Taking business development and networking online

By Clare Friel, Friel
Back in March we found ourselves in no man’s land; a time where many industries and businesses were thrown into chaos and the business world stopped and held its breath.
Published in Norfolk and Suffolk Director Magazines Autumn/Winter 2020
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As business owners quietly panicked behind closed doors at home waiting for the next Boris announcement, for me personally I had my business lifeline taken away…. Networking.

For as long as I can remember my working life has revolved around flitting from one event to the other, back-to-back meetings and always rushing to try to beat the traffic so I could make that next appointment. For the very first time, the emergency button had been pressed and it all stopped.

Networking is key for BD

In business development, networking is key and plays a pivotal role in order to build relationships and make new contacts. When COVID hit, I had to review the way I’d been working. It forced my hand to look at how we were operating at Friel and identify new ways to overcome the lockdown obstacles. Up until March, a large percentage of our work had been generated through networking and my business contacts – we had been in the fortunate position that we’d never really needed to actively advertise or promote our services. We had only really used our social media channels to promote the amazing team – we certainly weren’t about the hard-sell.

So, for the first time, we found ourselves needing to sell. But with the current climate, selling anything let alone marketing services, was a sensitive subject. This led us to ask the question…. How can you network in the digital realm?

As people’s shock about being in lockdown quickly subsided and they migrated to online platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, we also realised that we didn’t need to panic, we just needed to adjust and innovate.

We quickly jumped onboard with online quizzes and webinars; not only offering them as Friel, but also conducting them on behalf of our clients. With many clients in the construction industry, and a large number of people unable to go on-site, we realised that people could use this time for CPD webinars. We capitalised on people’s screen time by offering to further develop their knowledge or training through short webinars – with some clients pulling in over 100 participants per webinar!

Focusing on digital

With this new focus on all things digital, we decided to employ a new member of staff who could offer the specialist expertise for online activity such as digital paid campaigns, SEO and Google Analytics. If people weren’t convinced before about the power of digital marketing, Coronavirus has certainly highlighted to many how having a digital strategy is a key part to your communications.

Moving networking online has actually turned out to have its perks as now our networking isn’t defined by geography. Our clients now span across the UK, rather than clustered in East Anglia and the South East. My pipeline dream of a Marbella office may just be more doable with the new world of virtual networking. It may be harder to physically meet with people, but in the digital world, anything is possible.

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Clare Friel is Director and Founder of Friel. For more information: E: clare@frielgood.com or visit: frielgood.com Twitter:Friel

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