Because follow-ups take place outside of the well-understood context of networking events, some people find them difficult to navigate and therefore abandon the idea altogether. Unfortunately, that choice is sure to have detrimental effects on business revenue. Up to 80% of leads are not followed up on after B2B networking events; that’s a whole lot of lost potential.
Perfecting the art of the follow-up is one of the most useful things any professional can learn regardless of what field they are in. Anyone can chat with people at an event, but someone who takes the time to seek those same people out later and sow the seeds of a proper relationship are the ones who will ultimately see the most success. That’s why it’s important to know the best follow-up processes to employ and why.
The Golden Rule of Follow-Ups
What makes a good follow-up process? While networking is usually about you, effective follow-ups should be just as much about your contacts and what they want. You’re doing this in order to get them to remember you, win them over and hopefully have them give you their business, and that means catering to them a little. Don’t worry – you’ll still get what you want in the end. That’s just not the focus of this part of the conversion process. This rule is what determines each of the following six techniques' placement on the following list ranked from worst to best. We’ll go over the pros and cons for each process to better explain why it placed in a particular spot.
The Best Follow-up Processes, In Order
6. Connecting on Social Media
Pros: This is the one gesture that should always be your minimum level of follow-up after networking events. Social media connections open a channel of communication that you can possibly put to use later on without requiring too much of either party; it’s the most casual way of keeping up with a contact in the modern world. Since you only need to know a person’s name to do this, it’s also the easiest technique to use if you’re struggling with contact data quality management and can’t seem to find any other point of contact for that person that is still in working order. Ideally, this should only be used as a short-term solution while you get to work on that data quality problem, though.
Cons: Doing this is better than not following up at all, but it’s no secret that this is the option that takes the least effort or thought to accomplish. It also does very little to make you stand out from the crowd; 57% of LinkedIn users (the social media network you’re probably most likely to be using to do this) have over 500 connections on the platform, and chances are good that they don’t have a close relationship with all of them. Unless the contact in question is a very casual one with whom you wouldn’t usually have much further contact after networking events, this should only be step one of your follow-up plans.
5. Sending an Email
Pros: Email is a marked step above a social media message, but it’s still very quick and costs you nothing but time. Anyone who attends networking events can do it, and it’s easy to personalize your messages with little tidbits of information that you should have picked up while gathering contact data at your networking events.
Cons: Email is extremely practical, but it suffers from a lot of the same problems that social media follow-ups do. The average professional worker receives 121 emails each day. About half of those are spam messages that don’t take up more than a few seconds of the recipient’s time, but that still leaves people with a ton of correspondence to get through each day. With so much competing for your contact’s attention in their inbox, your message may get lost in the crowd.
4. Sending Handwritten Notes
Pros: There’s nothing like a handwritten note to show you care. 81% of people feel that writing something by hand makes it more meaningful than if you were to just type the same sentiments out on a computer or phone. The novelty of the action makes it stand out from all the other correspondence we receive daily. These notes also take time and precision to create (assuming you take care with your handwriting, of course), which in itself demonstrates a certain level of regard.
Cons: It can be hard to fit much content onto a handwritten note, particularly if you’re using fancy stationary that further limits your space with embellishments like gilt framing or logos. If you’re going to go this route, make an effort to be as succinct and focused as possible in your writing and still keep the personal touch. There will probably still be things you want to say by the time you run out of room, but that’s all the more reason for you to keep in touch with that contact.
3. Sending Gifts
Pros: Who doesn’t like to receive a gift? Providing a tangible token of your appreciation will almost always put you in your contact’s good books, and over 80% of C-suite executives believe that it generates a measurable positive ROI as well. This is especially true if you’ve taken the time to customize the offering to what you know of your contact’s tastes – for instance, if they’ve expressed a fondness for fountain pens, sending one indicates that you paid enough attention to them to know that and care enough to take that into account. Having that pen engraved with their initials shows next-level sensitivity to their needs and desires, which will get you far in the networking game.
Cons: This follow-up method can get very expensive very quickly, especially if you’re choosing more impressive kinds of gifts or giving to lots of people at once. Even if you can potentially write this off as a company expense, it’s still best to keep an eye on your budget when planning these kinds of follow-ups. Reserve your gifts for contacts who have the potential to bring you exponentially more revenue than that gift is worth. It’s also worth noting that this method has a hard time reaching its full effectiveness on its own; it should nearly always be used in combination with another tactic.
2. Making a Phone Call
Pros: Calling someone on the phone is the next-best thing to visiting them in person. It’s a live conversation between the two of you that allows for an exchange of ideas and spontaneity, and it works particularly well as a follow-up to networking events where you and your contact enjoyed in-depth discussions together. You can discuss specific things in greater detail than you could in written communication, and you know for certain that you’ve succeeded in reaching your contact.
Cons: This can be a controversial method of making contact; only about half of prospective buyers enjoy being contacted on the phone. This number does creep up as you examine the populations of higher and higher ranks within a company, though, so your chances of striking out with an important lead are less than that stat might make them appear. Nevertheless, you should always be mindful of your contact’s response when calling them and don’t push things further if they resist your efforts – you can always try another follow-up technique that they may be more attuned to.
1. Setting up One-on-One Time
Pros: There’s no better way to show you truly value a person than to carve out a chunk of your time just for them. While you’ve technically also one that if you’ve opted for a phone call instead, there’s something special about face-to-face contact like this that sets it apart from any other networking follow-up technique. If you don’t believe it, there’s proof: asking for something when face-to-face with someone makes you 34 times more likely to get what you wanted. Think about the business deals you could make with that kind of power behind you!
Cons: It should be noted that this technique may not be useful to you unless your contact has reason to want to meet with too; after all, it’s not just you who will be dedicating some time to this endeavor. If they have control of a multi-million dollar contract and you’re just one representative in a sea of others vying for their business, the arrangement is clearly skewed in your favor. Remember the golden rule! In these cases, it may be wise to move up this ladder more slowly, working your way up from an email to a phone call to a gift to a meeting. This allows your contact to become familiar with you and hopefully warm up to you over time.
You’ve Got Them Hooked – Now Reel Them In
Even if you make a point of attending all networking events you come across, you won’t get the results you’re looking for without understanding how to follow up on the initial contacts you make there. Choosing the right techniques for each contact can mean the difference between losing touch or enjoying a fruitful relationship for years to come. Get started with the latest crop of contacts from your networking events now, and always remember: any follow-up is better than none!
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