Yes! I know everyone is busy. I had a boss who told me once, “eating and sleeping is a sign of weakness.” Well, I think he was a bit off…but not by much. Working to stay connected is extremely important in this fast-paced world in which most executives — regardless of business size — find themselves. You can’t keep that connection going with only a piecemeal effort.
Remember, it’s not merely appearing at a networking event. It is about interacting. When you interact you meet new people. But then, nothing happens, right? The good news is that you went to a networking event. The bad news is for most people that networking event is the last step, rather than the first. Hopefully, you got a conversation going. And, importantly, you got a business card or two with good contact information.
Trying to re-connect, follow up and stay in touch after a networking event is an important relationship building step. So, how does one stay connected? How do you cultivate a relationship that pays dividends in the future?
Hope is not a strategy. Hoping that something will come from your networking efforts is not enough. Researchers have documented bottom-line benefits from effective follow up. A 20% increase in some businesses have been reported — but only after they had been together for a year or more. In other words, reconnecting takes time. So plan for this effort in your daily and weekly schedule. One to two hours minimum.
Here is what works for me and I would suggest you try these five ideas over the next five weeks:
1. Put out a newsletter. An electronic newsletter is a great way to stay connected. You can highlight successess, new services, new staff and products. Once a month or once a quarter will do the trick. The newsletter should go to customers, potential clients, professional colleagues and vendors.
2. Do a lunch bunch. Again, eating is NOT a sign of weakness. Use lunch as a method to get to know a few people better. Set up lunch for one other person or select a small group, 1 to 3. It is a great way to discover common interests and to drive business.
3. Send a postcard. Hand-writing has become an exclusive art form with all the texting and emailing going on. So, use this fact to your advantage. Write notes telling about something new or some interesting facts about your industry. Also include a reminder. Something like, “I hope you think of me when you need…(Fill-in-the-blank).
4. Notice publicity. Regularly check the local newspaper, radio and TV and look for publicity about your contacts. Clip any mention or try to video and send the item along with personal note.
5. Speak out. The number 1 fear most have is public speaking. Assuming that you don’t have this phobia, speak to local groups and be sure that the program organizer publicizes your speech. Also, plan on sending a news release to inform others about this service.
Finally, the key is following up systematically. Doing so will build and maintain business connections.
I would like to hear from you. Please share ways you stay engaged with your network.