Stand Out and Be Memorable in your Networking Follow-Up
When most people hear the word “networking” they think of meeting and greeting new people, working a room, exchanging leads and referrals, making new connections. That is all true, but it’s only half the picture. The magic of networking happens in what you do after you meet the new person. Yes! The fortune is in your follow-up and in your follow-up system. Why?
Because first impressions are made at the first meeting, but mutually-beneficial relationships are built over time. Follow-up is what you do to stay in touch and to nurture that relationship over time.
Networking follow-up isn’t brain surgery. It doesn’t require any advanced degrees or specialized skill or talent. Anyone can do it. Oddly enough, most people don’t. And that is where you can stand out – simply by practicing disciplined, systematic and consistent networking follow-up over time. You can stand out amongst the crowd of overworked, disorganized and lazy networkers. You not only maintain more networking relationships than other people, but you become admired by your peers who can’t seem to get their act together when it comes to networking follow-up.
I have a simple formula to help you set up and practice systematic networking follow-up. I call it the T.H.E.R.A.P.Y. model of networking follow-up. Each letter stands for a quality that you need to build into your networking follow-up system.
- Targeted. Some contacts are more valuable than others and you’ll want to put extra time and effort into following up and staying in touch with select top contacts. I recommend that you identify your Top 50 Contacts and practice a higher level of frequency of touch with them. Give them the VIP treatment, by sending them quality correspondence such as handwritten cards and personally signed letters (not just email or Facebook). Try to reach out to them in some way once every five weeks of so. These people matter to you.
- Helpful. Strive to be a helpful resource to the people in your network. Be on the lookout for useful articles, books, tips/news and people that might help your contacts grow and prosper. It’s easy to be helpful. Sometimes all you have to do is listen for what they need.
- Efficient. Put some organized structure and process into your networking follow-up system, otherwise it will take too much time and effort and you will abandon your well-intended goal of staying in touch with important people in your network. You might want to set aside a few hours each week to do your follow-up. Use the time blocking system on your calendar and honor it. Or if you are the more spontaneous type, set a standard for yourself to execute your follow-up within 48 hours of seeing the person. With follow-up, quality of contact must be balanced with speed, so think beyond email and texting with your follow-up. Consider personal stationery, pre-stamped note cards or greeting cards that you can send following your networking meetings and for special occasions (like birthdays, anniversaries, promotions or other good news).
- Reliable. This is where your integrity can really shine. If you promise something to a networking contact, you must action it immediately. Your reputation is on the line. I try not to offer too many things at one time, knowing that it would create a burden not only for me to send, but for them to receive and action. Limit your offerings to one thing that you know you can do easily. And then do it!
- Accessible. Don’t make people go hunting for your contact details. Make sure your business card has your full mailing address, email and telephone numbers on it. Ensure you are “findable” by having a presence on the popular social media sites, such as LinkedIn. Put your contact details in your email signature and leave them verbally when you leave voice mail messages. The point is you want to make it easy for them to get in touch with you. You want to be easily accessible.
- Personalized. Networking relationships become stronger when you express your personal brand to other people. Strive to present your best professional self, but it’s okay to be yourself in your networking follow-up. The signature of your name, actually written by you on the note card or stationery (not scanned in), remains one of the most powerful ways in which you can personalize your follow-up. Your voice is another highly personal feature about you. Why not try one of my favorite personal networking touch points: call people on their birthdays and sing the Happy Birthday song into their voice mail machine. My singing voice is not that good, but the action reinforces my brand and let’s them know I care about them as a person.
- Yippee! Yahoo! My final recommendation for standing out in your follow-up is to ensure you build some fun into your follow-up. It doesn’t have to be all business. Think about what you could do that would make someone else smile when they receive your follow-up. Chances are that you will be smiling when you send your follow-up. Try this: a special stamp, really cool stationery paper (Southworth has a great selection of templates to help you create your own letterhead), a visually compelling greeting card, an inspiring quote, or a photographic print enclosed in your letter. The sky is the limit with the fun you can have with your networking follow-up. The important part is that it should not be a burden but should bring you joy to do it.
When you practice a systematic approach to networking follow-up, you will find that your networking relationships accelerate and deepen and lead to even more connections. The simple act of consistent follow-up over time will help your business and career stand out positively in other people’s eyes. It will become one of your distinguishing personal trademarks and competitive advantages.
About the writer: Kathy McAfee is known as America’s Marketing Motivator and is author of the book Networking Ahead for Business (Kiwi Publishing 2010). In her role as Executive Presentation Coach and Professional Speaker, Kathy helps her clients to become the recognized leaders in their fields by mastering the art of high engagement presentations and more effective networking and connecting. To learn more about Kathy and to receive free weekly networking tips, visit www.NetworkingAhead.com