Small Business Articles from Make-it-Fly®
Proven Plan to Make the Most of Your Networking Contacts
By Dave Block and Victoria Munro
You have attended networking events
and accumulated a mountain of business cards. Now, you
need to design and faithfully implement a system to
stay in touch with the people you met and enhance those
relationships, even after they become your clients.
Without this, your networking
efforts will have been in vain.
Create a Step-by-Step Plan
Step One: Prioritize
prioritize! You don’t have limitless time,
and you need to use it as efficiently as possible.
Keep your networking strategy clearly
in mind. Determine which relationships can develop into
win-wins for both of you. Gathering cards but keeping
only the ones that you think will bring you business
is a great mistake.
for your contacts depending on their importance
to your business. In your contact-management software,
create a field named “Priority,” where you
can enter their assigned category. This will help you
set the timing as to how often you will get in touch
A: “Immediate” – People with
whom you definitely want to establish a relationship.
In this category are those whom you can help, with whom
you can do business or who could become your client.
You may want to get in touch with these people immediately
and set up a time to meet with them again soon
B: “Occasional” – Those you
will keep in touch with occasionally, perhaps once a
quarter, just to say, “Hello! I’ve been
thinking of you.” This is not necessarily a sales
call or letter, but simply to remind them of who you
are and what you do.
C: “Peripheral” – Those you’d
like to keep in the database and review from time to
time, but probably won’t contact them regularly.
Step Two: Organize
In addition to the usual contact information,
other important fields that you may want to set up in
your database-management system could include:
Industry or Profession –
Using this you can pull up all your realtor contacts
and perhaps send them a helpful article you found that
relates to real estate.
Website – You may want
to look up more information on their business.
Notes – Always keep
good notes and track dates and other information about
your communication with contacts. Then, if you hear
from or meet someone six months later, you’ll
know where you met him or her. It’s also important
to make note of any special interests, needs or skills
they may have.
Be consistent in the way you organize your contacts.
Keep your information up to date. Your
database is only of value if it’s kept current.
Set up a
schedule for yourself to keep in touch with each
of your contacts. Set your CRM software to remind you
to make your calls and track your progress.
Step Three: Work Your Plan
return from a networking event, your first task
should be to prioritize and enter the new contact information
One way to do this easily is to scan
all those cards into your database using a card scanner.
It typically takes 15 minutes to scan 15 to 20 cards
and tweak them. Cards with a lot of graphics or unusual
fonts may need your help to correct the information.
Then send a brief email to everyone letting each one
know how much you enjoyed meeting him or her. This can
all be automated in your CRM.
How Frequently Should You Keep
days is typical. People don’t usually want
to hear from you more frequently. A call or email once
a month keeps you in their minds.
Be Creative in Your Communications.
their needs and what might be of interest or
helpful to them. If you recently read a really good
article on “widgets,” pull up all the contacts
in your “widget makers” category and send
the article to them with a note. Perhaps send a Thought
for the Day on how to get a better client. Make a list
of your ideas and use them regularly. This lets them
know you’re thinking of them.
other’s businesses – Discover ways
to do this.
– When you pass their card along to someone else,
let him or her knowthat you did so and contact them
again a few weeks later to follow up and find out if
the referral worked out.
Send a card
to say “thank you” or to congratulate them
on a success. Purchase high-quality cards that communicate
both professionalism and caring.
to attend a new networking event you just learned about,
and email them with the relevant information.
always be brief. Respect the other person’s time.
People are busy, so keep your communications short.
Faithful Follow Up is Essential
Extraverts and “promoters,” who thoroughly
enjoy meeting new people and are excellent networkers
typically tend to avoid the more tedious task of following
through on their intentions. They need to make extra
effort in this area.
Follow up is an ongoing process. Build your database,
keep it up to ate and keep in touch regularly to maintain
an awareness of yourself and your business. You
never know who your contacts may meet who could benefit
from your services or products.
Networking is undoubtedly the easiest and most cost-effective
way to grow almost any small business. After you gain
a new customer, follow up becomes even more important.
Keep in touch with and market
to existing clients and customers. This will
cost much less than acquiring new ones.
© 2005-2007 Victoria Munro
for printable version.
About the Authors: Dave
Block and Victoria Munro are co-founders of Make-it-Fly®
LLC, a company dedicated to creating success for
small business owners through creatively-designed programs
and tools. Dave is known as the “Master Networker”
in the business community and loves sharing how to become
a successful business owner by learning the art of networking.
Victoria has started and run nine different businesses..
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