You may have heard it said before, but it can never be said enough, “Your fortune is in your follow up.” When you meet new people at events, be sure to follow up with them right away. Do not let more than a week lapse before you contact them in one way or another.
Now, following up does not mean adding that person to your email list. Believe it or not, if you exchange business cards with someone, that does not give you the legal right to add them to your e-newsletter. You must get their permission verbally or in writing to use the contact information they share with you. The best sort of follow up is a personal email or social media connection, or both. Automatically adding someone to your email list is against the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, which is Federal law, and you can be reported and reap dire consequences if you engage in this unethical practice. It also makes people mad, especially busy people who value their time and their contact information.
Here are the exact steps I take to follow up with people after an event:
Add as your Facebook “Friend.” Facebook is where it is happening right now. Business is being done—successfully—and life-changing relationships are being formed. My three best friends in the world I have only met in person once or twice, because we primarily use Facebook to stay in touch. We have built a solid relationship and have even done business together as a result. The first thing I do when meeting someone new is look them up on Facebook. Not everyone is on there, so I have other steps as well.
Find them on Twitter. I will search for their names on Twitter and click “Follow” to show them I am following what they say. This usually takes less than a minute and not all of them are on Twitter. Sometimes you have to look at the bio to make sure you have the right person because there are people with duplicate names.
Connect with them on LinkedIn. I admit, I do not use LinkedIn very much. My target audience does not typically hang out there, but it is another medium to get the word out about my business, so I try to connect with people there as well. And I have found many people use LinkedIn, but are not on Facebook or Twitter, so it gives us a chance to stay in touch.
Add them to my personal rolodex. I keep my rolodex in an Excel spreadsheet. I have multiple workbooks in one document, each labeled for different groups of people. People are classified as “Current Clients,” “Vendors,” “Networking Contacts,” “Media,” “Leads,” etc. You can create your rolodex in whatever way makes sense to you, but be sure you include vital information like all the information on their business cards, plus some notes about where you met them or what you talked about. This will give you a central place to look them up should they contact you again in the future.
Send a personal email. This is the step that takes the most time. I have created a template email for people I meet for the first time, but if we talked about something specific, I always reference that and the event we met at in the message. This shows them it is a personal email directly to them, not a spammed blast sent to everyone. And next to a hand-written note, a personal email means the most to potential prospects and partners. In this email I thank them for their time at the event, let them know it was nice meeting them, and only here do I invite them to get more information about me.
Now that I have several free “ethical bribes” to build my email list, I offer them the chance to learn more about writing a book at WriteMyBookIn3Days.com, how to get published at ArtOfPublishing.com, or to just sign up for my weekly newsletter at my website. When they sign up through one of those websites, they are giving me written permission to add them to my email list. And that is better than verbal permission any day, as they could easily say they never told me to add them. This complies with the CAN-SPAM Act and keeps my name clear.
If I follow each of these steps with a new networking connection, it takes about three to five minutes per person. Depending on the size of the event and how many business cards I have to process, I will usually plan one to two hours the next day to follow up. Because sometimes I will throw in some extras, like a note on someone’s Facebook wall about how great it was to meet them, the time allotment may grow beyond that. Stay focused during that time on your follow up process and you will breeze through it. Then make it a habit—it is easy to get distracted and skip the follow up process, but it is extremely important to the success of your business! Eventually you will build a reputation as a powerful networker who cares about relationships more than money, which ultimately will bring you more referrals and bigger profits.
How do you follow up? What ways work for you?
Photo courtesy Shutterstock, Zanariah Salam