In an earlier post, we talked about how to work a room when you’re networking.  If you were fortunate to meet an excellent potential client or referral source at that event, your key to success with a networking marketing strategy is follow-up!

Do you have a marketing strategy for networking?  For following up?

Assume you had an interesting conversation with an accountant who, you discover, has years of experience working with the types of companies you want to connect with.  Assume this accountant has been looking for someone like you to whom they can refer some of their clients who need your services.  Assume this accountant also seemed pleased with your responses to her questions and asked you to call and set up an appointment to get together for a smoothie or coffee.  That connection alone made attending the event worth the entire evening, in your opinion.

Now let’s assume it’s a week later and you have yet to make that follow-up phone call.  In the book of right ways to do things, that follow-up phone call should have been made within 24 hours of the event.  The preference would have been to pull up the calendars on your smart phones and make the appointment right there on the spot, but if that wasn’t done, the call needed to be made the next day.  Having a time frame for following up, and how it’s done are part of a networking marketing strategy.

How do you handle the fact you messed up on following up?  Here are some scenarios:

  • You make the call and humbly apologize, paying attention to the tone of her voice to determine if there’s a coldness to her response, which is also verified by whether she still wants to meet with you.  She may meet, but is likely to be skeptical of your ability to follow-up with her referrals in light of how you followed up with her, meaning she may be hesitant to refer clients to you;
  • You wait for her to call you and, if she does, express your confusion about whether you were supposed to call or she was.  If she calls, she is obviously still interested, so stay on top of the relationship from there on out;
  • You avoid making the call and anticipate you will run into her again at the next networking event.  Be prepared to eat humble pie if she shows up at that one or any of the next events where you may both be in attendance.  You may have a ready excuse, but it may carry little weight in convincing her you really are good at following up with people, and she may have already made a different alliance that shuts you out of getting any potential business referred to you;
  • You call her with a referral for her, and apologize for the delay with an excuse that you were working on the referral before you followed up.  It might work if she appreciates the referral, especially if she can convert it into business; or,
  • You write it off as a lost cause, toss her card in the recycling bin, and kiss the potential referrals business good-bye.

Which scenario would you be most comfortable using a week after meeting someone?  Which is most likely to nurture that relationship and lead to referrals?

How much easier is it to carve a few minutes out of your busy schedule to grab your phone, dial the number, and exude enthusiasm for having met the person last night?  Make that part of your networking strategy.

Follow-up is easy if done promptly.

Two quick examples of what it can mean for your business:

Trying to scrap an old vehicle, I contacted a salvage yard that had been recommended to me.  Several phone calls and voice mail messages failed to get a response.  I contacted one I had used before and they were on site within an hour, gave me a fair price and hauled off the vehicle.  I heard from the first one an hour after the vehicle was gone.  Too bad, so sad.

Looking for a plumber, I contacted two in the community where the work needed to be done.  The same scenario of waiting for a call back played out, until I called the second one.  The first had been highly recommended so I was giving them the benefit of the doubt.  Within an hour after contacting the second, the first finally called after more than a week.  Yes, I understand plumbers can be busy people, but a courtesy phone call does wonders to build credibility and that level of trust you expect from contacting a business.

Part of your corporate marketing strategy should be to carve out a brief time period every day to make those follow-up phone calls or to merely follow-up on whatever you need to follow through on. Your customers, prospects, and referral sources will appreciate it.