The importance of networking is no secret to business owners. We may not like it or want to do it, but networking is an essential aspect of having a successful business. There are many people who can tell you all the best networking secrets like intentional speaking, the importance of conversation starters, how to avoid meaningless small talk, and discuss your career goals.
There are seminars you can take on social business skills, networking, and how to make a good first impression. You can even hire people to make sure you look good during a networking event. Business owners tend to prepare so heavily for the actual networking event that they forget to plan to stay in touch.
Whether you go to a large networking event such as a chamber of commerce celebration or you run into a colleague and their associates at a diner and use the opportunity to network, chances are you’re going to end up with a pocket full of business cards. If you are anything like me, these cards probably get taken out of your pocket and tossed into a stack with a dozen or more others on your bedroom dresser.
Networking can be exhausting. After putting in long hours working our businesses, no one wants to spend additional time, away from home, talking to other business owners or potential clients. While networking events can often lead to great professional relationships and help to stir up more traffic for your business, conversating about your workplace after working there all day can be tedious. We all get it and everyone else is going home at the end of the night feeling the same way. The difference between a successful networking opportunity and a waste of time can be as simple as a follow-up email, however, so make sure you pick up those cards and start emailing. Follow this advice to learn how to craft the perfect networking follow-up email.
Did you have a great conversation with someone at the bar? Did the woman behind you in line for the bathroom share a particularly funny anecdote with you? Did the colleagues at your table share any of your goals and ambitions? Networking events give you the opportunity to meet a lot of people and learn about a lot of businesses. At the end of the night, it can be hard to remember who said what and who worked where. When you exchange business cards (and always exchange business cards with everyone you talk to at a networking event) job down a few notes about the conversation you had with that person that will jog your memory later when you are sitting down to write a networking follow-up email.
Having a generic, follow-up email to send to people you meet while networking can be tempting. After all, writing takes a lot of time and there’s no guarantee the recipient will even read it. You can’t write a generic email that is unique enough for your recipient to not realize you’re sending the same one to every person you met. Those notes you took after conversations on the back of business cards will help you to personalize your networking follow-up email.
Personalizing an email including parts of the conversation or interaction that interested you or that you enjoyed the most is the best way to connect with the recipient. They will feel like you valued their time and conversation and be much more likely to respond. If the recipient did not remember you from the event, including personalized details can jog their memory and impress them.
Another reason personalized follow up emails are so important is that they can serve as a record for you of who the person is, what you’ve talked about, and how they have responded. Having a written record of communications, especially in business, can be very helpful and safeguard us against any future legal action if needed.
Personalizing a follow-up networking email takes a lot of time but is well worth the investment as long as you prioritize. Who did you have the strongest connection with at the event? Were there any questions or conversations you had that are time sensitive or require urgent attention? What connections did you make that you feel are most important or the most promising? Address these people first.
Don’t feel obligated to send a follow-up networking email to every single person that you meet at an event. There will be many people that you have only small talk with or who don’t make sense to network with if you can’t do anything for each other’s businesses. These people will appreciate you not wasting your or their time.
Solicit a Response
Sending a thank-you card usually doesn’t require a response from the recipient other than an acknowledgment of the card, in most cases. A follow-up networking email is much the same way. If you don’t give the recipient a reason to respond and keep the conversation over, you will be facing a dead end.
Some of the tactics you can employ to solicit a response from your recipient are asking open ending questions, requesting to set up an in-person meeting, or asking for their opinion on something.
You should also always try to add something of value to the conversation. If the recipient feels stuck just answering a bunch of questions for you, they may not feel as though they are getting anything out of the connection. Make sure that the recipient understands your business, field of work, what you’re an expert in, and how your businesses can be of benefit to each other.
Follow-Up within 1 – 3 Days
Following up sooner than later is important and most experts say that sending a follow-up networking email is best within 1 – 3 days of the connection. If the event takes place on a weeknight, it is appropriate to send an email the next day. Events and connections that happen over the weekend can wait for follow up until normal working hours on Monday or Tuesday. Don’t wait any longer than three days or you run the risk of the recipient forgetting who you are, what you talked about, and losing interest in your business.
Follow these steps and you can be sure that you are sending the perfect networking follow-up email. Follow up is essential for lasting business connections so don’t forget this vital networking step!