Building a successful network takes more than a series of meet-and-greet events. When your networking is integrated with your daily marketing activities, it can be simple and easy – natural. Your consistent investment of time after each networking event will pay off in big ways for your business, but making that time investment requires a plan.
An example of ”no plan” comes to mind. Jeff (not his real name) participated in a large trade show to collect contact information of potential clients for his custom and make-over kitchen business, and he collected over 300 contacts during the show. When asked several months later how much business he had generated as a result, Jeff said, “zero”! Further investigation revealed that the 300 contacts had been stuffed into his desk drawer and had never been approached again because Jeff got busy with other things. What a loss! Jeff had no plan for follow up. The lesson here is: Don’t be Jeff!
Before you attend your next networking event, take the time to craft a follow up strategy after collecting those precious business cards. Here is a list of 7 possible actions you could take. Choose one and make it your way of staying in touch. Don’t try to do all 7 though! You will run out of steam, and worse yet, you might annoy the very people you are attempting to incorporate into your network.
- Send an e-mail. State that you enjoyed meeting them and why it would make sense to stay in touch.
- Connect with a LinkedIn invitation. Include a personal note about meeting them at the event.
- Offer a referral. If during the conversation at the networking event they mentioned needing help with something, and you can connect them to a resource, offer to do so.
- Send an article or book reference if it pertains to the conversation you had with your new contact.
- Extend an invitation to join you at some other event that you know this contact would enjoy.
- If, during the conversation, some upcoming event like a birthday, anniversary etc., was mentioned, send a congratulations message.
- Send a handwritten, ”good to meet you” note. This gesture will be sure to set you apart since so few people resort to a handwritten note these days.
While none of these follow up gestures is earth shattering, they do make a difference. Any one of these actions will show that you want to build a stronger relationship and that you take the time to build connections. Networks don’t build themselves. Like any relationship, they take time, nurturing, care and thoughtful actions.