You went to a networking event, chatted with new contacts and collected cards. Now what? Your next step is to make a personal and lasting impression after that first encounter. These six tips can help get you past your one-night-networking-stand—and into a long-lasting business relationship:
1. Connect quickly on multiple levels. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, you name it. Today, there's even a great app powered by LinkedIn called Cardmunch that allows you to take a picture of a business card, and it will instantly connect you with the person’s LinkedIn account. It doesn’t get simpler than that. Do this either the same day or the next day—it’s important to connect while the event is still fresh on everyone’s mind.
Building relationships takes time, effort and genuine interest. You wouldn’t wait a week to connect with a new interest on a social site; consider timely interaction with new business contacts as proper business courting.
2. Get it on the calendar. Coffee, lunch or drinks are preferred first methods of connection. Send an email to remind your new contact how you met. Make sure to include an important fact about the person too; we all love to know people were listening to us, and details can be great conversation starters. Request a time to meet to learn more about them, their business and how you can help one another.
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3. Introduce them to a beneficial connection. Do you know someone that may be in need of another company's services? Connect them. One of the best ways to gain the attention of others is by helping them. It doesn’t take a lot of time to be a connector. Superconnectors are priceless in their power to connect other people.
4. Send a note. Old-fashioned snail mail is now an underused source. It’s a unique, personal way to say thank you for meeting and re-send your business card. Snail mail goes a long way in setting yourself apart from ho-hum online contacts.
5. Keep them top of mind too. Subscribe to Google alerts or their newsletters and congratulate them on their successes, new ventures or even their recent quote in the paper. This is a great way to show genuine interest, demonstrate you’re in the know, and engage with them and their business.
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6. Set reminders. Set your calendar up to remind you to contact your professional connections. I recommend a monthly reminder for contacts that are highly beneficial, 45 days for slightly beneficial and 60 days for everyone else. This will keep you on the right track to continue building your relationships.
When networking and building relationships, remember, everyone knows someone. Will an acquaintance think of you when asked if they know someone in your field? The best type of sales and business opportunities come from referrals. The more connected you are, the more resources you have. It’s that simple.
By taking the time to research each person and their company, and doing one, three or all of these tips, you’ll stay top of mind, guaranteed.
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Nicole Smartt is the Vice President and co-owner of Star Staffing. She was recently awarded the Forty Under 40 award and co-founded the Petaluma Young Professionals Network. She is also a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. Nicole can be found on Twitter @StaffingqueenN.