Networking Realities, Part One: The “Follow-Up”
“I shall maintain my network.” So easy to say, so seemingly hard to do! Business network maintenance may be the most important way to focus our career energy, yet so often we place our network-related tasks on the back burner, expecting the system to run itself. Good practice dictates that we need to carve out time each week to tend to our networks; failure to do so can cause our valuable networks to unravel, threatening our relationships with essential contacts, and spawning unnecessary challenges to advancing our careers.
Network maintenance can be time-consuming to say the least, and our busy schedules tend to be the factor that tempts us to push off our maintenance duties. But a little attention to organization can slash the amount of nurturing time you’ll need to spend, and create a working pattern that will become second-nature before long. Focus first on The Follow-Up— the important things you’ll need to do starting immediately after you’ve met someone new at a networking event.
Note to Self
Memory statistic: Following an encounter, we remember ½ of what someone said. Wait 48 hours, and you can chop that in half again. My favorite solution: Jot down memory-jostling notes right onto their business card (not in front of the person, of course, but once you’ve departed). Often we meet multiple new contacts in a single afternoon, and those brief notes will prove vital in preventing your mental wires from crossing.
If you find yourself jazzed by a particular new contact, begin your research on them. Check out their website, study their LinkedIn page, and create a profile of that person with all of the necessary trimmings: kids names, siblings, birthdays, vacations, favorite books, interests, where they grew up, associations & organizations they belong to…..these are all important details that will come in handy in future conversations and dealings with that person, allowing you to express that you’re taking them seriously.
DO Put Your Eggs in One Basket
Just a generation ago, in the days of analog, our excuses for being disorganized amounted to drowning in a sea of paper scraps and clumsy binders. The digital age may have compressed the size of our office space, but we are still faced with too many choices when it comes to storing our information. My best advice when it comes to effective network follow-up is to keep all your profile notes in ONE place. Decide whether it will be a CRM, a Word Document, Outlook or Gmail, and stick to it. Headache averted.
Once you have assembled a thorough profile, it’s time to consider the next steps. The day after you’ve met, email the person with some customized thoughts, notating where you met in the subject line. Your goal is to become an asset to this person, so you’ll need to consider who to introduce them to, and who you should be introducing to them. If you came away from your initial meeting with some valuable advice or contacts, send a thank-you note. Strategically wait for a week until you make a request via LinkedIn to connect. The request should be personal— not generic. Depending on whom the person is, Twitter or Google Plus may be more appropriate avenues.
Do you have some Networking Follow-Up advice or success stories of your own? Please share them with us, and keep the conversation rolling.
Don’t miss Part 2 of Networking Realities.