Many times I find that people get excited about networking, collect a lot of business cards from new people they meet and once they get back to their office the cards gather on their desk and they just don’t follow up.
Most of us are guilty in one way or the other for not keeping in better touch with our professional contacts and personal networks because we have busy lives, or simply think we don’t have the time. Too busy to stay in touch? Then you must “make time” to do it. It is a necessary part of successful business networking.
It’s a lot easier to stay in touch with the networking friends that you already have then to make new friends. Not that you should do that, but are you keeping in touch with the friends you have? Regardless of the type of relationship with your clients, regular contact is good.
I’ve been networking for many years but began to really get involved in networking in 1983. Believe me, it is a lot easier to stay in touch now then it was then. We didn’t have social networks online and very few had e-mail back then. No texting. No instant messaging. Following your friends on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn is one way to stay in touch. Today 3 of the most popular social network sites are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. There are many others but these seem to be the sites that are getting the most attention and work best for me.
The idea is to stay connected with your contacts and what’s going on in their lives and business. Look at the “Birthdays” reminder of Facebook to see if there’s anyone you should send a birthday greeting to. I still like the idea of sending a birthday card by snail-mail to special friends.
Another tactic is to hit the “like” button if they post something produced by their company on a Facebook profile, or retweet a Twitter update for a big project of theirs. They will appreciate the support, and you will achieve your goal of staying connected and on their radar.
“The more you exercise your networking muscles, the stronger they get – and the easier networking becomes.” ~ Harvey MacKay
There is a better way. Face-to-face contact!
Take good care of your database. It’s smart to review your database for past customers at least every six months. Delete the contacts that no longer apply and do something to stay in touch with the ones that count. Check in by phone or e-mail with folks you are curious about or who you want to let know you are thinking about them. Take time to “make time” to get together for breakfast or lunch or a quick “just stopped by to say hello” visit. There are lots of opportunities to get together; breakfast, lunch, coffee, dinner, drinks – and these are often things you’re going to do anyway, so why not invite a friend, colleague, or co-worker to join you? Invite them to networking events. Watch for important community events and invite them to tag along. Suggest ways you can assist each other.
Be sure that you make it easy to keep in touch with you and that they are aware of any changes in your business that might interest them. Share information, ideas, tips, common interests, business referrals and anything that has worked for you in your business. Send out an eZINE at least once a month. No sales pitches, just helpful business information. Send them a sample by e-mail and ask them to subscribe. My “LoveNotes for Lovers” (relationship) eZINE has over 8,700 subscribers who have asked to be on my list to keep up with what I am up to. It is a once monthly communication from me that is meaningful and relevant to my “relationship” network.
Keeping in touch with your contacts is not just about reaching out to them when you need something from them. Send articles, links, or helpful ideas to your customers. Recommend books or articles that you think they might find interesting. This re-connection from you to them is often enough of a touch to keep your customers thinking about you when they need your services or products.
Assume responsibility for making contact. Don’t wait for them to contact you. Take the initiative. Stay connected. Be creative. Be generous with your contacts. Networking is also about giving. A handwritten note can be a really nice touch as a follow up to an informational interview as a thank you, or to a recently made acquaintance to suggest staying in touch.
Holiday cards and birthday cards are great ways to keep in touch with people in your network. Send them to past clients, past vendors, a friend of a friend, business owners you you’ve been out of touch with. Although I prefer to send a quick handwritten note rather than a preprinted card, if your contact list is big, you can use a service like “Send Out Cards.” (Note: Kristi Lee @ Send Out Cards is a terrific networker).
Make it a point to attend weddings, funerals, confirmations, graduations, school plays, bar and bat mitzvahs, recitals or the big award. People always remember who was there and who wasn’t.
Networking is about learning from and potentially helping people – not setting up sales appointments or creating an opportunity to sell a product or service. What’s the best way to follow up and stay in touch? Sometimes is best to ask. After meeting someone and having a good conversation, simply ask if you can follow up and set up a meeting to learn more about how you might both be a business resource to one another.
Something awful will happen if you are out of touch with the people who count. . . NOTHING!
Networking is about developing long-lasting, business relationships. You can’t get referrals unless you have relationships, and you can’t have relationships unless you stay in touch and up to date with the contacts you’ve already made. Create a system for staying in touch on a regular basis that is easy, repeatable and practical. The idea is to keep your name and business anywhere and everywhere it is likely to be seen. Develop a reputation as a connector and resource for others which will put you in a powerful networking position.
BONUS Article: “Stay Connected”
Copyright © 2010 – Larry James. Adapted from Larry’s latest book, Ten Commitments of Networking: Creative Ways to Maximize Your Personal Connections! Larry James is a Professional Speaker, Author and Networking Coach. He presents networking seminars nationally and “Networking” coaching by telephone or one-on-one. Something NEW about Networking is posted on this Networking BLOG every 4th day! Visit Larry’s Networking Website at: “Networking HQ!”
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