Networking, it’s all about the follow-up!

My favorite part about networking events is meeting new people. With every introduction comes the opportunity to exchange ideas, learn about new companies and make life changing connections. The purpose is to develop sustaining relationships that will evolve into business partnerships, new clients and customers, as well as advocates.

Let’s face it, no matter how informative and compelling the first conversation is, if you do not follow-up after the event, your meeting was in vain. You aim to make meaningful connections that will turn out to be mutually beneficial. The first step to leveraging your new connections is to FOLLOW-UP. Following up helps you to create credibility. Here are 5 tips to help you be more effective and consistent in your follow-up.

1. Create one contact list from all of the collected business cards. Whenever you go to an event, it is common to collect business cards. If you’re like me, too often they end up in a pile in your purse or a business card holder. You are more likely to follow-up with new contacts if their information is easily accessible. After you’ve determined who you would like to connect with after the event, compile your contacts into once place.

Here are some recommended apps that will allow you to compile information from the business cards – http://appadvice.com/appguides/show/business-card-scanning-apps.

2. Include specific information about each new contact. For example, Melissa is hosting a women’s conference this fall. This is important to your follow-up. It shows that you care and were paying attention.

Your contact list should include –

a. First/Last Name
b. Company Name/Industry
c. Phone
d. Email Address
e. Website/Social Media Handles
f. Best Contact Method/Time
g. Specific facts from initial meeting/What you can offer them
h. Where you met
i. How you can help them beyond the event

3. Make your initial contact via email. If you can, find out the best method and time to contact people and reach out to them that way. This is done during your first meeting. Otherwise, email is the best first contact, because
a. It’s less invasive than a phone call.
b. It’s less time consuming.
c. It’s less disruptive. It allows you to get everything out without interruptions. You are also not constrained to a smaller time frame.
d. It creates a paper trail of information.

4. Schedule an in-person meeting. There are several ways you can do this. Here are a few.
a. Invite them to your event or another event. If it is your event, invite them to be your VIP guest. That may entail giving them a complimentary or discounted ticket.
b. Invite them to lunch or coffee. I recommend you pay so suggest a location or activity that fits your budget and brand.

5. Offer them something tangible. In other words, give something away. Stop approaching every networking event as a seller. Too often, business owners approach new contacts from the “What can you do for me?” perspective. Shift your mindset to determine how you can best serve your new acquaintances. People are more likely to do business with those who show a genuine interest in them.
a. Connect them with someone who will benefit their business or life.
b. Patronize their business. Get in the habit of supporting other people’s businesses through your pocketbook. If they’re selling something that you need, buy it!
c. Honor or mention them in your blog or publication. This can occur after you have gotten to know more about them and their products and services.

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