After my most recent networking event I was faced with the a question I find myself in frequently after attending a conference: “What am I going to do with all these new contacts?” Whether brochures, LinkedIn requests and business cards, I have an abundance of information, but it’s only useful if I use it properly.
When I speak to people about effective networking I like to emphasize that reminding people of who you are, and following up with another meeting (if the connection looks fruitful), is the key to reaping the rewards of networking.
Here are some easy steps to consider every time you get those cards from a successful networking experience (in this case a conference):
1) Take notes on each card. If you did not do this during the event, dedicate some time to do this as soon as you can while the conversations are still fresh. Jot a note such as: “spoke about hiking,” or “good client lead.” Pen how you might approach these people in follow up.
2) Take some time to enter their info into a database. Some applications exist, such as Evernote, that can make this process easier. Some people like to simply enter by hand into their own custom database. If you connected through LinkedIn, try and scrape some data you can keep in this database, especially contact info.
3) Send an e-mail (or LinkedIn message) and connect. I find that if I take a few minutes after en event, or the day later, to reach out and connect with someone I met, that the building of a relationship happens organically. Not every connection is worth fostering of course, but better to reach out to 10 different people, finding that 2-3 become meaningful business connections, rather than just letting the cards sit on your desk and waiting for others to reach out to you.
Here are some e-mail templates I like to use to connect with someone:
It was great meeting you at ____ event. I really enjoyed our discussion about _________. I’d like to see if we can connect for coffee sometime soon. I’ll suggest the week of ______ but let me know what works for you. When can I follow up?
It was great having the chance to see you at ______ event. You probably don’t remember me as you were mobbed by so many people, but I really enjoyed our brief conversation. I really like the work you do, and was hoping to pick you brain when you have a moment,
I’d like to see if we can connect for coffee sometime soon. I’ll suggest the week of ______ but let me know what works for you. When can I follow up?
You’ll notice in each of these e-mails you are asking an open ended question so that there is more likelihood of a response. No matter what e-mail you send, be sure to always leave an open thread. It won’t always work, but it’s better then leaving with: “great meeting you.”
4) Circle back. Not everyone will respond to you, and that is okay. Some people get busy, some don’t want to be bothered, but after e-mailing the evening or day after an event, circle back in about a week to see if you can try and make a connection. There are some great applications that can manage that relationship. One favorite of mine in Google App users is Boomerang, but there are many others out there.
How do you like to follow up? Let us know!