Networking for SMEs in the age of Covid-19

The world may not be the same for a while because of the Covid-19 pandemic, so it’s important for businesses to pause and acknowledge that. It’s also realistic to put in place temporary or permanent plans to keep networking and growing your business.

It’s definitely more difficult to make new connections while countries are in lockdown or emerging from the process - often with strict social distancing measures.

Here’s a few ideas to help you reach out to your existing and new professional connections in a safe and sensitive manner.

Contactless business cards

Physical printed business cards have been on their way out for a while with the growth of digital (or contactless business cards). A post-Covid-19 world will probably see their extinction. It’s simply no longer safe for strangers to be touching and passing on bits of cardboard to each other.

Also, around 90% of paper business cards are thrown away within the first week. Cards are a pain to carry around. Most end up in the bin. That’s not good for business, and it’s not good for the planet.

Contactless cards are customisable and easy to create with your branding and you can share them anywhere, anytime. Most work via QR codes, so a simple scan between phones and your details are passed on with little human contact. There are many providers. You can start looking at offerings from Haystack, Switchit, or Dibiz, or a Google search for “contactless business cards” will bring up countless choices to fit your business.

There are even industry specific contactless card providers that provide not only cards, but also other online networking opportunities. Contactless cards for the superyacht industry, anyone?

Find new ways of greeting

John Cleese (as Archie) in the comedy classic A Fish Called Wanda says: “Wanda, do you have any idea what it's like being English? Being so correct all the time, being so stifled by this dread of doing the wrong thing, of saying to someone "Are you married?" and hearing: "My wife left me this morning.”

A point relevant to life today. In the recent past, reaching out to someone with pleasantries like: “Hope you had a good weekend” would be alright, but at the moment there are ways we could all be writing better emails.

It’s important to add sincerity, and authenticity into any in-person or email greeting, especially with strangers or contacts you may not have seen in a while.

While not an exhaustive list, here are a few ideas:

“I’m reaching out hoping that you’re happy and healthy.”

“Hoping you and your family are staying safe.”

“How are you holding up?”

Some good closes:

“Stay safe.”

“Be well.”

“Take care and best wishes.”

Acknowledging how difficult things are for everyone can go a long way.

Video calls and conferences

Traditionally, networking opportunities with potential customers or partners is carried out over coffee or face-to-face meetings at an office. But personal meetings may be difficult to manage at the moment. So suggest a video call on Skype, Zoom or another similar service. Video chats enable people to actually see each other (and you can bring other parties into the conversation and demonstrate products or platforms).

Video calls can make it a lot easier to establish a connection and build trust with a new person than a phone call. You can be yourself, and they can have a better opportunity to judge your authenticity.

Check your technology works correctly before you begin. There’s nothing more likely to make you nervous than technology problems before you even start.

Get the most out of your phone system

While we’re on the subject of communication, it’s also important for an SME to maximise the potential, both in terms of price and functionality, of their phone system.

The Dial 9 business phone offers flexibility with pay as you go or add unlimited minutes, along with a wealth of features. Need to place callers into queues? Want detailed call logging and analytics? Dial 9’s offering is feature-rich and caters specifically to the needs of SMEs.

Optimising connections through LinkedIn

LinkedIn itself has provided a few general posting tips for the Covid-19 era, to help networking on their platform. A few of their ideas include:

Post about your experiences: While you may be reluctant to get too personal on a business platform, LinkedIn recommends sharing your personal stories and insights to maximise engagement. Examples could include sharing a post about what your new work day looks like, or post a question, like - “how do I get more contacts?”

Comment on conversations most relevant to you: LinkedIn recommends branching out and seeking discussions relevant to your business experiences. Searching hashtags is an easy way to do this. For example, if you discover a great way for your company to get more from online meetings, look up #videoconference and add your advice.

Try the LinkedIn online events feature: Launched late 2019, the LinkedIn events feature promotes, manages and coordinates online events. Think online workshops, seminars, sales and marketing events. Once you create an event, send invitations to connections to attend online or help build awareness through LinkedIn ads.

The key is to come up with engaging content that will keep your brand in the forefront of consumer’s minds.

Business (almost) as usual

While business may be different in the era of Covid-19, you can still connect with others in a real, authentic way.

Put in some thought and be creative.

A little bit about the author

I’m Lara and I’m the Marketing Manager at Dial 9. My favourite parts of my role are creating compelling content and stand-out design. Outside of work, I enjoy reading, travelling to new places, and spending as much time as possible with my nephew, Jack and niece Millie.

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