Ep 21 – Leanne Shelton : Virtual Networking for beginners

Jun 1, 2020

Rethink your networking strategy

I don’t know about you – but networking has been a key part of my marketing strategy.

I enjoy meeting new people. Hearing their stories. And feeding off their enthusiastic energy!

But ‘the virus that shall not be named’ took the networking thing away from me. From all of us!

So I had to re-think my approach.

I was actually meant to run a face-to-face workshop on ‘Networking for Beginners’, that was meant to be funded by City of Parramatta.

But when this virus hit, those plans went out the window!

So I changed the topic to ‘Virtual networking for beginners’ and turned it into a virtual workshop. Which is like a webinar – but with more personality and interaction!

And it was very well-received.

So, in today’s episode of ‘Marketing and Me’, I wanted to go through my virtual networking tips with you.

We don’t know when our networking groups will be back to normal, so these tips will carry you through and ensure you can continue to grow your business during uncertain times.

And when things DO go back to normal, these tips will definitely remain relevant to remain top of mind with your potential and current clients.

So let’s jump into the episode!

So yes, today is all about virtual networking. In other words, creating a strong digital presence.
As I mentioned in the intro, I had to turn a whole bunch of face to face workshops into virtual workshops due to the virus.

And I also changed a 6 week face-to-face marketing masterclass into a 6 week online course.

Yes, I didn’t HAVE to do any of these changes. But I knew I had to seek opportunities and find some light in the dark tunnel of uncertainty.

And, you know what? It’s challenged me. In a good way.

I intended to start doing webinars and online courses later in the year. But suddenly, I was in a position where I could try them out right now – and be paid by the local council AND be able to offer something for free to many struggling business owners out there.

So it was a win-win-win. For the council, for the business owners, and for me.

It’s given me something to focus on – and I’ve felt so empowered as a result.

The 6 week online course for building digital visibility is currently underway and has over 100 people in. There is no way I would have had that many people show up if it was a face-to-face workshop.

And now I’m looking into setting up a paid membership group – which is something else I’ve been pondering about.

So if you’re loving this podcast, which I hope you are, and you’re interested in developing your marketing mindset and knowledge via training from me and other marketing experts – along with group coaching calls and opportunities to have copy edited for free, then pop me an email to leanne@writetimemarketing.com.au with ‘Membership waitlist’ in the subject line – and I’ll keep you posted!

Anyway, that’s enough about me. Let’s get into this virtual networking thing!

I have a range of tips for you to help you build your online presence – either now or after things go back to the ‘old’ normal.

Make the most of those business cards!

Have you collected piles of cards over the past 6 months – and forgot to do anything with them? Now is the time to take action. Reach out to those people – by calling or emailing if you feel more comfortable. Set up a Zoom coffee chat perhaps and talk about that potential collaboration or future work together. Or just chat about how you’re managing the current climate.

In addition, send a request to those people via LinkedIn. And, if you have a Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) add them and insert notes regarding your correspondence.

Reach out to old and current clients

I think most people are appreciative of phone calls at the moment when they’re otherwise so isolated. So pick up the phone and call that old or current client to check in. Don’t go in with a sales approach though. Just take it as an opportunity to re-connect and see how they’re going. You can slip in a mention of a refer-a-friend deal if they come across anyone needing your products or services right now.

If phone calls are too tricky with kids and home-schooling etc, then send out a bunch of personalised emails when you get the chance.

Connect with like-minded business owners

Whether you’ve heard about them, seen them mentioned in a Facebook Group, connected on LinkedIn, or met in real life, reach out to others in the same industry. There might be opportunities to collaborate on a new project or support one another by referring work if one person has an overflow. You never know!

Send some cold emails

Have a dream client you’d love to work with? Do some research about them – check out their website and socials. Can you see any obvious gaps you’re able to fill? Or do you have other clients in similar fields to them who are benefitting from your services right now? Type and send a personalised email explaining how you can help – and propose a Zoom chat to discuss.

Create your own virtual gatherings

Set up a Facebook event to host your own virtual networking session via Zoom. Invite some energetic business owners you’ve met in the past and encourage them to invite others. Create a loose agenda such as introductions, guest speaker, and general discussion time around a particular topic. Encourage everyone to interact in the chat box and swap LinkedIn links and email addresses. As host, you could also encourage attendees to buddy up with one another and encourage them to follow up the session with a Zoom coffee catch up – to either become more acquainted or become a ‘check in’ buddy.

Do Facebook Lives

Don’t be scared – show your face more on your Facebook business page. Even if you’re just giving updates on your business and life status (without sharing) if you’re not working at the moment. Or share any shifts you’re making in your business.

It could be awhile before people see you in person – so make sure they don’t forget what you look like. You never know who’s watching…Maybe someone who’s been sitting on the fence – and finally needs your services.

Keep an eye out for virtual interaction opportunities

If you’re in a networking or Facebook group that’s organising virtual meet ups or webinars – get involved! Don’t shy away from them – and ensure you have a working camera so they see your face. You never know what you’ll learn and who you’ll virtually bump into it. Reach out to anyone who seems like a good fit for you.

