When it comes to networking, most people focus on the sexy part – meeting new people – yet it is apt follow-up that boosts credibility and connection. Demonstrate a mutuality mindset by demonstrating that you are not a taker but committed to the ebb and flow of mutual support over time. Thus beneficial networking is not merely about meeting a lot of people but staying in touch in helpful ways.
Someone who is renowned for being a helpful helper to those in her network is the author of Reinventing You and Stand Out, Dorie Clark. She’s a sought-after speaker and an adjunct professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. When I heard she wrote an e-book Stand Out Networking, I reached out to her to ask her to share some of her strategies which she did in a recent Q&A conversation with me:
How do you best follow up after meeting someone?
The first place to start is making sure you capture information from your conversation right afterward; a week later, it’s easy to forget if the person you met at the cocktail party worked for JP Morgan or Morgan Stanley MS -2.15%, but it’s an important difference. Some people jot notes on business cards; I think it’s fine to record things the next day. But be sure to write it down so you’ll have the tools to follow up later. I’d suggest sending them an email or a LinkedIn invitation (with a personal note) the next day saying how much you enjoyed meeting them. If you’d like, feel free to invite them out for coffee or lunch. One of my favorite strategies is hosting monthly dinners of interesting people I’ve met or already know; I’ll often invite people to those, so they can get to know me better but also connect with other like-minded professionals.
In a technical sense, you can use a contact management system like Contactually or Vipor CRM to “bucket” contacts into priority levels, so it’ll send you a reminder if it’s been more than 30 or 60 days (for instance) since you’ve been in touch with a top contact. But philosophically, I’d ask myself questions like:
How much do I like and enjoy this person? Do I think they could become a friend?
How much do our professional worlds overlap? Is there a good chance we could work together or collaborate?
How helpful could this person be to me professionally, and vice versa?
Answering those questions will help you prioritize.
What systems can help you stay in touch with the right people?
In Stand Out Networking, I profile Michael Katz, a Massachusetts-based consultant who has an interesting four-part system for staying in touch with his contacts. Most professionals don’t have to do all of these things, but I think it provides a useful framework. Michael divides his contacts into four groups.
The first level – all his email subscribers – receive a biweekly e-newsletter that provides marketing tips and keeps his name familiar to them. The next level is about 300 key contacts who get personal emails; he sends a few emails per day, and touches everyone a couple of times per year. Even more selectively, he sends out actual cards via postal mail – a rarity these days – to about 100 people in his network. Finally, once a week he makes a point of meeting in person with at least one individual, whether it’s a new contact or someone he’d like to get to know better. This strategy enables him to deepen the ties that matter most and stay top-of-mind with just about everyone. discover more of Dorie’s tips — the rest of my column over at Forbes.