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Building genuine professional connections in an app-first era of networking



Workplace

By Brecht Fourneau

In an era where connections are often made without ever meeting in-person, what does this mean for building genuine, mutually beneficial relationships?

We are all aware of the correlation between networking and business success. It’s critical in creating new business leads, filling voids in talent pools and can bring a wealth of knowledge necessary for business or career development. Yet despite these proven benefits, many of us don’t take full advantage of building relationships when the opportunity arises. Instead, we let this fall to the bottom of our to-do lists.

But with the rise of professional networking 2.0 we are experiencing a shift in how we network. The good news is that it’s now a lot easier for today’s busy professionals to create meaningful and profitable connections.

So, what are the networking technologies that we can take advantage of?

The boom of SaaS based CRM systems

There are many CRM systems designed specifically to shake up the way we connect with others and showcase professional achievements and broader business success.

Founded in 2006, HubSpot caters to all inbound marketing and sales leads. From SEO to social media marketing, content management and web analytics, it takes care of the many online ways that both prospective and existing customers communicate with businesses, and has more than 56,500 customers in more than 100 countries.

Salesforce is another popular CRM platform worth a staggering US$13.28 billion; enabling businesses to use cloud technology to better connect with customers, partners and potential customers.

Using technology to fuel in-person connections

Since LinkedIn was founded in the early 2000s, social media platforms designed specifically for networking have cropped up across the globe. Recently we’ve seen the launch of mobile apps created purely for networking at a select event. These allow for on-site relationship building, with features that enable attendees to connect with peers who have similar interests or business needs during the events.

We have also seen the birth of apps that indoctrinate the ‘swipe right’ approach we’ve formerly only found on dating apps. In 2015, Shapr launched with the objective of encouraging users to meet one new person each week. This business model was built on the belief that finding new inspiration and opportunities comes from meeting new people – merging both digital and offline worlds.

Bumble, on the other hand, was formerly known as a dating app tackling antiquated dating rules. Since its launch in 2014, it now offers an entire remit dedicated to business connections – Bumble Bizz. This app empowers women to make the first move and swipe on those connections that will help them build their professional network.

Striking a balance between online and offline connectivity

The biggest flaw in relying purely on CRM systems or networking apps is that they don’t have the same capacity for reading body language and tone; both of which are essential in creating rapport, mentorship or even friendship. Building a strong network requires a soft approach and the use of online and in-person networking to create the mix of communication that leads to a valued connection.

So, when you’ve found your compatible digital connection, online platforms give you insight into their career progression, the challenges their facing, their professional interests and even personality.

You then have the chance to formulate the perfect opening, periodically reach out with valuing added insights that gauge their interest before suggesting a phone call or coffee to develop the connection further.

But it can also work the other way around. If you are seeking the traditional networking route, and meet someone at an industry event, where appropriate follow up with a connection on your preferred digital networking platforms.

Networking doesn’t have an end date

Irrespective of your networking preference, the most important thing to remember is that networking is never a finished job. This is especially the case in today’s digital age when new connections are at your fingertips twenty-four hours a day. So, keep bumping it up in your never-ending to-do list and utilise both the traditional and more innovative ways of making connections. This way, you’ll make those valuable connections that are critical for business success.


Brecht Fourneau is the Senior Director EMEA & APAC Marketing at Aventri.

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