30% of a SME's turnover comes from its close network, on average. For a self-employed business, this percentage can reach up to 70%, according to the website of the Paris Ile-de-France Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI).
There's no doubt: the professional network is a golden source of opportunities, especially in today's digital age.
Creating or belonging to a 2.0 network ensures meeting twice as many people, twice as fast, and generating twice as many business opportunities. Network managers are aware of this. So what's the solution? With what tools? Bernard CAYOL (Deputy Managing Director of the Val d'Oise Chamber of Commerce and Industry) shares his testimony.
The Impact of the Economic and Health Context on Business Networks
For the Val d'Oise Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the goal has been the same for many years. This regional CCI supports entrepreneurs in their projects of creating and developing businesses.
Its main mission? To support and encourage the development of networks, whether they are sector-specific (aeronautics, commerce, etc.) or territorial (business parks, etc.). One example is the #Madein95 initiative, a label aimed at all companies in Val-d'Oise. This label also aims to create a community of local companies that can exchange with each other and, most importantly, seize new business opportunities more easily and quickly.
#Madein95 is based on exchanges and sharing experiences. Before Covid-19, the network relied heavily on in-person interactions:
🎙️ "The Covid period was tough for all of us. But every crisis is also an opportunity. The CCI took advantage of it to clarify its purpose and strengthen its connection with the companies it supports. We first opened a call center, made thousands of phone calls, listened. Then, we organized numerous webinars to support business leaders: that's what a professional network is all about!" - Bernard CAYOL, Deputy Managing Director of the Val d'Oise Chamber of Commerce and Industry
After months of crisis and support for its various professional networks, the CCI was able to take stock. According to Bernard CAYOL, members' expectations evolved on three points:
- Time management.
- Work-life balance.
To meet the new expectations of its members and bring more opportunities, how about expanding a professional network through digital?
A Hybrid Strategy to Engage B2B Communities?
To engage its professional networks (such as #Madein95), the CCI has opted for a hybrid approach.
🎙️ "We're not talking about going 100% digital. We want to maintain in-person connections, human relationships. Our action plan? Pursue our local presence with themed events, such as #Madein95 breakfasts, and increase in-person events. At the same time, we are committed to developing a digital community approach with MeltingSpot." - Bernard CAYOL, Deputy Managing Director of the Val d'Oise Chamber of Commerce and Industry
With MeltingSpot, the Val d'Oise Chamber of Commerce and Industry laid the groundwork for its online community strategy. The goal is to bring together, unite, and engage all members of the #Madein95 network on a single digital platform, eventually replacing various private groups on social networks.
🎙️ "We have several types of networks at the CCI. With MeltingSpot, the idea is to create a cross-cutting approach between all these groups. To unite, without competing. Our goal is to gather the 1200 members who belong to the #Madein95 label on MeltingSpot and combine human interactions with business." - Bernard CAYOL, Deputy Managing Director of the Val d'Oise Chamber of Commerce and Industry
To build #Madein95 online community, the Val d'Oise CCI relies on the tools provided by the platform:
- A contact directory.
- A space to centralize pitches.
- Video events, such as live sessions or webinars.
- A support section.
- A dedicated space for business opportunities.
- Communication channels for direct messaging or group discussions.
But beyond creating the community space, the real challenge is to change the members' habits. So, how can an entire professional network be digitized? And what are the opportunities
Digitizing Your Professional Network: Opportunities and Challenges
Offering a community tool to physical networks has many advantages. At MeltingSpot, we've observed that:
- 92% of members in a physical network want an online experience.
- An online community reduces administrative work for network management (content, communication, connecting members) by 2.
- Member activity is 8 times higher than in offline networks.
Beyond quantitative indicators, creating an online community also allows for maintaining long-distance relationships. No longer cluttered email inboxes and disorganized social networks: an all-in-one platform unifies without overwhelming. According to Bernard CAYOL, it's also "a multiplier of business opportunities and a generator of professional encounters."
However, the biggest challenge is not to convince the network leader of the benefits of digital. The real challenge is to convince offline community members. How can their habits be changed? What arguments can be used to educate, reassure, and motivate them?
Here are our common answers, with the Val d'Oise CCI:
- Take the time to explain...: New things aren't adopted in the blink of an eye. Be pedagogical and emphasize the benefits of such a platform. Do this during physical events, through email communications, on social networks, and when new members join.
- ... And explain that it doesn't take up much time: Reassure network members about the time required to join and participate in the online community. The tool's simplicity makes it easy to get started, and engagement within the community depends on each individual.
- Reassure about data protection: Joining a digital tool can be intimidating due to security concerns. With MeltingSpot, all your data remains private and secure, in compliance with GDPR.
- Inspire with success stories: Social proof has always been a powerful convincing tool. Highlight active and engaged members of the online community, the business opportunities they've generated, and showcase inspiring member profiles.
- Promote co-construction: Members have a say in developing, optimizing, and adapting the online community space! Involve them in this project that also enhances the physical network. Entrust them with responsibilities, ask for their ideas, and encourage them to freely share their feedback in chat spaces. The digitalization of a community is never a top-down project.
🎙️ "We work with significant clients in our Val d'Oise territory. Our dearest wish is for them to use MeltingSpot to communicate with our #Madein95 business community, sharing their needs (especially through video functionality) to find local solutions." - Bernard CAYOL, Deputy Managing Director of the Val d'Oise Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Professional Networks & Online Communities: 5 Steps to Get Started
As you can see, creating an online community isn't meant to replace a physical network but to amplify it in various aspects (proximity, co-construction, business opportunities, etc.).
To add this hybrid dimension to physical networks, the steps for creating a virtual community are as follows:
- Assess your current situation: number of members, network objectives, opportunities to seize through an online community, potential objections and barriers from members, etc.
- Choose an all-in-one community tool to kickstart the project.
- Communicate, educate, reassure, and motivate network members to join the online community.
- Provide regular updates to the community, by organizing virtual events, creating videos, sharing interesting resources, etc.
- Identify key ambassador members who will help you co-create this project over time.
Now it's your turn to learn from the Val d'Oise Chamber of Commerce and Industry and create an online community to digitize your 100% physical network. Discover our all-in-one platform. We support you at every step to provide your network with the community it deserves.