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Networking: The business resource that keeps on giving

Networking - you are not alone

I’ve been thinking about the resources I use in my business a lot recently, trying to work out what’s working and what isn’t. I keep coming back to networking, mainly because business is often about who you know and partly because there are so many options. As I mentioned in this blog I’ve found that paid networking events have given me more solid relationships than free ones. But then I talk to other business owners and realise that not all networking is created equal. It got me wondering about the kind of networking I do and why it works for me.

Timing

There are so many networking event that you could feasibly spend all your time going to them, but you wouldn’t get much work done. The demands of family life rule out both breakfast and evening networking events for me which helps me narrow them down.

It means that I only go to daytime events, which has a massive impact on the kind of people I meet. They’re often senior employees of larger businesses, which usually means they have money to spend. (Yes, I’m totally capable of being mercenary.) I’ve also met people who’ve built up their side hustle or who threw themselves in at the deep end like me.

Connecting with people

Building a business is about creating relationships. Some of the people I’ve met networking have become customers, but others have become my unofficial ambassadors in their own networks.

My main networking group is women only and hugely supportive in lots of different ways. There’s always a listening ear and great advice. While approaches differ between business owners and employees, there’s still one common thread. We all promote each other, even though that’s not a requirement of membership. My network has widened because we mention each other on social media and attend each other’s events.

Follow up

My favourite networking groups have become my favourites because they make it easy to build relationships. I’ve no problem with making the time to follow up with new contacts individually, but it’s easy for your email (or theirs) to get lost in the midst of a heaving inbox.

While social media can be equally busy, the memberships with Facebook groups have brought more lasting relationships. Other members ask questions or share their content and the hive mind gets to work. People don’t just learn what you’re about in a chat over lunch, they see reminders all the time.

Other networking groups

I often turn down events because they don’t fit with my schedule or my budget. But I’ve also said no without really understanding why. I look at some of the people I’ve met over the years and marvel at the connections they have and the events they’re invited to. Often the only difference between us is that they’ve been in business for longer and have more contacts.

Yet sometimes I think I hold myself back through fear. What if they’re just better than me? Maybe they’re ‘proper’ business owners and I’m just someone who’s going to be found out one day? I think it’s something I need to address.

If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this, it’s to look at the events you’re going to (or not going to). Are they the right ones for you? Is avoiding some holding you back? The reason I tell you this story is not because I have a networking event to sell (I don’t), but because I hope it’ll help. It’s also because being honest and sharing my story has helped me to build my business and meet some amazing people along the way.

If you want some help sharing your story in the right way, just get in touch.

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Content marketing: what are you posting?

Content marketing

Content marketing can get overwhelming at the best of times. Even when you’ve got a clear idea of who your customer is and what kind of content they’ll like, there are still lots of decisions to be made. Your marketing could be a full time job, but you haven’t got time for that (even I haven’t). I’m a big believer in repurposing the content you’ve already created. It’s a bit like recycling except it won’t have any significant impact on climate change. Here’s how I approach getting as much use out of my content as I can.

Write a blog

Writing a blog can seem like a massive effort, particularly when you’re struggling with it. If you’ve ever sat down and tried to write a blog only to end up with something you’re not happy with, you’re not alone. However, it is worth persevering. (Or getting someone like me to write one for you.)

A blog is a big, chunky piece of content in comparison to virtually anything else you’ll create. You can take the topics you’ve chosen and use them to inspire other posts. You can even lift phrases straight out of your blog and use them on social media.

Sharing tips

One of the best things you can do in your blog is to share tips and advice with your audience. These will vary depending on what you’re talking about. For example, I write about reasons why you might want to blog and what the benefits are. I’ll also talk about ways to get started or come up with topics.

If you’ve written a blog with multiple tips, separate them and create images with one tip on each. You can share these on multiple platforms so they go further. You can also create videos – and no, you don’t have to be in them if you don’t want to! Facebook lives tend to get better reach than other types of video so I’d recommend doing some if you can. However, you don’t have to go face to face with the camera. You could just show your hands demonstrating a tip or use computer screen capture. I also create tip videos using images with overlaid text.

Motivational content

Unless you’re in the habit of writing motivational quotes or meme-worthy copy in your blog, this one will involve going off on a bit of a tangent. Take your blog topic and use it to search for related quotes. You don’t necessarily have to stick exactly to the topic if you find something that will resonate with your audience. For instance, I wrote a blog about finding time to blog and one of the quotes I found was this:

Not directly relevant to the topic, but certainly something that would get lots of us nodding our heads. You can use the same approach with memes, particularly if you search on Pinterest. I post a fair bit of stuff that isn’t directly related to writing but which I know my audience will enjoy. However, I often find this type of content when I’m just doing my own social media scrolling so don’t worry if the repurposing/search approach doesn’t work well for you here.

There’s also a different kind of motivation you can offer. Helping your audience to gain expertise (or realise that they know more than they thought) is really worthwhile. You can do this by sharing useful resources or by asking questions about their experiences. This helps them to share their knowledge and also helps you get to know them better.

Further resources

If you’d like some hints and tips on writing your blog, start here.

My favourite video capture tools:

Screencast-o-matic for screen capture videos.

