You return home after networking event, empty your pockets, putting the business cards you collected on your desktop.
What comes next? If you are one of the people who organize them in neat piles, tied with a rubber band and a promise to get to them someday, PLEASE just toss them in the trash! Why? – because people have a short memory.
Be honest, do you remember what you had for dinner three days ago? Want to bet that you do not?
And yet the interaction you had over lunch was significantly more intimate than the conversation you had at the networking event. If you cannot remember what you ate three days ago, how can you expect someone to remember you a week later? When you return home from a networking event you have 24 to 48 hours to touch base with everyone you met and talked with. After that it is too late! No one said this was easy.
Networking works! If you met people, especially face to face, choose one or two that you want to follow-up. Send an email or better yet a hand written card within 48 hours.
The note should not be long. It should however, remind the person where you met and open the door for a future conversation. Before you follow-up to keep in touch, think about what you do and they do to evaluate the contact. Be fair, if you can’t see yourself ever referring any business their way, don’t waste their time or yours cultivating the relationship. What is their time worth? Yours?
What makes a good follow-up? If you ask questions and listen well during your brief encounter, you probably have an idea. Consider an article on a topic of interest or an electronic introduction to someone you think they should meet. Do not use this first contact after a networking event as an opportunity for a sales pitch: Hello, I enjoyed meeting you and by the way, if you search….
That not-so-subtle approach says “I am not really interested in you, unless you want to buy something. An expert networker knows how to relate with the past, generate a present relationship to have a better chance of success in the future.
What should you do in the meantime, after you have sent your follow up notes, or made a few phone calls? Organize your contacts. This does not mean in alphabetical order or putting them in a box or binder. That tactic was fine in 1927 or even 1987 but not today. You need to organize your contacts data electronically in a database, spreadsheet, or contact management program. The availability of affordable, easy-to-use contact management software has made this process something everyone can do.
Excel, Act, Outlook, Goldmine, and Access, are all possible foundations for your marketing data base. Use programs that include the potential to search the database that are easy to use, with the ability to issue reports in a useful format. A useful format is what makes sense to you, not someone else!
Creating a data base with the basic information; name, address, title, phone, email is only a starting point. For the basic data network, you need to access their interests, supply their industry and their main markets. At some point a client may ask you, do you know someone who…. With an electronic data base, names, addresses and phone numbers are a few key strokes away. And the easiest way to get a referral is to give one. With a well organized data base it easy to do!
Why restrict yourself to one computer? Have your database available no matter where you are and if it is accessible online the other tools you require are all built in as well. Where you ask? Take a 30 day trial. You won’t even need a credit card to begin. Your name and email will suffice.
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