Attending a great networking event is only step one of a successful attempt to create new contacts. Once the event is over, what next? Although about 75% of people network in some way, not all of them understand that an event is only meant to provide initial introductions to people of interest. It’s up to you to take it the rest of the way or watch those budding new business relationships wither.
Keeping Fresh Event Contacts Engaged
Losing these contacts is far from an inevitable thing. With the right actions, you can keep these people on board and even bring them closer to making a purchase or deal with you along the way. To do this, you must:
Get Those First Follow-ups Done
The number one most important thing for you to do after every networking event is follow up with all the contacts you made. Everyone should hear from you in some way, but since you only have so much time and energy on your hands, you’ll have to determine what level of effort is appropriate for each person.
Make sure to capture all your leads' information. With a phone number or an email address, and some personalized notes, you can connect with them fast and easily. 35% of people report having landed a new opportunity through a simple message alone, so as minimalist and undemanding as this choice is, it does have at least a small chance of paying off all the same. For others, a slightly more involved email is appropriate. These messages should stay relatively brief, but they should make the most of their short length. Each should be personalized with something that you and the recipient discussed at whatever networking events the two of you attended together, and each should invite further interactions between you as well. Not all contacts you send either of these types of messages to will respond to them, but it only takes a few pleased prospects for the whole process to be worthwhile.
For the very most important and potentially valuable of the people you meet, something more elaborate might be in order. You definitely want to meet these individuals in person again if at all possible, and in most cases you’ll want to sweeten the deal with an offer of lunch, an invitation to an exclusive event, or another premium perk that would interest most contacts. Networking on this level can obviously become an expensive and time-consuming endeavour, so take care not to overuse this special status. Unless the networking events you usually attend are almost exclusively targeted at high-value prospects, you should only have a handful of contacts who fall into this category. Remember, you can always extend this level of recognition to deserving contacts later on if you acquire more resources, but you can’t recover resources that you already spent and later wish you hadn’t.
Get Your Timing Down
Following up after networking events is something that must be done within a particular time frame in order to be effective. In the three days following any networking events you attend, you should make a point of following up with every single contact you made. This ensures that the event is still fresh in their minds – and that, by extension, you are too.
Failing to reach out early doesn’t just mean forgoing an opportunity, however. If you wait too long to reach out to a given contact, you might also make it seem like they were an afterthought to you, even if that isn’t truly the case. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise when people you’ve neglected like this fail to provide you with the kinds of networking advantages you were hoping for. Stay on everyone’s good side from the start so you don’t have to worry about making a negative impression.
Be the Generous One
Effective networking is about give and take. If you want to reap the benefits that a certain person can bring you, you need to give them a reason to make that offer. After all, they currently don’t know you from the person next to you, and chances are good that both of you want the same thing from them. Why should they give that thing to you and not to your competition?
To combat this problem, you need to make yourself stand out by offering something of value to your contact first. Recommend a good vendor for them, or a good new employee. Offer to make an introduction to a person you know they will want as a contact too. You can even try directly sending some business their way if it’s within your power to do so. Once again, not all contacts should get the same treatment here; you’ll run yourself ragged trying to do favours for everyone, and you only have so many existing contacts of your own to put to work for new ones. However, it’s easy to quickly search up an article you think that person might appreciate, and even a little gesture like that can do a lot to show that you care. Remember, that’s all you should be trying to do at this stage; the rest will happen from there.
Pay Attention to the Long Term
Whether or not you succeed in getting your contact to buy from you, sign your contract, or whatever else you were hoping they would do, you should never rule out the possibility that they may be valuable to you in the future. This is not only possible, it’s likely – in sales, at least, it often takes at least 5 points of contact to actually get anywhere with a lead. This means that you’ll want to maintain the relationship regardless of the immediate outcome of your efforts.
To do this, you’ll want to incorporate some more face-to-face time. 95% of professionals agree that the most effective way to keep yourself on your contacts’ minds is to be physically present in their lives from time to time: you might forget about someone who you only speak to through online messages, but someone standing in front of you is impossible to ignore. One great way to do this is to see if you can possibly meet them at other networking events in the future, since it’s a request that is easy to fulfill and therefore likely to be granted. It’s also extremely low-cost, which is great for firms without much money to spare.
If you can’t arrange an in-person meeting like this, though, checking in electronically is very easy and is better than doing nothing. Send your more distant contacts an email every once in a while, just to reach out and see what they’ve been doing. Like all of your networking communications, these emails should be personalized and relevant to each individual recipient, so don’t go sending out anything generic just to save time. If you have the extra time, you can even give them a call to have a more direct conversation with them. Be sure to check with your contact before doing this, though, as some people do not appreciate unsolicited calls and your gesture may end up having the opposite effect from what you intended. Being considerate to each person’s wants and needs is more important and will be more effective than simply trying to make a grand but generic show of appreciation.
Keep Updating Your Contact Data
Contact data is what makes follow-ups to all networking events possible in the first place, and that holds true whether it’s been three days or three years since the event actually took place. You have to keep every contact’s data up-to-date to continue using it in this way into the indefinite future. If you don’t, your data quality will decline at an estimated rate of 22.5% per year, cutting off many contacts from your reach and making it hard to use your database to its full potential.
Over the course of these later communications we’ve discussed above, you should be making sure that you stay on top of any changes that might be happening with a given contact’s data. Some of these changes are obvious, such as a switch in email addresses that leads to messages being returned to you. Others, such as a change in job title, may go unnoticed for a long time unless they are specifically sought out. Both of these pieces of information are important for you to know if you’re going to make the most of a business relationship, so pay attention to even the smallest details and ask if you aren’t sure. Make all the relevant changes to your database as soon as you know they are needed and never fall behind if you can help it - that's all part of doing good contact data quality management.
Building Relationships That Last
Networking doesn’t stop when networking events do. Following up properly after they end is perhaps even more important than anything you could do at the events themselves. If you want a strong and viable network that will make a noticeable difference to your bottom line, it’s up to you to nourish those relationships over time and wait patiently for them to bear fruit. Rest assured that if you take the right steps, you’ll almost always see stellar results.
Curious about what networking events will look like in just 1 year? In our next post, we’ll be examining current trends in hopes of finding out. Check back in later to make sure you’re prepared for the changes to come, and as always, feel free to come join us for first access to plenty more knowledge and tips like this.
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