You’ve done your networking job right. You’re back from the event with a pocket full of business cards. Now what? You’re not sure if it’s appropriate to call them immediately with a follow-up conversation, but you don’t want to just put them in a pile because you know you’ll forget about them. You want to nurture the relationship, but there are only so many hours in the day, and you can’t spend all of them in one-on-one conversations with everyone you meet.
There are a few things that I suggest you do.
First off, consider who you want to stay in touch with. There are two schools of thought about this. You might want to restrict your potential relationships inside of your target markets to maximize your efficiency. Does it make sense to invest your limited time, energy, and attention on someone outside of these markets? Maybe, because (as the other school of thought goes) everyone you meet knows a lot of additional people. And if you win someone over, you might gain access to this network of people that they know.
But how do you win someone over that well? By planting yourself into their brains as a source of value, or potential value, to them. If your networking conversation went the way we suggest, you’ve already begun that process, by leading conversations not necessarily about yourself, but about them – finding out who they are, what their current challenges are, and what their goals are. Then thinking about how you or someone you know can get them from where they are now to where they say they want to be, or at least closer to that place.
Even if you can’t directly help or immediately connect them to someone who can help, you’re still succeeding with them because you’re planting yourself in their minds as someone who wants to help, and someone who potentially can help in the future by keeping your eyes open for people who can help them.
So, after each conversation, take notes about how this person wants to be helped. If you can help them by connecting them to someone they know they want to be connected with, make that connection.
Then, send them a message like this:
I really enjoyed our conversation at [location]. I’m happy to keep an eye out for [people you’re looking for] for you. In the meantime, to make it easier to keep in touch, I’m adding you to my contact list, which means you’re going to start receiving occasional messages from me. If these touch-bases ever become unwelcome, feel free to “unsubscribe,” but in the meantime, please feel free to keep me abreast of who and what you’re looking for so I can continue to keep an eye out for you.
This will set the table for you to start sending them, and everyone on your contact list, occasional messages that share your expertise. It really doesn’t matter what you’re an expert in. If you network, you’re looking to help someone, and you’re looking to help them with some kind of expertise.
- Write about who you help and how you help them.
- Write about past success stories.
- Write about nuggets of value that you find as you continue to build your expertise.
Share this expertise with the people on your list. If they can’t directly benefit from it, they might know someone who can, and they’ll indirectly benefit from sharing it with those people.
So if you don’t already have a CRM system that allows you to mass email your contacts, you’re going to want to get one. I recommend two excellent resources that specialize in helping subject-matter experts share their expertise, called SendPepper and OfficeAutoPilot.
And if you’re going to write these messages, you might as well put them online in a permanent place, like a blog. WordPress is an excellent place to go to start, and if you really want to get it set up to work for your precise needs, you’ll want to talk to this guy.
Regardless of what you write, bear this cardinal rule in mind (and note that it’s consistent with what I said above): Be a source of value to your contacts. Be an expert, and give your expertise away. Share what you know. Plant yourself in the minds of everyone on your list as a source of value to them, and they’ll value hearing from you. They’ll want to have that relationship with you, and every relationship will represent a source of potential value back to you.