In the business world, networking is often the lifeblood that drives growth, partnerships, and innovation. For SaaS founders particularly, striking the right balance between cost-effective virtual networking and face-to-face meetings can be a challenge ...
Winter is coming! If you're off out face-to-face networking, remember your coat!
The digital transformation has given birth to many and varied platforms and tools, making virtual networking a breeze. LinkedIn, virtual conferences, and even social media have enabled founders to connect with potential clients, partners, and influencers globally at a fraction of traditional costs.
"These platforms can facilitate countless meetings, demos, and interactions without leaving my office!"
A lot of it depends on what you're selling and to whom. If it's a low-cost generalist product, then virtual networking is probably the way forward. If it's a complex enterprise-level and expensive product, you're going to find face-to-face is better for you. Also, it depends on your budget, where in the start-up cycle you are and whether it's your team who are networking or the founders.
Here's what I like about virtual networking:
Cost-Effective: No travel expenses, no fancy dinners, and no conference fees. Virtual networking can be done on a minimal budget, offering substantial ROI
Wider Reach: Virtual platforms open up global markets and allow founders to connect with stakeholders they might never have met in a traditional setting
Flexibility: Schedule a demo for a client in Europe in the morning and another for a client in Asia in the afternoon ... all from the comfort of your workspace
Yet, for all its advantages, virtual networking can't entirely replace the nuanced interactions, trust-building, and serendipity of face-to-face meetings. There's a reason why even in the most digital of sectors, face-to-face networking events, conferences, and meet-ups remain popular.
I personally network face-to-face with Collaborate MK each month, mostly to keep my own sanity because, let's face it, we're human beings and we like to be around other people. I still have my goal of getting demos scheduled, I just go about it a different way.
Here's why I still network face-to-face:
Building Trust: There's an inherent trust that develops through eye contact, a firm handshake, or simply sharing a meal. This trust can sometimes be the linchpin for closing a deal
Reading Nuances: Body language, tone of voice, and immediate feedback can provide valuable insights during negotiations and pitches
Serendipity: Chance encounters at a conference or networking event can lead to unexpected opportunities, collaborations, or even friendships
Speaking of chance encounters at a face-to-face networking event: years ago I met my best friend out networking and over the years we've been through a lot together and are like family now. Kirsty is a business owner too and we often refer to each other when meeting other people we feel are in need of each other's services. It has been a very fulfilling decade for each of us, both personally and business-wise.
"A brand new friendship, simply from being sat next to each other at a business lunch, then going outside for a smoke and chatting after the meal!"
For many SaaS founders, it's not about choosing one over the other. Virtual networking can lay the groundwork, establishing initial contacts and sharing information efficiently. Face-to-face interactions can then solidify these relationships, making them more profound and meaningful.
While the allure of cost-effective virtual networking is undeniable, especially for bootstrapped or budget-conscious SaaS startups, it's essential not to neglect the power and value of human connection.
After all, behind every email, demo, or virtual handshake, there's a person with emotions, aspirations, and a story to tell.
Love, light and logic ...
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