I’m a big proponent of entrepreneurs attending networking events and building community. But don’t neglect the crucial step of creating a plan for how you’ll follow up after the event. Well-conceived follow-up is one of the most cost-effective ways to build your business. Your company will stand out because many don’t bother to build the relationship beyond the first meeting.
Let me share an example. A few months ago, I was searching for a video marketing company. I had a project for a client and wanted to test out a few ideas with my own company. Since I wasn’t very savvy about video marketing, I headed to an event with several industry experts discussing how to get started. I realized about 20 minutes into the first panel that I was going to need help; there was too much to learn. So I talked to a few companies who specialized in the service. Only one reached out to me after the event. While it wasn’t a perfect fit, this company is now top of mind for future projects.
That’s the power of the follow-up.
Keep in mind that women are naturals at networking – once you find the style that suits you best.
Here are three tips – and a bonus – to get you started:
1. Book time on your calendar prior for the follow-up
Before you choose an outfit or swipe your MetroCard, I encourage you to book 30 to 45 minutes on your calendar the day after the event. If you block out time in advance, you are more likely to email or call those who had an interest in your business immediately after the event. People are busy and will forget your meeting if you wait a week or two.
Continue building the relationship you started when you met face-to-face. If you are not sure what to share, start with sharing information. You can offer an article or a website that adds to what you discussed in your first meeting. People like doing business with people they know, like and trust. Providing a valuable tidbit will help break the ice and allow you to ask for a future meeting when you can sell to them directly.
And keep the conversation short, whether by phone or email. Plan what you want to say before sending your email. Be respectful and concise. Your conversion rates will improve greatly when you get right to the point.
2. Connect with your contacts via LinkedIn
LinkedIn is powerful! It is the most commonly used social media platform in business and is used primarily for building professional relationships. It is a great place to promote your company without having to spend a ton on advertising.
Start by downloading the app and connect with people you meet immediately after the event. Send updates to your network once a month or once a quarter to highlight news in your business. You can also write short emails to individual LinkedIn connections to re-introduce yourself if you haven’t spoken in several months.
And LinkedIn is a great tool for building genuine business relationships. You never know how someone will be able to connect you to future clients via their network. I’ve often invited LinkedIn connections to future events when I don't want to attend alone or want an excuse to catch up while doing more relationship building.
3. Suggest a short, informal meeting
If your discussion with a potential client felt meaningful and you would like to build on it, suggest an informal coffee/tea meeting. It’s a great opportunity to dive in further and learn more about your contact’s needs. What problems do they need solved? How soon might they need your company’s services?
Keep the meeting short; 15 to 30 minutes is optimal for the first meeting. Suggesting a lunch or dinner right away may put people off, since it may be too difficult to fit into their current schedule.
Also consider the power of virtual meetings through Skype, FaceTime or Unconference. This approach will allow you to meet face-to-face with clients while keeping everyone’s travel time to a minimum. As a busy Mompreneur, I’ve found virtual meetings to be the perfect win-win. I can meet at off times like late evenings and weekends and don't have to deal with travel.
Bonus Tip: Hacking your mindset: building relationships through networking
Are you nervous about attending networking meetings and/or conducting follow-up discussions? Keep in mind that women are naturals at networking – once you find the style that suits you best. Train yourself to focus on building relationships, as opposed to focusing excessively on sales. If you take time to build relationships, you’ll establish meaningful connections and the sales will come.
These simple tips can help you turn your first meetings into sales and grow your business, even if you are inexperienced and working with a small budget. All it takes is a solid commitment and a willingness to roll up your sleeves and get to work!