You have been to all the networking events, chatted to people, exchanged business cards. Even found a few contacts that would be worthwhile leads in the future.
Still after all this, it just doesn’t seem to be working.
However still the results aren’t that great. Sound familiar?
The problem is business networking doesn’t stop once you have left the event. It’s about the longer term networking post event. This is often the most important aspect of networking besides the event.
It’s Not about Collecting Cards
Going to networking events is not about collecting business cards. It’s not a game where the person with the most cards wins. In fact if you have a load of cards from contacts you aren’t interested in, then maybe you aren’t focusing on the right people at the events. It’s about quality, not quantity.
Record Your Contacts
You know that stack of business cards you have collected. You need to immediately transfer them to your address books (or CRM) and also write down everything you can remember about the person you met for each card.
I will often record peoples details, impressions, their specialities and professions along with their details of their business card. If you do this within hours of an event you will remember most of the points. A lot ore than you will days or weeks later. Don’t rely on your memory as it fades.
The day after a networking event you have to make contact with all the people you met. By doing this you will reaffirm and re-enforce your details with your contacts. You need to go over and summarise any topics that were discussed as well. Making contact gives the person an easier way to add your details to their address book.
Also if you promised anything, ensure you provide the information immediately. Any delay just looks like you don’t care.
Yes I know it’s hard work but it really does help make an impression.
Have a Style of Contact
The style of contact you use to make contact isn’t really important, but the quality is. Some people send out handwritten postcards, these are a great idea in this digital age. Especially if you possess a good degree of penmanship. A parchment postcard handwritten with say a fountain pen is something to be treasured.
Mind you an email is just as good, be that a plain text email or rich text one with formatting and pictures. Here it’s the content of the email that is important and will make the impression. If you are sending out a rich text email (HTML email) ensure that it is formatted so it looks good in the recipients email application. Otherwise again you look unprofessional.
What fails, I find, is people attaching product brochures, PDF resumes, word documents, Power point presentations (yes I had one of those the other day) or the like to an email. I’m just not going to open them. I have just met you, I don’t feel like I want to exchange attachments… yet. Get a website, put the details on there.
Don’t Spam Me
Now when someone gives you their business card, it means they are interested in staying in contact. Not in suddenly being on your weekly newsletter. You should ask people before putting them on any newsletter at all. Otherwise you are going to get the reputation as a sleazy serial marketeer. Remember receiving a business card is an act of trust, don’t abuse it.
It’s About Conversion
Whether you make contact or they do. The best thing you can do is have a small conversation, don’t force it, in the very least politely saying thank you. Again having a small conversation remind people that you care at least a little about them.
Remember that networking is about paying it forward, helping people. Not making business contacts you can get work from. Yes that will come, but I find the helping people will bring you more work in the longer term.
You need to leverage your networking of contacts to help your new contacts with anything they need or are looking for.
Sometimes it Doesn’t Work
Sometimes you make contact with people and they are just being polite at the event. It’s okay, sometimes it just doesn’t work out for various reasons. They may already have a web designer (for example) in their network they refer people too. Or they may just be not interested in your services, that happens.
Also not everyone gets the paying it forward principle of networking as well.
Staying in Long Term Contact
You need to ensure that you keep in contact with the people who are responsive to your secondary contacts. You need to be in regular contact with them, say once every six months at least. An easy way to do this is to email people a link to an article they maybe interested in and sentence summary of it.
Also I find grouping people via interests helps, to do this I tag people with various interests. This way your can target your emails with similar information, saving you time. I also note when I last contacted them and why. Okay a bit anal, but I do this because I find it’s one less thing to remember.
Online Social Networks
Online Social networks are great. They are also bad.
Now I wouldn’t recommend using Facebook for business contacts. I know some people do, but I would just steer clear of it.
Now social networks can be great for maintaining contact details and maybe the status of what a person has been doing. But they are not good generally for longer term contact generation. You have to do that, the social network will not do it for you.
For instance in Linkedin, you have to join and contribute to the groups or answer the submitted questions, you’re effectively are paying forward online. Problem is the ROI in this online world will take longer to achieve.
However Twitter does break this rule, people you are following and those following you will often be having conversations and build relationships daily via Twitter. But you still have to work at it. You have to put the effort in to stay in contact.
So as you see in a way the real networking starts after the event, this is when the longer term relationships are built. I know that we all suck at this from time to time. Yes even I forget or just get too busy to do some of these things. Still next time you attend a networking event try these suggestions out the next day and maintain that network of contacts.
Also this list is by no means complete, do you have any other suggestions for the morning after networking, please comment below?