The most important aspect of networking actually happens after your first conversation. You’ve attended a networking event. Now what? You have a pocket full of business cards and no idea what to do with them.
Business cards have no value if you don’t use them, so let’s go over some simple ideas to help you maximize the initial interaction you had with someone. A networking event is just the jumping-off point for starting a new professional relationship — your follow-up is the key to developing it. And since the clock starts ticking as soon as you meet, it’s best to start at step one within 24 hours.
Let’s get to it and learn how to follow up like a pro:
Send a Quick Email
Take your new contact’s email off of that little rectangular piece of paper they gave you and craft them an email. Simply say that you enjoyed meeting them and try to reflect back on a point from the conversation. Something like, ‘It was so nice to meet you at the Chamber of Commerce event last night! Best of luck with your son’s baseball championship this weekend!’ If you’d like to have a follow-up, you can say that as well — just add, ‘We started to talk about the synergies we have in our prospecting and I’d love to continue that conversation. How does your schedule look next Thursday to grab coffee or lunch?’
It doesn’t have to be long or formal, but you need to move the ball forward.
Link In on LinkedIn
Since LinkedIn offers so many free tools to keep your contacts front-of-mind for you (and you to them), what’s the harm in connecting and seeing them pop up in your email on their birthday, when they have a work anniversary, or get a new job? All these are occasions for follow-up. So after you’ve met, link up on LinkedIn too.
Create ‘Reconnect Files’
After you have a follow-up meeting or phone conversation with someone you’ve met, I suggest you create what I like to call ‘reconnect files.’ They are handy, color-coded reminders that you can schedule once a month. Include some information about how you met and what you’ve discussed in the notes. When that name pops up each month, reach out to catch up, maybe set up another meeting, or send something that might be valuable; like an invite to another event, a great article, or an introduction.
It isn’t necessary to reach out to every contact every month they appear, but it’s a great way to stay in touch.
Remember Birthdays (and the Small Stuff)
Even if you don’t have your contact’s birthdays on file, Facebook and LinkedIn make it easy for you to reach out. Social media also provides other occasions to reach out. For example, is one of your contacts’ having a family celebration soon? A surgery? A child? Reach out and send your well wishes.
These small gestures will go a long way. They mean even more if you hand-write a note and mail it.
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