Ripl to animate your images with overlaid text.

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How are you?

How are you social distancing?

I had a completely different blog post written for this week. Yet somehow I couldn’t bring myself to publish it. It felt a tiny bit irrelevant to tell another story when the world has turned upside down. So here I am. The only question running through my head is ‘how are you’? Not just for you, but for myself as well. The last time my eldest son went to his fun football session, I got a funny look from one of the dads because I coughed. I couldn’t bring myself to tell him it was his aftershave! Now, every time I cough I wonder if it’s the first sign. Trouble is, I am a cougher. My youngest boy is too. Blame the asthmatic ancestors whose legacy wasn’t the condition itself, but extra sensitive airways. The last couple of weeks have seen me in extra vigilant mode in case the usual coughs become unusual ones. I’ve also been conscious of the different ways that people have reacted to this. I’m not going to talk about the crowds who treated social distancing as a green flag to flock to their local beauty spots. It’s a waste of energy and I’m going to need all mine. What I will tell you about is what’s helped me and what definitely hasn’t.

The personal networks

I’m lucky to be in a brilliant range of business networks, but there are some beyond that too. The parents at the school gate and the local community associations are all a part of my network. It’s been heartening to see how many people have stepped up to help. There’s been co-operation that has helped quarantined families and vulnerable people to be fed and supported in other ways. There have been social media posts in my school groups giving ideas for things to do with the children. There’s also been a phenomenal level of whingeing. I know it helps some people, but the difference between that and the alternative is really striking.

Business support

Most of all, there’s been business support. The panic that your business won’t survive doesn’t last long when you’re in a community of amazing women who’ll help you to brainstorm ideas one minute and teach you how to implement them the next. They’ve also helped to alleviate the guilt. It’s more than working parent anxiety just now. It’s the feeling that you shouldn’t be promoting your business when other people are struggling. The truth is, you shouldn’t feel bad about offering something that will help people. There’s also nothing wrong with putting on your own oxygen mask first. If you can keep a roof over your head and food on the table you’re less likely to need a bail out and that’s better for everyone.

How’s your social media?

Life is being lived on social media more than usual at the moment. There’s been extra positivity because support groups are mobilising on Facebook. There have been the usual spats, but no more than usual. The thing that’s got to me, more than anything, are the people predicting what’s going to happen. I don’t mean the experts. I’m hugely grateful for the people who are providing proper data and explaining the psychology behind the guidelines. I mean the people fretting about stuff that hasn’t happened yet, if it ever does. It took me a long time to stop worrying about things I can’t control, which means I can’t deal with other people doing it. I appreciate that’s my foible but it’s made me much more careful about where I spend time. 

I hope you and your loved ones are OK. Saying ‘how are you?’ has taken on a whole new seriousness, hasn’t it? If you need anything, whether it’s practical support, a listening ear or absolutely anything else, please shout. I’m helping quite a few people with finding the right words to market their business at this strange and crazy time, so let me know if I can do that for you too.

In the meantime, take care and I’ll speak to you soon.

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Social Media: Why outsource when you can do it yourself?

Guest blog - Anita Popat social media

As business owners, we wear lots of different hats to fulfil a variety of roles required to run a successful business.

Social media is usually one of the things that keeps dropping to the bottom of the to-do list. This could be because you need to prioritise more important tasks or just because you don’t give it the attention it deserves.

Let’s be honest; it takes time to constantly think of fresh content ideas to stay ahead of your competition and be interesting, relevant and engaging on top of that!

To be successful on social media you need to be consistent to build that “know, like and trust” with your audience. If your efforts are haphazard then you’re probably not going to achieve this effectively.

Networking events are the perfect analogy for this. When you attend a group regularly, you’re likely to form good relationships and will eventually make a judgement as to whether you like and trust them based on your conversations with them. Guess what, it’s EXACTLY how it works on social media.

Nowadays, potential customers will do their research before getting in touch with you. They will most likely check out your social media profiles before your website, so it’s important that your channels are consistently updated, showcase your company values, your business expertise, what problems you solve, your team and why someone would want to work with you…in a subtle way of course!

On top of this bear in mind that the algorithms (the rules which affect your post reach) can change on a monthly basis. You could have learnt something last month and be ready to put it into action this month only to learn that the algorithm has changed again, so you need to relearn…do you really have the time to keep doing this?

If the thought of this already sounds overwhelming, then outsourcing is probably your best option.

So, here are some reasons why it makes sense to outsource your social media if it keeps falling to the bottom of your to-do list:

  • Let the expert(s) stay up to date with industry trends, news and algorithms so you can take advantage of what’s working right now.
  • You will have a more consistent presence to build that know, like and trust.
  • You won’t have to constantly think about what to post as it will be done for you.
  • You will have more brand awareness and potential clients recognising you when you’re out and about.
  • You won’t have the expenses of full time staff or need to spend time recruiting and training them to get them up to the required standards to make an impact on your business.
  • Most importantly, you can spend your valuable time growing other areas of the business.

It’s worth considering where your strengths lie and what you could outsource, as you’ll be saving time, money and sanity in the long run!

Anita Popat

www.anitapopat.com