Your entire business is based online, so why leave the comfort of your laptop to join a professional network? SEO and A/B testing are great and all, but sometimes you need to bite the bullet, trade in your hoodie for a blazer, and make it to that next networking event. Here's why it'll be worth your time.
The benefits of joining a professional network
Because web development clients span a wide range of industries, it's helpful to make contacts in various fields. Even if the individual isn't likely to become a client, they might know someone who is.
Word-of-mouth referrals are worth their weight in gold, just as they have been for decades. In fact, in a study by Blanc & Otus and G2 Crowd, 83 percent of B2B buyers cited word-of-mouth as one of the top drivers for vendor selection.
Search engine optimization improvements
Joining a professional network can secure your website a treasure trove of SEO benefits. Think links! When you become a member of a professional network like your local BNI chapter or chamber of commerce, your business might be listed in online articles or directly on their website. Not only does this increase your exposure, but also your likelihood of receiving backlinks (local SEO for the win).
Social media exposure
Speaking of exposure, you're bound to receive it on the social media front as well. Professional networking groups love to promote their meetings on social media and will often post photos following each event.
To really get their attention, try giving a donation or offering up a resource. Event venues, music, photography, photo booths, freebies, and catering could all be desirable to networking groups for use at an event.
A confidence boost
As a web professional, most of your business is done on (of course) the web. If you find yourself holding a conversation with your plants, it might be time to dust off your social skills and join a professional network. A little human interaction will give you the confidence you need to crush your next client meeting.
Connections to the competition
Networking with potential customers has apparent advantages, but what about rubbing elbows with the competition?
A rising tide lifts all boats.
The market is a big place and there's no reason why multiple web development businesses can't flourish simultaneously. By working together in a professional network, you can share ideas and make a greater impact on industry-defining issues.
Perhaps your business specializes in small business web design and your competitor serves larger corporations. Establishing a referral program could be beneficial for both parties.
If you don't like the idea of befriending competitors, join a professional network to get a leg up on them. Chances are that your competitors are already networking. If you don't make a conscious effort, you might wind up the odd man out among your peers.
For all of those questions the search engines fail you on, ask a good ol' fashioned human. A professional network allows you to pick the brains of subject-matter experts.
Have you made it to WordCamp yet? WordPress holds conferences all over the world called WordCamps. These events cover topics like business, digital marketing, web design, development and of course, WordPress. Most feature a "Happiness Bar" where you can ask tech questions and even have code reviewed.
Whatever you do, take care not to bend the ears of your fellow developers. There's a fine line between good advice and billable hours.
Inspiration to succeed
Don't underestimate the influence of those you surround yourself with. They can bring you down, and they can lift you up. Many web professionals work from home, making it all the more important to seek out networking opportunities. Get motivated with an inspiring conversation! Bouncing ideas off of someone else in your field might be all it takes to unearth the next big move for your business.
Tips for effective face-to-face networking
Let's face it, networking in person can be intimidating and downright awkward. Walking into a room full of strangers is a situation most avoid like the plague.
The good news? The more you do it, the easier it gets.
It's important to remember that these people were once (or might still be) in your shoes. They're at a networking event, not an exclusive golf club. They're here because they want to connect with new people.
For all you self-proclaimed introverts, apply these tips to make your next face-to-face networking event a success:
- Aim for quality, not quantity — Building a solid professional network takes more than a slew of quick handshakes. Instead of just collecting business cards, make it your mission to have a few meaningful conversions.
- Think of talking points beforehand — If your mind suddenly draws a blank when you find yourself in social situations, brainstorm a few conversation starters. Most attendees at a professional networking event have something they're passionate about — uncover what that is! Ask what they've been working on lately, what industry they're in, how their business runs, etc.
- Connect with the organizer — Let’s say the event organizer sells lemonade by the side of the road with absolutely no interest in a website or web development. It doesn’t matter if they aren’t a perfect fit for your professional network, they are the hub of the gathering. Chances are that they'll introduce you to someone who is a good fit.
- Be an active listener — Don't get distracted by those around you or by planning what you'll say next. Nod your head, smile, maintain eye contact, and ask follow up questions.
- Plan a polite escape — We've all been there, stuck in what feels like an endless conversation. Some just don't come with natural breaking points, so you're forced to create your own. Try, "It was great chatting with you, but I have to say hi to a friend/grab a drink/use the restroom."
- Stop by the bar — When all else fails ... have a drink. Most networking events feature a bar, which will certainly help take the edge off.
Remaining planted in your cushy office chair might feel safer, but you'd be missing out. Don't be afraid to step into that room full of strangers, mix it up, and reap the benefits of a professional network!
Editor's note: Want to build a network of clients? Check out GoDaddy Pro. You can manage client products all from one location with ease so you can get back to what you do best — building kickass websites.