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Some of you are regular attendees; others not sure and others again absolutely hate it. I have always networked and passionately believe in its value. When working in the telecoms sector and establishing an office here in the South West, I gained at least one third of my business through networking. And, equally important, those customers remain loyal and don’t get whisked away when the next ‘too good to miss’ telesales call comes in – so long, of course, that you have ‘done what you say on the tin’ and given them the very best customer service. So do give it a try.
But before you start: you must make the time to follow up every interesting conversation/potential lead from each event within a couple of days. If you’re not prepared to do this, then probably worth waiting until you can follow up effectively.
- If you have promised to follow-up with someone about something, do it within a couple of days of the event whilst still fresh in your mind (and theirs) with a quick email or phone call. And of course you’ll invite them to join your network on LinkedIn… Even if you haven’t promised to follow up, then Linked In is great to maintain contact. If emailing, why not attach your own ‘outlook’ business card to your mail, so it saves having to make out a card for you. Make it easy to do business with you…. If you do a lot of networking, then perhaps consider a business postcard or folded overprinted note let to ‘stand out’ from the standard two-line email. I was sent once a great looking card as a follow up from a national IFA once but it had no contact details! What a waste – in fact more than that – it made me think the company was daft for going to all that trouble and not ensuring the basics were in place!
- If you are sending an email follow up, check your email signature to see that it’s complete. If you’re in business, you don’t have a Hotmail, Gmail, AOL account do you? Needs to be the same as your website. These others are great for home use but do not give you a professional image. Take care with sending your own logo and test to ensure it is received as you send it and not as a box with a X in the corner. Your signature needs:
- First name and surname
- Company name
- Job Title
- Strap line/sentence about what you do
- Skype if appropriate
- Email address
- Links to your social media networks, eg LinkedIn, Twitter, Face book etc.
- Links to articles on your blog or any special offers
- If you have time, consider how the person you met is most likely to want to be communicated with – think about where they fit in with the behavioural/disc quadrants and contact accordingly.
- When you make contact, where appropriate, suggest a follow up meeting to find out more about their business and for them to find out more about yours.
- When you receive an email from a new contact, make sure you update your ‘contact’ details on your PC, eg outlook contacts. Personally I copy all details from an email signature and then paste onto a new contact and then populate the appropriate boxes accordingly. (it’s always a nuisance where people list their landline numbers as +44 (0) 1225 111111)! Another good idea is to send new contacts your own outlook business details – that way you know they’re all there and correct!
- Exchanging business cards doesn’t give you the permission automatically to add to your data base for email ‘blasts’, unless you agreed that you would when chatting. Nor does a list giving email addresses. You should contact people individually if this is what you want to do to ask permission.
- If you are sending out an email newsletter, don’t just abandon the bounce backs and out of offices. There can be lots of useful information there – mobile numbers, alternative contact numbers and the like. Copy and paste into the contact information.
You get out of networking what you’re prepared to put in, but you need to ‘work’ at it and build the trust. Building up a network can become one of your best marketing strengths and can help to generate regular referrals.