How small businesses can overcome another dismal fall networking season

Trader Talk

Small businesses, especially those in financial and professional services, typically rely heavily on in-person meetings, events and conferences to foster connection and visibility with their networks. After all, being present and active in the community is often vital for small business growth and customer retention.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 delta variant has already led to the re-implementation of mask mandates, hindered travel and workforce structures and is threatening fall events and conferences across the business community. Office work structures are also being threatened, and many workers are hesitant to remain or return to an in-person setting due to the risk of infection. Many companies have already pushed back their return-to-office dates to October, and other big names like Amazon and Lyft have delayed their corporate office re-openings until 2022.

If further restrictions are imposed, industry conferences, conventions and events may not hold the same networking value nor foster the same overall experiences they would under typical circumstances. After the pandemic sidelined many professionals from attending in-person business events for 18 months and counting, few can afford to sit out networking initiatives for another year. Now is the time for small businesses to pivot to digital strategies to stay relevant and present in front of key audiences.

With the full extent of disruption still unknown, the best hedge small businesses can take to avoid another year of stagnation and invisibility is to adopt digital networking strategies now.

Build visibility on LinkedIn and social media
One of the best ways small businesses — especially business-to-business and professional services firms — can stay in touch with an audience is through building an active presence on LinkedIn. The platform is ideal for connecting and engaging with colleagues, clients and prospects and offers less noise than other popular social media sites.

Build out your company’s LinkedIn profile and ensure that you are adding value with the content you share. Create content that is engaging, entertaining and educational for your audience, and make sure you are interacting with other people’s content as well.

For an additional personal touch, consider sharing video content, TV appearances and news commentary that will pique the interest of your audience and highlight your expertise.

Produce your own video content
Video content is an excellent way for small businesses to stay connected with an audience despite pandemic restrictions, and it has never been easier to produce your own videos using your phone, tablet or laptop.

Small businesses can record a sequence of talks, interviews or even solo explainer videos on topics of interest to their networks. Platforms like LinkedIn Live also allow you to livestream to your audience and interact with viewers through a running chat, making your videos a real-time conversation.

These video strategies offer the ability to create digital facetime that mimics the fondness and familiarity of an in-person event. Self-producing videos can help shape your brand personality and grow your reputation beyond the size of your small business.

Appear on TV and share with your network
As many nontraditional news platforms and streaming platforms emerge, the demand for TV-ready expert sources has never been greater, making now the opportune time to position yourself for broadcast appearances.

The pandemic has also normalized Zoom and Skype broadcast interviews, as opposed to remote studio appearances, making appearing on television extraordinarily convenient. Small businesses should leverage any appearances via their social media platforms and ensure that they are sharing appearances with their audiences through email lists and their websites. By establishing yourself as a TV personality, small business owners make themselves present and top of mind to their audiences, regardless of whether in-person contact is limited.

In this uncertain chapter and fractured networking environment, small businesses — especially those in financial and professional services — must be prepared to pivot to alternative digital networking strategies in order to stay connected and relevant to audiences with in-person events being threatened. By preparing now, small businesses can ensure they are fostering meaningful and impactful relationships with their networks and establishing resilient pipelines for long-term growth.

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