In the 21st century, we need to start looking at networking differently. We have all the technology at our disposal, and we should use it to our advantage.
The hurdle lies in the understanding of the virtual concept.
Working ‘offline’ or virtually, is just like working in an office, the only difference is that you choose where your office is. It can be anywhere. From your home office to a quiet restaurant or a park on the side of a busy road.
Meetings can still take place, albeit not physically getting into your vehicle and attending a meeting at a building, using technology to ‘attend’ meetings is just as productive and viable as meeting face to face. In fact, it might even be more feasible and more productive in the long run as you are cutting various costs and efforts.
The need to travel from one place to another to attend a meeting is eliminated which means that the cost implications are far less. The same communication and interaction will occur, the difference is the use of technology. Online communication, online networking and so on has an additional benefit and that is that it can be recorded.
When you start a business, finding clients and confirming meetings might be a struggle as people don’t have time anymore, nor do they have the inclination to attend meetings that they may or may not benefit from.
A Virtual meeting will still take time, but you immediately eliminate the travel time which already makes the day more efficient.
Online meetings must also take place regularly and persistence is the key to success. Through regular online meetings, your clients or potential clients will get to know you. It is also important that you have a digital platform that you can refer people to. This will ensure that they can relate with you and that they can legitimise you and the work you do. You must have an online presence. Keep in mind that scammers are always busy doing what they are good at – scamming people, and most people are wary and cautious when it comes to online businesses, which is why you need to ensure that clients can communicate with you, that they are able to verify your existence and that they are able to believe in your services.
Working virtually means you can be anywhere at any time. If you live in Johannesburg and you have a meeting in Cape Town, you can attend it hassle-free from the comfort of your own home office, or wherever you choose.
Word of mouth is a very powerful marketing tool. Referrals are incredibly valuable as it will come from someone that a potential client knows. Take a hairdresser for example. If a woman visits a hairdresser and she is happy with the service that she has received, she will tell her friends and without too much convincing, they will also visit that hairdresser simply because their friend was happy with the outcome. The same principle applies to any service you wish to render. In essence, when one of your existing clients are happy with the service you deliver and they refer someone else to you, they become part of your marketing team.
Online networking is done via an introduction by someone that is already part of the network. You will sit in your own office, virtually chatting with everyone attending the meeting. As with any other meeting, there will be a chairperson, someone who manages and coordinates the meetings.
Two-thirds of businesses today are small/medium businesses. We need to remember that these are the businesses that give the work. Finding the work is where the trick comes in. We tend to work harder, not smarter.
This is where the online referral network comes in and works wonders. This is a smarter way of working. Yes, it still requires work, it still requires you to follow up, to network and to promote your business, it’s not magic but it is a much smarter way of working.
Providing your details to the host of the meeting will be a requirement because you need to be verified. Being connected and participating in the meetings will further extend your platform and it will increase your referrals. This is the main aim of online networking.
All you need to do is to convince a potential client to listen to you, to invite you to the next meeting and to want to speak to you and ultimately to do business with you.
The beauty of online referrals is that there are no limitations. You can be anywhere, and you can still attend a meeting, deliver a presentation and promote your business.
Virtual offices are the way of the future. It needs to be embraced. We have all the technology available.