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Nurturing your network: the skill you should develop in 2021

by gbaf mag
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by Andrew Webber, Chief Marketing Officer of Whitespace

If there’s one thing we’ve learnt from 2020, it’s that we can no longer operate in silos. Admittedly, that may sound like a contradiction when we are being routinely advised by the Government to self-isolate and form bubbles, but the truth is there has never been a better time to browse our network and rediscover our appreciation for the relationships that we’ve spent so much time building over the years. And while the principle of valuing our network is certainly an apt one when talking about our own social lives, it is equally resonant in a professional context. 

It is very easy to forget that our own business is not the only one that has experienced profound disruption over the past 10 months. After all, when the news is flooded with stories about companies dealing with cost cuts, redundancies and furlough schemes, we go into self-preservation mode: suddenly, all we think about is keeping our own business afloat. But while it is worth acknowledging that our peers and partners are facing the same challenges as we are, it is still not enough; if we truly wish to value or network of contacts, we must also nurture them.

Put simply, if business networking is about building relationships, then nurturing our networks is all about investing in them. With face-to-face contact significantly limited for the foreseeable future, making good use of the digital and social tools at our disposal to engage with an extended group of like-minded professionals provides an opportunity to share knowledge, insight and advice on how to tackle the challenges we’re all currently facing. 

Yes, nurturing a professional network takes time and commitment, but it’s worth the investment. There is no guarantee that the effort will be rewarded, but it is likely to drive positive sentiment towards your brand. In the most positive scenarios, building and maintaining the right connections can pave the way for collaborative projects, resulting in meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships.

With the global pandemic forcing a growing number of businesses to start operating remotely, how do you connect with your clients if you can’t meet them and what is your business doing to nurture those relationships?

Going back to our roots

Moving the conversation online has become the obvious choice to ensure communication doesn’t dry up, but interacting exclusively via chats and conference calls is already causing people to experience screen fatigue. Suddenly, the prospect of having a one-on-one conversation with your client or a new prospect feels like a distant memory .Going digital shouldn’t mean losing the human touch. 

AndrewWebber

AndrewWebber

There are only so many times you can email, call or text, so implementing an “offline” discussion will not only make your relationship stronger but let those in your network know you are thinking about them and that you care. To do this, we need to go back and refamiliarise ourselves with more traditional methods.

Integrating online and offline

Online and offline relationships aren’t an “either/or”, they work together to complement each other, with the end goal being to turn clients into long term partners. When looking to integrate this into your business, it’s a good starting point to take a look at your client journey. How often do you get in touch with them? Is it only when there’s a problem or an event has happened? Or do you check in with them routinely?

To incorporate both online and offline tactics, it is worth considering regular email updates, tangible communication in the form of a promo item/gift, or taking the time to attend both local and regional events to maintain and create industry relationships. 

It is this varied approach that will ensure communication never gets stale and that you are giving your network the attention it needs and deserves.  

It’s also worth remembering that your internal network is just as important.After all,  your staff have also had a difficult year, with plenty of change, uncertainty and a variable workload. But have you asked your employees how they are feeling?

Staff turnover has a big impact on your business, so make the time to check in on your staff’s wellbeing and look into understanding where they may need more help or support.

No contact left behind

The criteria for building and maintaining business relationships may seem obvious, yet it’s something that many people take for granted. Keeping up levels of communication and being consistent can be difficult during busy periods, but it’s important to remain trustworthy and reliable in the eyes of the client. It’s important to show support for colleagues and associates and remain positive when speaking to clients and to keep in line with company guidelines when addressing business contacts. 

We are in a time of huge change and need to work that bit harder to maintain our relationships, but with the help of online and offline techniques, it is now easier than ever to keep in touch with your network. A businesses’ success comes down to its contacts and relationships, which can make or break its future, so as we head full speed into 2021, embrace and nurture this new way of communicating and make sure that no relationship is left behind.

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