Networking can be one of the most effective ways for entrepreneurs to find customers, business partners, investors and mentors. Whether it’s an in-person event or an online forum, here’s what often happens: people make useful contacts and don’t follow up, missing out on a chance to form new relationships that may become valuable.
Sometimes the lack of follow up relates to a life-long habit of procrastination – a serious concern if your goal is to start a business. But in many cases, a few time management or organizational techniques can go a long way to increase the return on networking efforts.
For easy follow up that gets results, consider these tips:
1) Follow up as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the harder it gets – and the less likely you are to take action.
2) Be concise. A follow-up email or voice mail message that gets to the point won’t take as long – and is more likely to generate a response. Suggest a phone conversation for action items that require more time.
3) Have a reliable system to capture contact info. It can be an iPhone app or hand-written notes on the back of a business card. Use a method that works for you.
4) Start small. Again, the follow up won’t take as long – plus it will be easier to deliver on any help you’ve promised. That’s important if you want to earn the trust of your new contact.
5) Designate a place for business cards. This favorite tip from space organizers also works well for post-networking. Put cards in the same spot after each event so you can locate them – and don’t waste time looking for the information you need to follow up.
“A strong beginning is a good thing only when coupled with a strong finish,” observed Mary Kay Ash, who started her Mary Kay cosmetics company at age 40. Why not apply this principle to your networking?