Extra tips – Jump into the call as soon as possible. You’ll likely score extra time to connect with the host and other participants before the formalities begin.

Bring your positive attitude.

Also – remember your face can be seen by someone at all times. Try to smile…

Put your hand up for guest blogging and podcasting opportunities

Get yourself in front of a new audience and share your expertise! It’s your chance to share details about your business and your website link. It’s free to do, but can be quite effective.

Search for new business Facebook groups

There’s a lot of online groups out there – and now is the time to be a part of them. There’s probably other Meet Up groups going online as well. Look up groups based on your ideal client (e.g. Health and wellness related, parenting, mental health etc) or just general business-related – and get involved!

Interact. Answer and ask questions. Do Facebook Lives or videos if they’re encouraged etc. Put your name forward if someone asks for someone with your skillset – and recommend others as well. Increase your visibility as much as possible to make your name known.

Improve your LinkedIn profile

Even if you have a detailed About Page on your website, LinkedIn allows you to paint a true picture of you and your business journey. Yes, it’s a bit like an online resume, but aimed at potential customers rather than potential bosses.
In the Profile section, you can showcase articles, documents, videos, and photos that best reflect your talents and knowledge.
You can also insert your educational background, achievements, licenses and certifications, and volunteer experience. The last part is especially great for highlighting your non-business side.
So how do you ensure your profile attracts attention?
Here are some tips –
Insert your contact details at the top of your summary intro – so it’s the first thing people see.
Also make sure your key offerings are visible upfront.
It’s good to list all educational institutions. You never know who might connect with you after seeing what high school you went to!
Be conversational – help people connect with you on an emotional level. Don’t just list achievements without any personality.
Ensure the information is spread out to make it easy to read.
Add media wherever you can – including past job roles.
Include links to your website, blog, podcast, portfolio, YouTube channel etc.
Add call to actions – like ‘Watch a video, ‘Listen to a podcast’, request a quote.

Build LinkedIn Credibility
Thanks to the ‘Recommendations’ feature, past customers and colleagues can share some nice words about you to capture the interest of new prospects.
It’s perfect for building further trust and credibility – and increasing opportunities to generate leads and sales. So don’t be afraid to reach out to your connections and ask them to recommend you!
How do you get recommendations? Recommend others! It will probably encourage them to reciprocate.

  1. Create a LinkedIn Community
    Just like Facebook, the platform provides the opportunity to create an online community via LinkedIn Groups.
    By building a group, you can attract membership of potential and existing customers, plus professionals in the same industry or with similar interests, to share insights and experiences with one another. As a result, you can build valuable connections and potential collaborations.
    As a bonus, your group will attract viewers to your Company Page as well.
    I admit I haven’t played around with this feature yet, but it’s something I’m hoping to get onto in the near future.

  2. Find new leads
    Like Facebook and Instagram, LinkedIn utilises hashtags to help with searches.
    If you work on a B2B level, you can search for potential collaboration partners and be inspired by content shared by people in the same industry as you.
    Alternatively, you can expand your network by creating new connections based on recommendations in the ‘My Network’ tab.
    Some people choose to only connect with people they know. This is great if you only want a close-knit community – knowing you personally know everyone in your network and can therefore refer them with ease.
    However, the LinkedIn experts advise accepting anyone and everyone who sends you an invitation – and recommend sending invites to anyone who could be a good connection.
    This is because it expands your network and you never know – they might have connections who’ll see your posts and you’re the exact person they’ve been looking for! And you would have otherwise never met online.
    Extra tips – Send a message with your connection request. Once connected, do a voice clip so they get a better feel for who you are. Request a Zoom chat. Worst case scenario, they say no or don’t respond!

  3. Share a variety of different posts to capture interest
    There are 5 different types of posts I recommend –
    Long form storytelling – These are the posts where you share something about you or a client you’ve helped. They’re longer and usually have a question at the end to encourage interaction.
    Video – Some of you will hate me saying this, but video is so powerful for connecting with others online. And the algorithm prefers video as well! With or without captions, I challenge you to give it a go!
    Advice – Are you pondering about something? Or seeking input regarding a new product or service you’re considering. Ask away and see what people say!
    Social proof – Don’t be afraid to share testimonials and Google reviews etc – via a print screen or a pretty Canva graphic. Then add your thoughts around the project or how the feedback made you feel.
    Call to action – Yes, it’s okay to sometimes sell your products or services on LinkedIn. Just make sure it’s a fifth of the posts you do!

And thanks to you, dear listener, for tuning in.
You can find show notes for the episode at marketingandme.com.au

If you enjoyed listening, please subscribe and leave me a rating and review on iTunes.

You’re also welcome to join the ‘Marketing & Me Podcast’ Facebook Group where you can ask questions and discuss recent episodes with other listeners.

If you’re interested in connecting with me, feel free to reach out to me via LinkedIn. Just search for Leanne Shelton.

And if you want to learn more about content marketing strategies or outsource it to me, head to my website writetimemarketing.com.au and book in a FREE 30 minute Discovery Call.
If you’re interested in my upcoming paid membership, email ‘Membership waitlist’ to leanne@writetimemarketing.com.au

Until next time – I wish you good health and good wealth.

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