You did it. You attended a Boston networking event. Learned there was nothing to be nervous about. Met some REALLY interesting people, including 2-3 folks who could be quality business leads. Exchanged cards with other 20 others. Talk about a productive time.
Now what, though?
Well, we hate to break it to you, but follow-up to a Boston networking event is as (if not, more) important than the event itself. You set the foundation for new, amazing relationships – but now you need to develop them. Or else – and pardon if it sounds harsh – you basically wasted your time.
The good news: Follow-up isn’t hard. And you’ll see the benefits pay off in little time. There’s no secret science to it – some new business connections work differently from others. But here are some common threads to take note of:
Make notes on business cards. For every card you gathered, quickly jot down 1-2 things about each person – what the conversation was about, any interesting tidbits (they live in your part of Brookline, work at the same company as your college friend, or love to spend vacations in New Hampshire). The human attention span is short, but this will help you remember key facts moving forward.
Identify a short list: Prioritize those you met. Remember, networking is more about quality – not quantity. Highlight 3-5 individuals you want to truly develop relationships with. Questions to ask as you evaluate: Can my career benefit from them? Would they present new opportunities from my business? Do I have a lot to learn from them? Can we mutually benefit from each other? If you can answer “yes” about someone, add them to the list.
Connect on LinkedIn: Now take that list, log onto LinkedIn, and “Connect” with these individuals. Include a “It was nice to meet you” message if you’d like. LinkedIn is an incredibly valuable platform to place some permanency with your new connections.
(Side note: You can always request to connect with all others you met, too; that’s perfectly fine)
Follow them on Twitter: If it’s not on their business cards, do a search by name (in quotation marks), and if they’re on there, follow away. You don’t necessarily need to @reply them immediately (they’ll notice you followed them), but keep an eye on their accounts, and re-Tweet or @reply any interesting content moving forward.
Do NOT Facebook friend them: This one is a little dicey – some might say it’s okay, but we’d hold off. Better to be safe than sorry, especially since some view a line between professional and personal is drawn here. In today’s world, a Facebook invite form someone you barely know can be viewed as intrusive – and might leave a sour taste with the other person. This can change down the road, once you’ve gotten to know them better, of course.
Send a note: Know how handwritten notes can be more effective after a job interview? Well, it’s the same case here. It’s a nice touch, and clearly shows the other person is valued. You can do this a few days after the event. It’s okay to insert a talking point from your conversation at the event (see the notes on the business cards). Again, this isn’t formal. And if you can’t write out a note, an e-mail is fine.
Establish goals: Congrats, you’ve already laid the groundwork. Now it’s time to move the relationship forward. Like executing any sound business strategy, you need to first evaluate your goal. What do you want to get from this person? If it’s a potential prospect, study their business, what he/she really cares about, and how you can help. If it’s to gain business insight or establish a mentor, identify 2-3 traits about that person you admire most.
Now, think about the other person – what goal do you expect they’ll receive from you? Back to the prospect, share why you can truly help them above someone else. If you’re looking for that mentor, set a strategy to show how eager you are to learn – and appreciate advice. These goals are a two-way street, and there must be clear benefit for the other person.
Set up a meeting: Once you’re ready, shoot them an email and ask them out for coffee or a drink after work. It’s here where the relationship truly moves forward. Go back to your goals and your strategy around them. Convert these into talking points – again, focusing on how YOU can help the OTHER person (even if it’s the other one doing most of the help in the long run).
Again, these steps are pretty simple, and the input is heavily outweighed by the ROI you’ll gain. If you do these right, you’ll meet those new business partners, customers, and mentors in no time.
What do you think? Did we miss any “must-dos?” Tweet us @bostonchamber and we’ll share them in a future blog.
And, as always, we’d love to have you out at one of our 100+ annual networking events.