Networking is an important part of connecting with the right people to help your business grow. LinkedIn offers a platform to help you take your offline events, online, so you can get the most out of your networking efforts.
In-person or offline events, such as workshops, meet-ups, or industry events are some places where entrepreneurs can meet potential clients, influencers, project partners, investors, or advisors. Online tools, such as LinkedIn, offer the ability to take your networking efforts beyond the physical walls of the event so you can get a better return on your investment.
LinkedIn is a professional social media platform that provides a platform to keep one-on-one conversations going after you leave the event, manage your connections, share resources on an ongoing basis, and extend your network, either through research using the advanced research feature on LinkedIn, or ask a 1st connection for an introduction to someone in their network.
Here are some tips on how to take your offline networking online and get the most out of your next event, including how to leverage LinkedIn to build and engage with your connections online to help you grow your business.
A checklist on how to take your offline networking online, and get better results
Before the Event
1. Research the eventWho will be there? Is there anyone you want to meet? A potential client, partner, or hire that may be interested in going
2. Set goal(s) for each event, and know how you will evaluate success
- Who is it that you want to meet? Potential clients, advisors, hires, referral partners, etc. What do you want them to do after meeting you? Remember, you may want to sell something, but the whole idea of networking is to make connections; build relationships.
- How will you evaluate success? Review each goal and determine what you metrics you will use to evaluate your success. e.g. sign-up to newsletter, traffic to landing page, attendance at an event, connections, etc.
Here are some key networking goals to consider to help reach your business goals
- Connect with them on LinkedIn
- Request consultation
- Inquire about a product or service you offer
- Attend an event (based on invitation given at event)
- Invite you to partner with them on a project proposal
- Submit a resume for a position
Here are some secondary goals that would in addition to the primary goals, and still very important
If they aren’t ready to reach out to you or make you a connection on LinkedIn, there are secondary goals that will help build trust. Some planning is required if there is a piece of marketing content needed.
- Follow you on LinkedIn – If someone follows you, it means they will get your status updates in their newsfeed, but not a 1st degree connection.
- Like / comment / share on a social media post
- Download a white paper or e-book – KPIs: emails captured on download form, traffic to website
- Download the first chapter of your book.
- Sign Up for newsletter
- Join Contest
- Visit a landing page (if this created specifically for an event, you can track this)
- Offer you their business card saying they would like to connect - for CASL compliance, you have up to 6 months to email them and get EXPRESS consent to add them to your email list.3.
3. Take business cards
4. Do you need to prepare any material for the event? Online content or print material?
Review any current marketing content that is relevant to the audience who will be at the event. Look for content that will support your goals, make sure it is current and accurate, and reference it, if appropriate during the in-person conversation. Sharing the right content with your new connections helps build trust. It shows that you understand their challenges you are able to provide a solution for them.
5. Review your LinkedIn profile
- Is it complete?
- Is it current?
- Does the summary match with your networking goals?
6. Download the LinkedIn mobile app, and make sure you are logged in.
7. Review the key networking LinkedIn features
- How to share your profile – QR code
- How to connect ‘near-by’ with someone
Learn more about how to use LinkedIn networking features to help build your network
8. Review and practice your elevator pitch, and make sure your call-to-action supports your primary event goal
9. Have some ‘icebreaker’ questions prepared
10. Be familiar with current events – general and industry-specific.
This will help build conversations. How can you add value to this audience? If there is an opportunity to share how you support any challenges, have them ready, but don’t oversell. You need to build trust first.
At the event - Conversation first (offline), and then connect online.
Once you build some trust through conversation and qualify that this is a person you want to stay connected with, exchange business cards and then ask to connect on LinkedIn.
Follow up after the event
If you don’t connect online at the event, send them a LinkedIn invitation to connect after the event. Make sure to include a message about where you met and if possible, something memorable you spoke about at the event.
Are they a qualified lead?
What was the goal you were trying to achieve with this connection?
Add them as a qualified lead in your CRM (Customer relationship management) tool. Examples of CRM tools available to track leads and sales funnel progress include Zoho, Hubspot, or sales premium version of LinkedIn. If you want to keep it simple and don’t have a premium LinkedIn account, you can use Google Sheets/Excel spreadsheet
What stage are they at? Are they still in need of more information about what you offer, consideration of a purchase, decision making, ready to buy, or are they a returning client/relationship, and provide them with content to help them make a decision? Refer to your content marketing strategy to know what type of content to create for each stage
Share content, if appropriate, to help move them through the funnel.
Schedule the next step This may be a phone call, online demo, or in-person meeting
If they aren’t a qualified lead, but you have the connection
A non-qualified lead can be someone who isn't a champion or decision-maker, or they just don’t need your product or service at this time.
Connect with them on LinkedIn or encourage them to follow you.
Thank them for connecting or following your profile.
Ask them for a referral; if they know anyone who may be interested in your services
Do they have any people within their networks where you can be introduced? These will show up as 2nd or 3rd connections on LinkedIn
Check-in with them in a few months. Send a message on LinkedIn or give them a call. Why?
- They may be at a stage where they need your services/product
- They may have moved positions within the organization and now be a decision maker or have a need for your service/product
- They may have moved to another company where they might be an opportunity or new connections.
After each event, make sure to track and evaluate your success. Networking takes practice and time, so you want to ensure the time you spend networking is helping reach your business goals. What did you do well? Where do you want to improve? On to the next event!