I, like so many others, have been guilty of attending networking events, collecting a handful of business cards, going back to the office and putting those cards aside with the intention of doing something with them later. But, all too often, later never comes and the cards join a box or bag full of similarly collected cards collecting dust. How often is it that, following a networking event, you ever hear from someone who attended the event; personally very rarely and I suspect that is true for you as well. In following this behaviour pattern we are all guilty of committing a cardinal sin: not following up!
Networking events are, for many businesses, a good way of making contacts. But, just attending a meeting is not going to magic up lots of new business, which is presumably is why we attend the events in the first place. We need to nurture the contacts and build relationships and the only way to do that is to follow up. Now, I am not talking about sending a high pressure sales e-mail or making a sales call; there are many ways which can be used to nurture a relationship: an invite to link on LinkedIn; an e-mail, or better still, a card that states how much you valued meeting them or a call to arrange a coffee are all examples.
The business cards that you collected form part of what, some say, are a business’s biggest asset: their contact list. Like any business asset, the list needs to be put to work. In its most basic form, I suppose the list could be a file containing the cards in alphabetical order. However, to ensure that you gain the maximum benefit from your list, you need to ensure that you are working it more strategically. To do this you need a “Contact Relationship Managent” system (CRM). There are many CRM systems on the market at various costs and complexity and some are even free for a basic level system. The important thing is to ensure that you use one.
A CRM system will enable you to build relationships with your contacts in structured way. To do this you need to have a plan to deal with contacts. This may include a series of pre written e-mails, a newsletter, follow up calls and a whole lot more. Of course you may have contacts from sources other than network meetings, from a website contact for example. You will probably, at least in the first instance, want to have a different process for each source. The end result will be the same though, to build a relationship.
So, it is time to stop wasting your biggest asset and take some action. Start following up those contacts, whether they be a business card or a website contact form, and start building relationships. Keep your contact list growing and keep it well tended. Make your list your biggest asset. It will pay dividends in the end.