2010 has certainly been a great year for networking. So many new forums were set up and it seemed for many, networking became a key factor of their marketing and business development activities. But in chatting to some entrepreneurs, they’ve been disappointed by the return on the investment they’ve gained from this activity. They haven’t really won much business as a result.
When we look a bit more into the factors for this, it’s clear that whilst attendance at networking events is up, the act of following up the contacts made is patchy. I chatted through the dilemma with John Timperley at The Results Consultancy. John’s a networking expert and author of the book Network Your Way To Success. So if you want to get a better return on your networking efforts, here are John’s top 5 ‘follow up fundamentals’
Be timely with your timing – When’s best to follow up largely depends on your contact and what’s going on in their life. Left too long, they may forget you. They might also think you’re desperate if you contact them later that day or early the next. As a rule, it’s better to wait a couple of days to demonstrate they are quite high on your agenda but you, rightly, needed to deal with other priority matters first. At the event, why not enquire what they’re doing in the next few days to assess when would be good to contact?
Get creative with content – Many people follow up with a note – handwritten, formal letter or email. These show your friendly side but little more than that. The best networkers also include something of value that will catch their contact’s interest. It often touches on something from their discussion together. As you want to position your genuine interest in this person, avoid sending your company brochure or other such literature. It implies you’re selling and not relationship building. Consider instead third party information highly relevant to this contact’s role and interests.
Build credibility with a call – In using the phone to follow up, introduce yourself clearly but warmly and check if it is a good time to speak. If it is, then build on your previous discussion with them and listen to their response. The best networkers always propose a next step – marrying what they’ve just heard with ideas they have pre-planned. They also check their contact’s approval of each proposition before suggesting anything else. At the end of the call, summarise the points you have agreed and offer to drop them a note with these ahead of the next action.
Give a helping hand – In the course of your discussions a business opportunity may become apparent – but it won’t always be for you. If appropriate, offer to introduce this contact to others in your network that could help (but pick people who can be relied on to deliver). Alternatively, put yourself in your contact’s position and do them a favour with no expectation of it being returned. The personal reward comes partly in the giving and, surprisingly often, from opportunities generated directly from the contact or indirectly through referrals they are able to give.
Meet – You really start to build a bond with people when you’ve met them several times and shared some experience of working or socialising together. So think about what events or activities they might be interested in and plan a programme of invitations over time. Can you suggest a meeting at this stage to learn more about their business? Would they be keen to come and meet you and other colleagues?
So why not have a look through the business cards you have been given by people you met at previous networking events you have attended. How many did you actually follow up? Are there contacts in particular that you can make a call to now to follow up – you will have to have something of relevance and value to say to them.
Or perhaps you can make a commitment to yourself that next time you meet a potentially valuable contact you will be the proactive one in following up. If you’re not going to follow up – why are you really investing time in networking events?
The author – Michelle Daniels, Managing Director – Extended Thinking
An experienced and effective business development and marketing strategist, Michelle has built a successful career increasing top line growth for service businesses and organisations. She helps her clients turn their marketing, business development and thought leadership plans into reality with her ‘hands on’ support and practical advice. A prolific writer, Michelle also combines creative flair with business nous to produce highly effective results. She has written (and ghost-written) for many professional and business publications and is a chartered marketer and member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.
Extended Thinking is a hands-on marketing and business development consultancy. Bringing together great minds and great ‘doers’, we help our clients devise and implement plans that achieve real business growth. Our clients come from a wide variety of backgrounds and sectors, but invariably are those who are too busy or lack the resources to action their marketing and business development plans. We roll our sleeves up and muck in to free them up to do what they really want to do and are good at doing.