Small business blog 2022 in review

The end of another year already! We wanted to share some of our favourite 2022 blog posts, that we hope will be helpful going into 2023:

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5 virtual networking tips

During the pandemic, many of us got used to online and hybrid models of networking. Once an in-person social thing, there are many ways to make new business connections without leaving home.

Why is this important?

As an entrepreneur, your network of personal and professional contacts is one of the key factors to your brand’s success, especially in the pre-startup period. Fear not! In-person networking is no longer the only way. Here are 5 things to keep in mind to help you succeed with virtual networking.

1) Try a more casual approach

Many of us have made valuable connections through the tried-and-true “let’s grab a coffee” meeting. The good news is, you can still bring this casual, more personal approach to the virtual space. Here’s one idea: decide on a small number of clients or business contacts who can spend a few minutes speaking on their area of expertise. Open up this virtual session to a limited number of attendees, and encourage discussion afterwards.

2) Turn to your existing contacts

We tend to think of networking as a way to meet new people, but there might be a new business idea or a new connection to be made amongst people you already know. For example, why not host a virtual event together for your local business community? Or, if you know someone who is in a similar, complementary industry (but not a direct competitor), you can team up on social media to hold a fun and casual ask-me-anything (AMA) session about your brands.

3) Change your social media strategy

What social media channels are you using? Are they working for you, or against you? During the pandemic, many small businesses and brands became more involved in social media. Keep this momentum going! Get inspiration from those who have seen success (but don’t copy), or take training that incorporates the latest trends, news, and strategies – companies like Later offer free webinars and videos full of good social media advice for small business owners.

4) Reframe your networking perspective

Because virtual networking events don’t require event space, catering, and a huge budget, there are interesting opportunities available. You can extend your networking reach into different regions and even different countries. You may even be able to spearhead industry-specific networking events, whether it’s a small, informal information-sharing session between a handful of people, or a larger-scale, scheduled virtual event. Think of ways you can reach out and get to know people that you might not have been able to before.

5) Encourage pre- and post-event chat

If you’re holding a structured event, it can feel tempting for people to log in five minutes beforehand, and log off as soon as it’s over. After all, why wouldn’t they? Event attendees registered for a reason, so why not give them an opportunity to network, discuss the event, and share ideas? Investigate ways your virtual event can open chat to all attendees for some time before and/or after the event, and ensure you’re in there too forming relationships of your own.

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Ideas for virtual networking

virtual online networking

This year’s pandemic has changed almost everything about doing business, not least of all networking. Once a mostly in-person social thing, more and more of us are having to find ways to make new connections without leaving home.

An entrepreneur’s network of personal and professional contacts is one of the key factors in success, particularly in the pre-startup period. Here are some ways you can network virtually during the pandemic.

Turn to your existing contacts

Many businesses have had to pivot and adapt since COVID-19 became a fact of life. This means that many of your existing contacts might love to hear from you. There might be a new business idea or a new connection to be made. You may be able to team up to virtually host an event for others. And it’s also just nice to be able to reconnect with someone you might not have spoken to for a while, especially when social events are no longer a viable option. After all, what is networking if not creating relationships?

Change your social media strategy

What social media channels are you using? Are they working for you, or against you? The pandemic is an ideal time to get more involved in social media. After all, many of your existing and potential customers are probably using social media more than ever. Get inspiration from those who have seen success (but don’t copy), or take training that incorporates the latest trends, news, and strategies – companies such as Later offer free webinars and videos full of good social media advice for small business owners.

Investigate virtual conferences

Many industry conferences have been cancelled due to the pandemic, but many have kept going in a virtual format. Some are specifically made for networking, while others are slightly altered versions of traditional programming. In any case, look for opportunities to chat with other attendees or engage on social media conversations around the event.

Reframe your networking perspective

Now that networking events no longer require event space, catering, and a huge budget, there are interesting opportunities available that you can take advantage of. Because everyone is accustomed to virtual events this year, you can extend your networking reach into different regions and even different countries. You may even be able to spearhead industry-specific networking events, whether it’s a small, informal information-sharing session between a handful of people, or a larger-scale, scheduled virtual event. Think of ways you can reach out and get to know people that you might not have been able to before.

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4 creative networking ideas for the networking-averse

creative networking ideas for entrepreneurs

Are you an introverted entrepreneur? Do you think networking isn’t necessary in your field? Unfortunately, many small business owners can’t avoid it for long. An entrepreneur’s network of personal and professional contacts is one of the key factors in success, particularly in the pre-startup period. But no matter what stage of the small business lifecycle you’re in now, you’ll eventually need a good accountant, a lead on a qualified intern, or a good word to someone who can get your foot in a new door.

Here are some creative solutions for those who balk at the thought of networking:

Go online.

Yes, we know, social networking has been around for years. You most likely already have a professional Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram account for your business. But are those channels working for you, or against you? It’s never too late to draft or re-draft your social media strategy. Get inspiration from those who have seen success (but don’t copy), or take training that incorporates the latest trends, news, and strategies – companies such as Later offer free webinars and videos full of good social media advice for small business owners. Apps like Mixer are geared specifically towards creatives. In the era of influencers and vloggers, it’s easier than ever before to get connected online.

Scale down. 

When you think “networking,” you likely imagine a large event space with dozens of people milling around, looking nervous. But what if we told you that an intimate dinner of fewer than a dozen people, or an invitation-only gathering in a hip cocktail lounge can both count as networking? Companies like Dent and Mashable have realized that networking in small groups or more interesting locations can make it more appealing to those who get heart palpitations at the thought of traditional meet-and-greets.

Weave your interests into it.

Whether your business is outside of an office environment, or you simply want something different, try incorporating something you already like into your networking. For example, if you’re a freelance programmer, why not join forces with other programmers you know to sponsor a local, weekend-long codeathon for charity? Photographers can hold monthly meetups to visit local galleries and art studios. Do you and one of your long-term clients share a love of fancy coffee? Invite them and a few of their colleagues to a coffee tasting at your favourite roaster – you’ll have fun and the inevitable shop talk will feel natural. Networking can be enjoyable if you attach it to an event you’ll enjoy anyway.

Start something yourself.

Many solopreneurs and those in creative fields often report a feeling of isolation from others in their industry. Does that sound like you? Do you wish more people in your field got together to exchange ideas and information? Well, why not be the one to start it? Many people are surprised at how much more comfortable they are at an event if they’re the ones hosting. They have more control, and usually have a few welcome logistical things to occupy the part of their brain that would normally be feeling anxiety over business cards. By starting your own networking event, you’ll be able to create the environment that makes you comfortable – as well as the other networking-avoiders you may invite!

What about you? Do you have any creative tips for networking you’d like to share?

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