There’s no arguing that networking is still one of the most important parts of growing your business. Choosing your best methods for networking, however, has become a somewhat divisive topic. While some argue that the internet, all the modern tools it has brought with it is the most scalable space for networking. Others insist that the traditional tactics of attending events, calls and face-to-face meetings offer bigger opportunities to forge meaningful connections.

The good news is that neither group is wrong, but the approaches aren’t mutually exclusive either. In order to create the most effective networking strategy for you and your business, you’ll not only have to combine elements from both the old school and modern methods. And given the limited time for networking that you have available, you’ll also need to consider all the latest trends that have the potential to greatly impact your efforts.

In order to help you be more effective at converting initial interactions into something more, here are a few of the biggest networking trends that will dominate 2020. In addition, some ideas you can use to take full advantage of them.

1. Networking events matter now more than ever.

It’s easy to think that with the prevalence of the internet showing up in-person for networking events just wouldn’t be necessary anymore. Yet, events like tradeshows and conferences are even more important in today’s environment.

Meeting with someone face-to-face allows you to form a stronger connection than say liking their post on Instagram. But the potential to be found at networking events is about more than depth – it’s about context and intent. Having that meeting take place at an event dedicated to forming those business connections means that the prospect you’re trying to cultivate is already in the desired mindset of wanting to learn more about you and your business.

The only problem with this strategy? These spaces tend to be crowded with people who all have the same goal as you, so you’ll need a way to stand out. The best way to do this is to have some top-notch branding material to attract attention to your booth or to host a side event that’s positioned as invite-only.

Even if you don’t have a massive budget, tools like Piktochart provide you with amazing templates for flyers and posters that are sure to make you stand out and boost those critical post-event follow-ups.

2. No one likes your sales pitch anymore. No one.

We’re all hip to the pitching game, and it bores us all to death. Forcing your prospects to waste 60 seconds of valuable time (or worse, longer) to listen to your over-rehearsed recitation won’t win you any business.

Instead, drop the pitch and start a conversation. Aside from a brief description of your company/brand, what you do and for whom you do it – which you should be able to whittle down to a single sentence – abandon the one-sided presentation and get your prospects involved in a discussion by asking them about their business.

Asking questions will make them far more engaged, since they will be doing most of the talking, and they’ll notice if you actually listen to the answers. This will also allow you to learn more about their unique situation and needs, as well as the terminology they use to describe their concerns, which you can later build upon when you share the ideal solution to their problems.

HubSpot has some great recommendations for questions to ask prospects, and you can always tweak these to match your business.

3. Streamlining your processes will be essential.

2018 could be considered the year of minimalism, and in 2019, Marie Kondo taught us all about the life-changing magic of decluttering. With so many people singing the praises of organizing our personal spaces, it’s certainly likely to spill over into our professional lives and businesses even more in 2020.

Managing your sales and networking process can be a total nightmare, with all the things you have to be tracked simultaneously. If you’re a tiny business with a couple of clients and minimal inquiries, you might get away with a simple spreadsheet or notepad, but once you start to grow, you’re going to need something to keep track of it all so that you can fully maximize the results you get from your efforts.

There are quite a few tools that manage each individual part of the business lead and customer management process, but if you’re looking for a single, integrated solution that takes care of everything from the outset, you’ll want to check out vCita.

vCita is your CRM, marketing software, booking engine, client portal, and invoicing and payments system all wrapped up in one. This means that you won’t just be getting somewhere to store and follow-up on all those leads you secure from your networking; you’ll be able to take them through the whole sales process without any additional work.

4. Social is moving beyond quantitative metrics.

You’ve probably heard the news by now that Instagram is now starting to hide the number of likes each post receives. This is just one of the steps that many of the top social media platforms have been making to move away from superficial numbers and towards more meaningful engagement.

Rather than pouring all your time into churning an endless stream of content, redirect that energy to actively engaging with posts and messages from others. Try to find at least 30 minutes per day to go into your social media feeds and find people and posts that resonate with your brand. Don’t just like them either. Leave a comment that encourages responses and further discussion. See a Story or Live that you like? Hop into the creator’s DMs (in a non-creepy way) to let them know you’ve enjoyed it, or to explore the topic further.

Of course, none of this matters if you aren’t doing it consistently. That’s where using a social media tool like the trusted Hootsuite comes in. With Hootsuite’s ability to display columns for every feed, hashtag, list or search term you desire, as in the example above, you can always keep tabs on the latest content that’s relevant to you and engage straight away.

The more you interact with each of your followers or prospects, the more they will be inclined to check out your profile and content and take your relationship one step further.

Time to Get Networking

As we can see from this list, 2020 promises to be all about getting attention in the right places. Also, developing relationships with potential customers that transcend the transactional elements, and managing your processes in a simple, direct way to ensure that you never miss a beat.

Get these in line, and you’re sure to have an amazing year filled with business growth. And who knows, with all this networking excellence, you’re bound to make some great friends along the way too.