COVID-19 is changing the way business is done and people have found ways to adapt. Home offices and virtual meetings are now the norm. But there’s another aspect of business that needs to evolve: networking.

In-person meetings are few and far between. Large events and conferences have been put on hold. Rather than seeing this as a good time to take a break from networking, we need to find a way to network with these new restrictions. If you don’t enjoy in-person events, the challenge of finding new alternatives to networking may just be what you need.

Here are some strategies to help you explore new ways to network and gain referrals while traditional avenues are unavailable.

Why networking is more important than ever

Networking is always an important part of your business. But now with so many people needing tax-related support, networking may be more important than ever. Networking right now can help you:

Gain referrals

For many people right now, business is challenging. You may have fewer clients or you may not be growing your practice as quickly as you’d hoped. In-person meetings aren’t as easy as they were previously and marketing campaigns are an expensive way to operate. If you want to grow your business organically, referrals play an important part. Networking with other tax professionals, with people in related industries, and with potential clients is key to a strong referral strategy.

Get support

This is a trying time for many people, professionally. Your clients need a lot of support and a lot of your time. Having a strong network can help give you support when you need it. Whether you need a space to vent frustrations, to share new knowledge, or to brainstorm new ideas, you want a network you can turn to.

Ask technical questions

With new legislation in the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program, the next tax season is going to look a little different. You may not be an expert in everything, but having a network of experts that you can ask questions will be helpful.

5 Networking Strategies

For the foreseeable future, your networking strategies will likely look a little different. But that doesn’t mean your networking needs to stop. Here are five strategies to network during COVID.

1.    Expand your network to include other professionals

Previously, you may not have expanded your professional network far. You may have relied on a handful of other people providing professional services. But there’s an opportunity to reach beyond that network now.

CPAs and tax preparers often focus on networking with a lawyer or two in their local area. But there are other professionals to consider. You may want to network with bookkeepers, financial advisors, real estate agents, insurance agents, and any other professionals that may work with a client base that is similar to yours.

2.    Lean into technology

Sure, in-person events are largely cancelled. But that opens up an opportunity to use technology and network with people that may not live in your direct area. Get familiar with video-conferencing tools and pick your favorite. Then host virtual coffee meet-ups. You can choose to meet 1:1 or host a small group of professionals.

You may feel awkward at first using technology to schedule networking events, but soon you may start to like the idea that you can network and meet with people from all over the country without ever having to leave your own home.

3.    Create and share information

A lot of your clients and potential clients have questions about legislation from the CARES Act and they will likely have questions about future legislation when it’s passed. You can use content marketing as a way to network.

Create content that shares information that you know people have questions about. For example, write an article and publish it on LinkedIn or make a quick video and publish it on YouTube. Then, share it with your current network. If they find it informative, there’s a good chance they’ll share it. When they do, you’ll get exposure to a larger network of people.

4.    Offer your expertise

There are a lot of people looking for your expertise right now, especially as new legislation is released. If you are knowledgeable on a certain topic, share your expertise. Speak to other professional groups on the topic, volunteer your time to help people struggling. Being seen as an expert and the go-to person on a topic can help boost your credibility and indirectly broaden your network. The next time someone has a question about the topic you spoke about, your name will come up and your network will continue to expand.

5.    Continue to serve clients

Your best network is the one that you’re serving and building day in and day out. Clients are an excellent network and source of referrals, but it’s often an overlooked referral strategy by many tax professionals.

Be specific about talking to your clients when asking for a referral. Don’t just put a generic “we love referrals!” on the bottom of an email.

For example, if you helped a client work through Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness, say “If you know anyone else who needs help with this, let them know I can help.”

Networking right now does come with challenges. But there are also extraordinary opportunities to expand your network and gain referrals if you take a strategic approach to networking.