Most people starting a new business do some kind of in-person networking. They might go to workshops and classes, or to networking events and conferences, or even just hand out business cards to every poor stranger they meet in the pub and drag into a conversation about work!
But digital marketing and networking really do go hand in hand – your efforts in one area will make the other far easier.
Your business card
Let’s start with the basics. Your business cards will have on them, I imagine, your email address, your web address, and your handles on one or more social networking sites. And your name as well, which people can search for on LinkedIn.
There’s a good chance that people will look you up on their preferred social network, or even more than one, when they’re doing their post-event research and considering reaching out to you again. So you need to make sure that what you’re offering in each of those places is the best it can be.
Check, for a start, that all of your profiles and links actually work! Use a secret or incognito window and type the information in directly from your card – do you get the right results.
Then think about the way you present yourself in person, and the things you’re chatting about whilst networking. If you’re telling people about a new idea or initiative you’re trying to launch, your content should tell people more about it. They should be able to flick through your profile and remember the conversation they had with you as they see it continued online.
If you’ve stopped using a social media profile and it’s still on your business card, it’s essential you get this changed! Just the same as if you changed your email address or your own name – you can get new ones printed easily using online services like Moo.com, and VistaPrint, or go to a local printers like Copymade or Service Point, if you’re in Edinburgh.
Make sure that any profile pictures you have on your website and social media are current, and that people will recognise you in them from real life. If you wear glasses most of the time in real life, it’s a good idea to wear them in your pictures. If you’ve had a drastic change in hairstyle or physique, it’s worth getting a new picture taken so that people can recognise you more easily.
Don’t underestimate the value of getting a professional head shot taken for using on all your professional profiles. Yes you can take a quick selfie, or ask a friend to snap a picture, but unless you really know what you’re doing these can end up looking sloppy or too casual.
A professional photograph allows people to recognise you at events, and should give you credibility by making you look knowledgeable and trustworthy. It’s part of establishing a credible online persona that backs up your marketing and in-person networking.
Your experience will depend on the photographer but it should be relatively painless. It can be everything from affordable and quick to luxurious and complex; from a simple profile picture to a personal branding session. If you are unsure of what you need talk to the photographer and they should be able to advise you.
So no excuses – get rid of those old selfies and holiday snaps, and make sure your pictures look as professional as you do.
So, a couple of quick points about how to make your online appearance match with your real-world identity. Now let’s talk about the other way around.
The types of events that you go to will have a big impact on the network you get and how they will respond to your digital marketing. This comes back to what your goals are for your networking and your content creation – do you want to meet and talk to people likely to become clients? Or are you looking to find business partners and colleagues amongst other professionals?
Think about the audience for each event, and consider the location as well. If you’d like to have customers all around Europe or the world, look for conferences and events in other countries. You might choose something industry specific, like the Neilsen Norman Group’s UX conference if you want to meet other people doing similar jobs to you.
Or if you’re looking for something to meet like-minded individuals across a variety of industries, you might choose something aimed more at personal development and networking, or linked into a society. I’m excited to be heading to this year’s Bullish Conference, in Washington, DC, to meet other ambitious business women, plan out my next year in business, and learn more about leadership and business strategy! They even have sweepstake for a free ticket!
The events you choose obviously have a big impact on the people that you meet, so make sure you’re targeting your audience in the same way that you would when developing your content.
Your talking point
Whenever you go to an event expecting to network, you should have something prepared that you’re excited to talk about with the people that you meet. The standard ‘what do you do?’ chat can get a little tired after you’ve been speaking with a few different people, and unless you really click with the other person, it can be difficult to know how to follow up.
The best way to solve this problem is to have a talking point which is reflected across your social media channels and a recent blog post. Just pick something from your content calendar that you really enjoyed writing about, that people responded well to, or that you think is relevant to the audience you’ll be meeting at the event.
When making conversation, you can then use that topic as a springboard for a more interesting exchange. Ask the other person their opinions on the topic you’ve written about, if they have any experience of it, how they would solve whatever problem there is, or any of a million other questions. Don’t spend too much of the conversation espousing your own ideas, but rather make it about the other person – listen to their input and see if you can gather any interesting snippets.
Your follow up would then be to share your blog post with them, invite them to sign up for your e-newsletter, and maybe even ask them for a quote to use in a later blog post on the same topic.
What tips do you have to get the best out of combining your networking and your digital marketing? Do you share talking points between your online and in-person conversations?