalists. However, the premise of a networking site that does more than share information is catching on.
In the UK a similar platform called Opportunity has been rolled out. It’s described as:
“A business network that uses a matchmaking algorithm to connect you with other professionals who can provide employment, sales, networking and relationship opportunities.”
Looking for marketing support or a website designer and want to advertise your job? Need Manchester IT support? Opportunity will help you find it.
Add Contacts Digitally
Many people connect digitally and work remotely consigning traditional methods of connection to the past.
But when you do meet people face-to-face, it’s inevitable that you’ll swap business cards.
Despite best intentions, you don’t have time to add business card details to your CRM. Which is where new technology comes in.
ScanBizCards is an app that scans and adds details to your contact lists, filling in email addresses, social media profiles, names and numbers. It won’t matter if you lose the card; everything is saved digitally.
Will this be the end of multiple business cards? Will we all just need one card that’s handed over, scanned and passed back? Watch this space.
Huh? In-person contact in a blog about digital networking?
Face-to-face doesn’t have to mean in-person any more.
Tools like Skype for business and VOIP mean you connect with people over the internet anywhere in the world without hammering your phone bill.
You can also choose to talk via video so you can read the other person’s expressions and get a better feel for who you’re dealing with. Research shows that this builds trust and all without the added time or expense of travel.
If you need help implementing video conferencing in your business, get in touch.
Closer Working Through Digital Technology
Once you’ve connected, built your relationships and secured the business, you need to be able to work closely together. That could mean collaborating with people just down the street, in another part of the UK or even overseas.
You need the right technology to do this.
Firewalls and server-hosted networks won’t enable you to share files and folders. You need cloud-based technology that people can be given access to without compromising the security of other data. By creating shared networks over the internet, you can collaborate quickly and easily to deliver a high quality service to your customers.
SAN-iT is an experienced Manchester IT support firm that can help you connect with prospective and existing customers using digital technology. If you want to find out more, get in touch with one of our friendly team.