You return from your networking event, yes you made it out the other side! You may have no idea what words eventually came out of your mouth or who you have spoken to, but you do have a pocket full of business cards, some flyers and possibly some notes. There are probably a few people or conversations that are front of mind, so what do you do now?
First, sort through those cards and flyers. Pull out all the most relevant ones and those from people you have definite actions or conversations to follow up. Get these recorded somewhere – you can put the details into a spreadsheet, into a CRM (customer relationship management) system or use a card scanner app on your phone. I use HubSpot which is free and has an add-on card scanner app but a spreadsheet or other free system such as Trello works well. The important thing is to record the information and be able to make notes against it.
These most relevant contacts are the ones you want to follow up first, ideally within 24 hours.
You want to move on these within 24 hours whilst you are still front of mind and the contact remembers you. An email, a call or a LinkedIn connect message are your best options for this. Never request a connection on LinkedIn without a message. Not only is it a missed opportunity to say something but also more open and professional. Whatever communication you choose, DO NOT MAKE IT A SALES MESSAGE. If only that the contact will receive many sales messages from the event, the fact you don’t do this will make you stand out!
Mention a conversation or something that happened at the event.
Always offer help before asking for anything.
Ask to meet up to continue the discussion (not for a sales pitch)
If using email, write an informative subject line – not just the name of your company and keep to the point.
Connect on LinkedIn, with a message, even if you email too. You can say you have emailed and thought it would be useful to connect on LinkedIn too – an extra signpost to your email.
Follow them on Twitter, like their Facebook Page or connect on LinkedIn but don’t add them to your Facebook friends – business contacts do not want to see pictures of your dog, know what your Aunt did for their birthday or how your love life is going!
Update your CRM/spreadsheet with what you have sent, said and when.
I have completely missed people I had pinpointed to speak to at events and still made contact afterwards. Something along the lines of ‘what a great event, I was disappointed that time ran out before we had the opportunity to speak because ….’. It may not always work but it’s the one opportunity you have to connect with someone you haven’t even ever spoken to!
What NOT to do
Don’t bombard contacts with sales calls and standard emails or creepy connection requests.
Don’t make promises you can’t deliver
Don’t fabricate opportunities for their business to win a contacts ear.
Don’t add them as a Facebook friend (see above)
When you have been through this process then go back to the rest of the stack of cards and process them as appropriate. Other than the ‘definite opportunities’ there are usually two main groups the rest will fall into – ‘possible’ and ‘unlikely’. However, networking is all about referrals right, so never discard contacts that you can’t see an immediate opportunity with.
Still collect their data and connect with these contacts as appropriate. A LinkedIn connection request with an appropriate message and a follow on Twitter is usually sufficient. A message along the lines of ‘it was interesting to learn what you and (business name) offer, I thought it would be useful to connect on here should we or associates require similar services in the future. My business can …… (1 sentence)’.
This professionally and efficiently keeps contact touch points open for future requirements and referrals on a mutual basis. This is almost always positively received, remember they were there to network too! It will also show you to their LinkedIn contacts and they may follow you back and retweet you on twitter.
I hope you have found this series on Networking for Small Businesses useful. If you have read all 4 parts you will be significantly better equipped than many of the other attendees at a networking event and get the most you can out of your time there. Do let me know how you get on! You can contact me right here or email me at email@example.com
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