According to a recent study, for 78 percent of all startups, networking is key. It’s been effectively proven to be a great way to form collaborations, access talent, break into new markets, enhance products and form life-long partnerships. In a pre-pandemic world, we saw thousands of events, collectives across ecosystems fostering just that, and it worked! But how do startups today continue to leverage the impact of networking? With the world still under lockdown in most parts and rapid adoption of going remote-first, the rules of traditional networking have been overhauled. How entrepreneurs can navigate through these new rules and make the most of it:
Adapt to the new normal:
Most networking entities have chosen to go online and have found a way to ensure that the value proposition gets translated. Moving online has actually helped people network more effectively as dedicated sessions, one-on-one coaching and organised time-slots make way. Find platforms that work for you and commit to engaging with them on a regular basis. What’s great is that since the overheads of offline networking have been taken away, you can be part of multiple such initiatives simultaneously.
Tap uncharted territory: One of the biggest advantages of moving online for networking is access to global networks. Offline global networks/events often posted challenges such as finances, timing or logistics, all of this has been solved for largely with the advent of remote-led engagement. This is an ideal time to tap into networks/mentors across global ecosystems that are available via virtual mediums.
Choose a goal: It’s hard to get what you want out of your networking endeavours if you don’t start with a clear agenda. Before attending meetings or events, take the time to determine what your goals are for the experience. For example, you might want to break into new markets or hire top talent, choose your platform basis your goals. Since most of these sessions are online, have an outline for what you want and keep referring to them through your sessions. It can also be used to navigate through larger groups such as webinars, open mics.
Know your worth: It’s not enough to provide your clients and investors with a great product or service. If you can’t articulate what it is you do, then you can’t hope to convey that information at networking events. Whether your goal is to generate referrals or simply build your virtual Rolodex for the future, you should take time to generate an elevator pitch that conveys what you do, for whom you do it, and why customers should choose you over your competition.
Find a reason to followup: Making connections is only half the battle; you also have to take steps to keep the relationship going. Always strive to reach out to your contacts a few times a year to follow up. You could forward a relevant article, invite them to a seminar or conference, or even just send a friendly note during the holidays. Of course, being successful in networking is about more than what you do. It’s also about what not to do.
Share meaningful information: Online we tend to follow those who regularly provide information that is valuable to us. Instead of reminding everyone about your new product and new research for the hundredth time, re-tweet interesting posts or create your own blog filled with insight. If you link it on social media, you may find you get multiple shares and re-tweets. This way you can also build top of mind recall for yourself.
Prune, renew & reshape your networks frequently: Lastly, nurture people relationships critical to your organisation carefully and often. Push contacts whose usefulness has diminished over time into your inactive network. Regularly identify new relationships that are vital to the future of your business, and define strategies to build these connections. More relationships are not always better. Highly successful business leaders don't necessarily have larger networks. Be selective about the associations you form, listen carefully for situations where you can add value and derive value, and prune the rest.
—Upasna Dash is Co-Founder, IndiaRath. The views expressed are personal.