Since the beginning of time, effective networkers have relied on in-person events to develop strong connections and grow their network. According to a study by the Harvard Review, 95% of people say face-to-face meetings are essential for long-term business relationships. It’s been estimated that companies receive an average of $12.50 in business value for every dollar invested in business travel and that the average company would lose 17% of its profits if it eliminated business travel.
So, what happens when in-person events are no longer an option? In all likelihood, in-person networking events of any meaningful scale are not going to happen in 2020. Facebook was a first mover in canceling all of its planned physical events with 50 or more people through June 2021 back in April. Many executives agree. According to a recent survey, nearly half of association executives say the earliest date they expect their organization to resume in-person events is January 2021.
So how do CEOs foster relationships with potential partners and investors meet new founders in a remote world?
Fully leverage your team's network.
Your team is sitting on millions of data points on your relationships. These data points live in your digital communications. By surfacing this data, you can gain a better understanding of who knows whom and who in your network can provide a valuable introduction to your next opportunity.
Unfortunately, the millions of data points that comprise your networks are embedded in a multitude of different digital platforms—LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, email, and more. It’s cognitively impossible for an individual to stitch these data points together in a way that gives insight into the strength of one’s relationships. Fortunately, Affinity does the heavy lifting for you, enabling you to makes sense of all your communications data and neatly organizes it so you always have an understanding of who your team knows.
LinkedIn is a great go-to for networking while physically distant. Yet leveraging LinkedIn as an effective social networking tools is difficult and involves much more than sending a connection request.
To increase your chances of establishing strong connections via LinkedIn, be sure to update your LinkedIn profile, including with a professional picture with a plain background, good lighting, and an inviting smile. Update your interests. Join and engage in interest groups and discussions. And solicit some updated recommendations from well-respected colleagues and peers that demonstrate your strengths.
Carmen Fontana—who’s been named one of “9 Female Tech Influencers You Should Be Following on Social Media” has offered a somewhat counterintuitive tip for networking on LinkedIn. She recommends engaging with unsolicited connection requests. As she’s explained,
I know some people keep their guard up with whom they connect with and never accept unsolicited requests. But, when it comes to virtual networking, the more, the merrier! Unsolicited requests can lead to engaging in far-reaching conversations on a variety of topics. I’ve participated in LinkedIn conversations ranging from financial markets in Egypt to venture capital in Youngstown. You never where a random request might take you. ‘Thanks for pro-actively connecting with me. I see you are a researcher in the Natural Language Processing space. What are the most interesting advancements you are seeing in this field right now?'
Without the serendipity of in-person networking events, engaging with unsolicited connection requests can be the next best thing.
To get more out of LinkedIn, download Affinity's Chrome extension, Pathfinder to highlight relationship strength and the appropriate paths to an introduction.
Social capital is your network of relationships—all the people who you have influence over and who influences you. Monetary capital is straightforward to calculate—more or less, it’s the number of dollars and cents you have to your name. But social capital is more difficult. It can’t be calculated using vanity metrics such as the number of LinkedIn connections or Facebook friends you have. In reality, we only know a small fraction of our social networking connections on a deep level.
In order to scale referrals and warm introductions, having an accurate understanding of your social capital is essential to your success. Affinity's Alliance feature allows you to connect with your closest allies to understand who they know and how well. This information can supercharge your networking.
Why has ABM gained so much traction in recent years? Revenue teams realized that purely hounding prospects to purchase their products and services was not conducive to building long-lasting relationships. Two key components of ABM are personalization and a gift. Personalization shows that you care—that you took the time to understand who they are and what they need. Gifting is grounded in the philosophy that giving engenders trust. In his book "Give and Take", Adam Grant outlines three distinct groups of people: givers, takers, and matchers. According to Grant’s research, givers tend to be most successful. They adopt a long-term view and focus on how they can help others. By putting others' interests first, they gain high levels of trust and respect.
Investors in venture capital and business development teams in private equity are now starting to implement ABM strategies in order to break through to founders, entrepreneurs, or the C-suite. Sending personalized gifts with messages demonstrates that you want to build a long-standing relationship, not just push people through a funnel.
Networking today and for the foreseeable future will look different than it has in the past. The individuals and firms that forge strong networks during this time will be the ones that adapt to changing times. The key to success is to avoid the temptation to rely too heavily on technology.
Whether engaging on LinkedIn or via direct mail, try to be creative and avoid monotony. Engage with different channels, meet folks with different backgrounds, and liven up virtual experiences. Why not host a live virtual coffee, tea, or wine tasting class? Companies like Tea vs. Coffee can help you facilitate an engaging networking activity. Or, invite a group of people such as prospective partners or promising founders to virtually tour a museum like The Getty Museum or The British Museum.
Don’t let physical distance hamper your ability to build strong connections.