5 networking tips for SME owners in lockdown

Networking is a vital part of getting any business off the ground. No matter how good your product is or how on top of your finances you are, having good connections is essential both for learning skills necessary to the job and for establishing contacts who can provide you with new opportunities.

But with the pandemic forcing many of us to work remotely and severely limiting the amount of organic contact we can make with others in our field, it can be tough to make those connections.

To help business owners grow their network without compromising COVID-19 guidelines, Small Business Prices has put together five steps to keep yourself in touch with the potential partners and like-minded business owners who will make your company a success.

1. Participate in virtual industry events 

As we’ve begun to adapt to life outside of the office or work environment, in-person industry events have started taking place by digital means. 

Look for digital groups in your field, whether it’s by social media, industry newsletters, or event sites like Meetup, and register for upcoming conventions taking place online. Many of these events may have reduced cost or even be free, and it cuts out on the need to travel to attend.

2. Connect with others through social media and Slack groups

The good thing about the difficulty of networking in lockdown is that everyone in your industry is facing the exact same situation. As a result, most of those looking to network will already be out there setting up spaces where they can communicate with you.

In particular, work systems like LinkedIn or Slack are a great place to find those in your industry, while the rising force of Clubhouse looks to be a great opportunity to seek out live talking spaces or listen to presentations on innovative new topics.

3. Try a virtual coworking space

Virtual coworking spaces have evolved to meet the need of a physical dimension in being near your colleagues. 

These digital spaces, often supported by more traditional communication systems like Slack, are systems designed to provide some of the elements of being in an office. Many incorporate realistic seating plans to replicate the sensation of being “in” a space where people are working. You’re able to see when people are in a virtual meeting room as well as what they’re working on, increasing the sensation of feeling connected. And while it can be useful to use this for your own business, there are spaces similar to coworking offices where you can interact with new people.

Although it’s arguable that some of these features are gimmicks, it can lend a sense of community to a rather cold platform and remove some of the detachment that comes from putting your contacts behind a screen.

4. Grab some lunch online with people in your industry

Sometimes the best way to network is the traditional way. And while you can’t go out for lunch with someone in person, there’s nothing stopping you from doing it over Zoom or Google Meet. 

It does require that you know of the people already, but it’s easy to reach out via one of the other methods here - perhaps over Twitter or LinkedIn - and invite someone to just talk over lunch to pick their brain.

If you want to connect with completely new, like-minded people in your industry, try out professional networking platforms like Lunchable, which matches you with other working professionals for a virtual 1:1 chat every week based on your background, goals and interests.

5. Interview industry leaders over a video call

As with having a lunch call, it’s still possible to get in contact with the leaders in your sector. Reach out through social media or after making contact at a virtual conference to exchange details, and schedule a time to get a proper meeting in.

Everyone likes to feel important, so take this opportunity to connect and pick their brain over a virtual coffee, asking them about their experiences and learnings. This gives you invaluable insights that you can apply to your own business strategy and can create a great foundation for a strong professional relationship.

You might also have insights you think are worth sharing or want to ask questions of those who do, in which case you might build towards a small digital event yourself. With no overheads involved in running a digital space as opposed to a physical one, hosting panels or staging simple interviews is a much more accessible process than it is outside of remote contact.

This can be a small event just for you and your team or you could communicate it to the wider industry to grow your network even further - there aren’t many limitations.

However you prefer to make connections, remote working and virtual office spaces mean that the opportunity hasn’t been lost due to lockdown. As long as you’re carefully considering your strategies and making sure you reach out to those in your sector, you’ll continue to build contacts and advance your business.