As the COVID crisis limited opportunities for face-to-face meetings and relocated workers to home offices, B2B professionals scrambled to shift their networking activities to reflect the new remote environment. Emerging from the pandemic, it is likely that many companies will adopt working from home at least part of the week, as the new permanent standard. Several tech companies have already announced the implementation of a new remote work policy, including Microsoft, Google and Facebook. With a flexible workforce becoming the new normal, B2B professionals need to ensure they master the skill of remote networking going forward.
Table of Contents:
- The Challenges of Connecting with B2B Buyers Virtually
- Live Video Chat
- Online Community
- Media Coverage
- Collaborate with Industry Influencers
- Video Messaging
- Social Platforms
- Virtual Events
- Virtual Meetings
- Share Content
The Challenges of Connecting with B2B Buyers Virtually
Trying to connect with buyers virtually, especially at the start of their purchase journey, can be difficult. The Harvard Business Review outlines several challenges that B2B professionals face when trying to build a relationship with a buyer remotely:
- Understanding the buyer’s needs:
A virtual relationship can make it difficult to probe and ask the necessary questions to uncover the buyer’s needs and pain points. This can be exceptionally tough in the case of technology buyers, whose needs are often complex and extensive.
- Defining buyer decision-making:
Identifying all of the key stakeholders and buying influences can take much longer in a remote environment when the buying organization and process is opaque.
- Earning the buyer’s trust:
Building trust from a distance isn’t easy. Face-to-face communication just naturally enables a more personal connection that helps to build credibility and trust.
- Demonstrating differentiated value:
It can be challenging to demonstrate the differentiated value of products/services without a clear understanding of buyer needs and buying criteria.
Effective Strategies for Remote Networking with Tech Buyers
The challenges of trying to build a connection with buyers remotely can be minimized by using effective networking strategies at the start of your relationship. Here are 10 strategies you can use to successfully network remotely with technology buyers:
- Add Live Video Chat to your Website
Tech buyers complete extensive online research when evaluating new products/services. HubSpot reports that 63% of tech buyers consider vendor websites a main source of product information. Set your website up as a networking opportunity by adding a live video chat feature. This allows you to recreate an in-person meeting and benefit from the value of a live conversation.
- Build an Online Community
IT Pros regularly consult online communities and forums to read product reviews, find answers to common questions, or simply connect with like-minded individuals. Creating an online community allows businesses to consistently communicate with prospects and move them further along the sales funnel without coming across as “sales-y”. Having “a loyal community is especially important for tech companies, as products tend to have higher price points and require more touch points.” (Forbes)
- Secure Media Coverage
Develop new connections and increase your business’ credibility by getting some media coverage. To increase the chances of getting a story published, tech companies should share insights that focus on the benefits of their products/services and how they can overcome buyer pain points. (Inc.) Sharing your expertise will help you become an industry thought leader and drive new networking opportunities.
Source: Business insider Influencer Marketing Report
- Collaborate with Industry Influencers and Peers
Identifying experts you want to network with in your industry and asking them to collaborate with you on content is a great way to initiate a relationship. “Crowdsourcing” content or leveraging the expertise of others to create content, is a strategy that is underdeveloped in B2B marketing, according to the Content Marketing Institute. Consider inviting influential industry experts to contribute to your blog posts, take part in your videos, or help distribute your content to their own followers.
- Use Video Messaging
IT professionals are overwhelmed with emails and notifications from countless people who want to connect. You can differentiate your communications and increase your networking success by recording and sending personalized, one-to-one video messages. The use of video messaging has become increasingly popular in the IT industry, as channel partners and vendors compete for the attention of solution partners.
- Explore New Social Platforms
You can expand your networking reach by regularly participating in new social platforms. Explore groups and chats within LinkedIn and Twitter to find those that are specific to your industry or product. There are many great LinkedIn Groups and Twitter Chats for tech marketers and professionals. Share value-added content and start meaningful conversations to build your credibility. Actively engaging and contributing to discussions will help you will grow your network of connections.
- Attend Virtual Events
Virtual conferences, trade shows and webinars will continue to dominate the B2B event landscape in 2021. These events provide a vast opportunity for networking. Be sure to complete your contact information when you register for events to make it easier to connect with other attendees. Preview the attendee list to identify networking opportunities. Actively engage and participate in live sessions, virtual event games and hangouts. Follow up with your new connections a few days after the event while discussions are still top of mind.
- Host Virtual Events
Hosting your own virtual event enables you to customize the content in order to attract attendees with whom you would like to have a connection. Include engaging content that tech buyers want to see, such as product demos and case studies. Being the host allows you to interact with virtual attendees via polls, Q&A sessions and break-out groups. Continue the conversation with attendees post event with follow-up personalized communications.
- Organize Virtual One-on-One Meetings
Virtual meetings provide the opportunity to nurture relationships and build trust with tech buyers in a one-on-one setting. For an initial meeting with a new connection, you may want to keep it less formal and use a simple video chat tool such as FaceTime or Skype. One-to-one meetings are also important for building on the connections you’ve made on social platforms. LinkedIn has recently added functionality to insert a video meeting link within any message thread, giving you the ability to transfer a conversation via messaging to a virtual face-to-face interaction.
- Create and Share Valuable Content
In all of your remote networking activities, remember to share relevant, insightful content. HubSpot suggests that, “having a bank of impressive, credible content provides a foundation for your remote networking efforts.” By sharing content that provides value and offers actionable advice, you will make strong connections and grow your network.
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