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Why Your Networking Follow-ups Suck and What You Simply Must do About Them
If you have a drawer full of business cards, this is for you…
Following up after a networking meetings or an exhibition is not a dark art, but most are terrible at it.
If you’re going to bother going out to find business, you’ll know that it’s one of the key areas that makes it all worthwhile, but most people simply screw it all up.
All that hard work and investment can be wasted with a poor follow up – or by forgetting to do it completely.
The good news is, there’s a really simple and free way to not look like a spammy, forgetful fool when you follow up.
Just last week (Friday) we went to an expo. It was a local event and a very successful one for us. We’ve had a busy week so we’ve only just followed-up. (Tuesday.) Not as early as we’d have liked, but better than what we would’ve done had we rushed it.
There are some really simple ways to improve your follow-up but they require just a little more effort. We wanted to make that effort so we waited until the allotted time. I was just talking to Jo about the frankly awful follow-ups we’ve have so far… so I thought I’d share them with you.
Don’t CC everyone in your email
First up, it’s the pet hate of mine. Please don’t CC everyone you met at the show or meeting. Use the BCC column if you have to blanket email everyone. My advice here is to actually email everyone individually but if you had a massive prize draw (like we did) then this isn’t always a good use of your time.
If you do accidentally CC everyone else in, you’re sharing data which is illegal as well as unprofessional. If you really have to blanket email everyone then BCC and keep everyone’s email address safe.
Right. Here’s the thing: being impersonal is really is avoidable at all times. If you have my business card, then you have my name and you also have my email. The door to a very personal email to me is just a click away!
Take the domain from the end of the email and do some detective work:
- Go to the website and find out what that person or company does.
- Work out why they would be interested in you or how you could be helpful to them.
- Look around the site and read the about page and make your email personal and about them.
No one one cares about you; they care about themselves. Make your email about them and you’re off to a good start with the conversation.
Connect on social media
If you have their business card then you have their email address and that means you have their website (in most cases). So now you can then find them on social media. In fact, on LinkedIn you only need their name and possibly business to find them.
I usually go right to the website and find the social media links from there. If not, then I search on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and add them.
On Twitter and especially on LinkedIn I will send a private note to introduce myself and refer back to the email I’ve sent. This does two things:
- It reminds them who I am (they may have met many people)
- If I say “I’ve just sent you an email so thought I’d connect” it helps your email get opened.
Both are perfectly normal behaviour and help me build a relationship. We try very hard not to be spammy or annoying… because we know how it feels to be on the receiving end.
Adding them to your social media should encourage some social media conversation and relationship building, and helps them learn more about you when or if they check out your social profile.
Remember what you said to them
I love this. How many times have you had a follow-up where the person emailing you has no idea what they spoke to you about?
As I mentioned, we followed up today (Tuesday) from a show on Friday last week. A lot’s happened since then. But at the show we wrote on every business card the topic of conversation that we had, and what it was particularly the person was interested in, or something we could talk to them about. For next time we’re going to be using colour coded stickers.
Make sure you have the reminders to help you when you follow-up. You could of course scan the business card at the show on an app and add a note, but to be honest, unless you have a big team with you, this might be a distraction.
Write on the card (even if you scan it) so that you have a simple system that’s easy to keep up with and easy to understand when you follow-up days later. We use Full Contact to scan cards into our system, which is simple.
Has this ever happened to you? A company emails you after the show or networking event and offers you some info on something you spoke about… that you didn’t speak about?!
It looks really bad on you and makes them feel forgettable. Write a note on the business card or keep a file or the conversations you had. I also like to email myself with a quick note at networking meetings too. This way the email acts as a task I have to complete when I’m back from the show or event.
DO call me, baby
The telephone is an amazing invention and although I do most of my follow-up on digital forms as it enables me to store it all on my CRM and social… the phone is more powerful. Calling people is something I’m really trying to do more of and then follow-up with emails and socials.
Meeting face-to-face is the most powerful way to connect and calling them is next… unless of course you want to video call them… but that’s usually a pre-agreed interaction.
Don’t hard sell (unless they asked you to)
This is a big one. Please try to avoid sending a sales pitch on the first interaction after the event unless they’ve specifically asked for one. The first email needs to be as much about them as possible and sales pitch is awful.
We get loads of them, many of them blanket emails, and they’re very deletable! Nothing says desperate like an email with a list of services and an attached PDF of things to sell.
Start the conversation that leads to the sale, not the email that leads to being ignored and forgotten.
Don’t forget to follow up…
And the biggest one is – DO IT! Don’t go to all the effort of collecting people’s details to then ignore them. We make sure we follow-up wherever possible and then aim to offer them some value where we can. Networking or shows are the start of your relationships in most cases so don’t ruin your chance to move closer by forgetting to do it.
Even when a show or event is the second or third interaction with someone, make it count and follow-up with them again, and move them closer still.
Make the most of your investment…
Networking or exhibiting at a show is an investment. Don’t waste it by making some of the regular and frankly awful mistakes I’ve mentioned here. I’m by no means perfect at this, and before you tell me I forgot to email you back after something a few years ago – I know – I’m not perfect. But I’m aiming to be better. I’m aiming to start relationships and offer value and I never sell in a follow-up unless I’ve been asked to.
Get yourself a system and a good CRM and you’ll be a follow-up God… instead of an unsubscribed fool!
What’s the worst follow-up you’ve had? Add yours in the comments now, I’d love to hear them!
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