The Importance of Business Networking Groups During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Economic Crisis
Why do you need to be in a business networking group?
By Bill Corbett, Jr.
As a member of several business networking groups, I often get asked the same questions: Why are you in that business group? Do you get business from it? Is it worth what you spend? What do you get out of it?
In these times of economic hardship and concerns about personal health and safety, now is the time when the true value of a networking groups comes into play.
I first want to stress that membership in a networking organization, chamber of commerce or larger business group is not an expense – it is an investment not only in your personal brand, which is critical, but most importantly, it is an investment in developing relationships and contacts.
I believe that your reputation is your most important asset and your relationships and contacts are a close second (or maybe third), behind your personal skills and talents.
The relationships that you have today through your networking must be leveraged. For many, I truly believe that these personal connections will be instrumental in getting them through this current ordeal. This crisis is where the all the investments in time driving to and from events and meetings, doing one-on-ones and exploring mutual opportunities will pay off.
If you are part of a networking group or manage a group, as I have done over the years, now is the time to reach out and connect with as many people as possible. This is also the opportunity to make sure that your “real world” brand matches your online brand.
What this means is ensuring all of your online profiles, especially your LinkedIn profile and your bio on your company website, are up-to-date and have a quality photo as well (stay tuned for a blog on this topic). If you need some inspirational thoughts, please read my prior blog entry on this subject: https://corbettpr.com/is-it-time-for-a-business-or-personal-branding-makeover-or-update/
Here are some suggestions for building and leveraging your business networking relationships:
- Schedule one-on-one video It is critical to do this using video chat. The experience is more personal and in this time of isolation, visual contact is key. Look at your group member lists and work your way through. Start scheduling 15 to 30-minute meetings. Remember to plan out a meeting; have an agenda, questions and do your homework by looking at the company website and LinkedIn profile of those with whom you are meeting.
- Zoom.us (Free) https://zoom.us/
- Skype (Free) https://www.skype.com/en/
- Google Hangouts (Free) https://hangouts.google.com/
- Go To Meeting (Approx. 12 per month) https://www.gotomeeting.com/
- Apple Face Time (iPhone users only)
- Set up group meetings. For organizers or members, take the time to get the technology in place to have three or more people join a meeting.
These are some ideas for these group meetings:
- Member spotlights that allow individual members to talk about what they do and what they are doing now.
- Educational programs for members who are struggling with technology or other issues related to working remotely.
- Assistance and discussion of navigating financial concerns and how to apply for federal or state assistance.
- Best practices for working from home and staying focused.
- Discussion of tools, technology and apps to use to enhance efficiency.
- Discussion of books, podcasts or other helpful business-focused resources.
- Have fun and work together to relieve/reduce stress.
- Leverage social media groups and pages. Social media offers great tools and platforms that will help members stay connected, build stronger relationships and reduce stress and anxiety. Since members are checking LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media sites regularly, create your own group page and organization page. Most groups probably have these set up already; now is the time to use them. Groups are helpful for keeping content focused and separated for the general flow of posts and information. Members know they can go to the groups the get specific information.
Use Facebook and LinkedIn groups to:
- Post questions
- Share articles, podcasts and videos that will be helpful
- Share helpful resources
- Set up notices for group meetings
- The group is a better place for posting specific calls for help and assistance. Many may not want to put this information out to all followers.
- Share updated contact information. Many businesses have been caught off guard by the crisis. Group leaders and members must proactively communicate and collect information so that everyone can be reached.
Group leaders should:
- Remain positive and support members, even if it is simply providing time to listen.
- Share updated member directories and contact information.
- Update contact information on group web pages and social media sites.
- Group leaders must communicate regularly with members by email, on social media, by phone, text and video, if possible. Keep members informed about activities and to collect missing information.
Group members should:
- Support fellow members, encourage others to do the same and remain positive.
- Join and follow group social media sites and groups.
- Share updated information, including home numbers and cell numbers with group leaders and members (when appropriate).
- Share home or personal email addresses, especially if you can’t access work email or at least as a backup.
- Ask questions and share information with members.
- Support fellow members and encourage others to do the same.
Networking and building trusting relationships are always critical for business success. Today, we have amazing technology that will allow us to adapt and get through this challenging time. Small business owners and executives are in a position now where, with some hard work and coordination, they can emerge from this crisis stronger than ever before.
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