Make the Most of Your Networking Contacts

Business Entrepreneurs Lifestyle Resources

You have attended networking events and accumulated a mountain of business cards. Now, you need to design and faithfully implement a system to stay in touch with the people you met and enhance those relationships, even after they become your clients. Without this, your networking efforts will have been in vain.

Step One: Prioritize
You MUST prioritize! You don’t have limitless time, and you need to use it as efficiently as possible.

Keep your networking strategy clearly in mind. Determine which relationships can develop into win-wins for both of you. Gathering cards but keeping only the ones that you think will bring you business is a great mistake.

Assign categories for your contacts depending on their importance to your business. In your contact-management software, create a field named “Priority,” where you can enter their assigned category. This will help you set the timing as to how often you will get in touch with them.

Category A: “Immediate” – People with whom you definitely want to establish a relationship. In this category are those whom you can help, with whom you can do business or who could become your client. You may want to get in touch with these people immediately and set up a time to meet with them again soon

Category B: “Occasional” – Those you will keep in touch with occasionally, perhaps once a quarter, just to say, “Hello! I’ve been thinking of you.” This is not necessarily a sales call or letter, but simply to remind them of who you are and what you do.

Category C: “Peripheral” – Those you’d like to keep in the database and review from time to time, but probably won’t contact them regularly.

Step Two: Organize
In addition to the usual contact information, other important fields that you may want to set up in your database-management system could include:

Industry or Profession – Using this you can pull up all your realtor contacts and perhaps send them a helpful article you found that relates to real estate.

Website – You may want to look up more information on their business.

Notes – Always keep good notes and track dates and other information about your communication with contacts. Then, if you hear from or meet someone six months later, you’ll know where you met him or her. It’s also important to make note of any special interests, needs or skills they may have.

Be consistent in the way you organize your contacts. Keep your information up to date. Your database is only of value if it’s kept current.

Set up a schedule for yourself to keep in touch with each of your contacts. Set your CRM software to remind you to make your calls and track your progress.

Step Three: Work Your Plan
When you return from a networking event, your first task should be to prioritize and enter the new contact information you’ve gathered.

One way to do this easily is to scan all those cards into your database using a card scanner. It typically takes 15 minutes to scan 15 to 20 cards and tweak them. Cards with a lot of graphics or unusual fonts may need your help to correct the information. Then send a brief email to everyone letting each one know how much you enjoyed meeting him or her. This can all be automated in your CRM.

How Frequently Should You Keep in Touch?

Every 30 days is typical. People don’t usually want to hear from you more frequently. A call or email once a month keeps you in their minds.

Be Creative in Your Communications.

Consider their needs and what might be of interest or helpful to them. If you recently read a really good article on “widgets,” pull up all the contacts in your “widget makers” category and send the article to them with a note. Perhaps send a Thought for the Day on how to get a better client. Make a list of your ideas and use them regularly. This lets them know you’re thinking of them.

Support each other’s businesses – Discover ways to do this.

Give referrals – When you pass their card along to someone else, let him or her knowthat you did so and contact them again a few weeks later to follow up and find out if the referral worked out.

Send a card to say “thank you” or to congratulate them on a success. Purchase high-quality cards that communicate both professionalism and caring.

Invite them to attend a new networking event you just learned about, and email them with the relevant information.

Send them your newsletter.

Remember: always be brief. Respect the other person’s time. People are busy, so keep your communications short.

Faithful Follow Up is Essential
Extraverts and “promoters,” who thoroughly enjoy meeting new people and are excellent networkers typically tend to avoid the more tedious task of following through on their intentions. They need to make extra effort in this area.

Follow up is an ongoing process. Build your database, keep it up to ate and keep in touch regularly to maintain an awareness of yourself and your business. You never know who your contacts may meet who could benefit from your services or products.

Networking is undoubtedly the easiest and most cost-effective way to grow almost any small business. After you gain a new customer, follow up becomes even more important. Keep in touch with and market to existing clients and customers. This will cost much less than acquiring new ones.

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