How to Make Networking Work for Your Business
I have a joke in my house. Were you networking or “notworking”? Basically, when you were out last night at that reception, were you gathering contact information with no plan of action for putting it into use later on? Having a plan of action for the day after a networking event is crucial. Once you gather a stack of business cards, or enter those names and numbers into your Blackberry, you must find a way to efficiently and systematically keep in contact with your new contact.
It could be as simple as connecting on social networking sites so that you are both ambiently aware of each others comings and goings; it could be as sophisticated as entering your new contacts into a database after which they would receive periodic updates from you or your company about new promotions, publications,etc.
I reached out to Brian Sarff, a marketing consultant out of Kansas City, Missouri who writes the Marketing Bull Blog. He shared a few tips about how to close the circle of networking and make networking work after the in-person part is over. Here are some of his insights:
Gaining permission from a prospective client is the best and only way to effectively build relationships [after meeting in person]. There have been a number of books on this subject, but they all boil down to the same basic principles.
Get Permission: Having permission from the prospective client is imperative. So after the initial meeting, send them a kind note of thanks and mention that you have a blog, weekly email, monthly newsletter, whatever it is that you have, and subscribe them to the service. The first step in the service is to ask them to opt-in to your email campaign. Then you are free to begin building the relationship.
Tailor the Message: Now what to send to your prospective client? That’s a good question and one that is easily answered, but not all at once. Through an online email service like Constant Contact, iContact or myEmma, you can build in surveys to go out after the 5th or 10th or whichever email makes sense in your process. Just ask questions that can be easily answered and will provide you more insight into the mind of your prospective client. Once you have this information about the prospective client, then you can mold your periodic email to address the topics that are of most interest. Now, should you have a prospect that you really want as a client, look for things that only they are interested in, “clip” them from the internet using Snagit, and send them a direct email with a note. “Hey Tyrone, I ran across this on the internet and thought you would really enjoy reading it. Sue.”
Be Consistent: This is the one step that is usually violated. Consistency or Discipline. If you are going to publish every Thursday or on the third Wednesday each month, then make sure you never miss a date. If you promise content on specific subjects- make sure you deliver. Consistent messages, emailed over a period of time, addressing items of interest to your clients, will pull them closer to you. They may not be ready to purchase the day after they meet you, but by staying in contact, and by calling or emailing on a regular basis (every 90 days or so) then over time you will become their go to for information. And one day, when the need arises, they will hopefully ask you for your product or service and not your competitor.