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Relationship Nurturing: What To Do After Getting Their Business Card

You’ve done your networking job right. You’re back from the event with a pocket full of business cards. Now what? You’re not sure if it’s appropriate to call them immediately with a follow-up conversation, but you don’t want to just put them in a pile because you know you’ll forget about them. You want to nurture the relationship, but there are only so many hours in the day, and you can’t spend all of them in one-on-one conversations with everyone you meet.

There are a few things that I suggest you do.

First off, consider who you want to stay in touch with. There are two schools of thought about this. You might want to restrict your potential relationships inside of your target markets to maximize your efficiency. Does it make sense to invest your limited time, energy, and attention on someone outside of these markets? Maybe, because (as the other school of thought goes) everyone you meet knows a lot of additional people. And if you win someone over, you might gain access to this network of people that they know.

But how do you win someone over that well? By planting yourself into their brains as a source of value, or potential value, to them. If your networking conversation went the way we suggest, you’ve already begun that process, by leading conversations not necessarily about yourself, but about them – finding out who they are, what their current challenges are, and what their goals are. Then thinking about how you or someone you know can get them from where they are now to where they say they want to be, or at least closer to that place.

Even if you can’t directly help or immediately connect them to someone who can help, you’re still succeeding with them because you’re planting yourself in their minds as someone who wants to help, and someone who potentially can help in the future by keeping your eyes open for people who can help them.

So, after each conversation, take notes about how this person wants to be helped. If you can help them by connecting them to someone they know they want to be connected with, make that connection.

Then, send them a message like this:

[First Name]:

I really enjoyed our conversation at [location]. I’m happy to keep an eye out for [people you’re looking for] for you. In the meantime, to make it easier to keep in touch, I’m adding you to my contact list, which means you’re going to start receiving occasional messages from me. If these touch-bases ever become unwelcome, feel free to “unsubscribe,” but in the meantime, please feel free to keep me abreast of who and what you’re looking for so I can continue to keep an eye out for you.

This will set the table for you to start sending them, and everyone on your contact list, occasional messages that share your expertise. It really doesn’t matter what you’re an expert in. If you network, you’re looking to help someone, and you’re looking to help them with some kind of expertise.

  1. Write about who you help and how you help them.
  2. Write about past success stories.
  3. Write about nuggets of value that you find as you continue to build your expertise.

Share this expertise with the people on your list. If they can’t directly benefit from it, they might know someone who can, and they’ll indirectly benefit from sharing it with those people.

So if you don’t already have a CRM system that allows you to mass email your contacts, you’re going to want to get one. I recommend two excellent resources that specialize in helping subject-matter experts share their expertise, called SendPepper and OfficeAutoPilot.

And if you’re going to write these messages, you might as well put them online in a permanent place, like a blog. WordPress is an excellent place to go to start, and if you really want to get it set up to work for your precise needs, you’ll want to talk to this guy.

Regardless of what you write, bear this cardinal rule in mind (and note that it’s consistent with what I said above): Be a source of value to your contacts. Be an expert, and give your expertise away. Share what you know. Plant yourself in the minds of everyone on your list as a source of value to them, and they’ll value hearing from you. They’ll want to have that relationship with you, and every relationship will represent a source of potential value back to you.

Comments

  1. Thanks, Pete, for keeping this process simple and yet effective. This is a system I can manage!

  2. Great stuff! I often fall into the trap of having to keep in contact with everyone I meet and (obviously) that wasn’t possible. Your approach may very well work for me. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. Thanks for sharing Pete…
    Before the days of Computers (and Selectrics) we built a viable organization and huge Client base through constant communication after the Meet using Mail and phone.
    I believe what set the tone was the FIRST mail receives after the meeting at a social gathering, trade show or ??
    We trained ourselves to ask questions about the person met and so noted details (via recorders or 3×5’s in the pocket), and even though the Letter was a template we always added the extra.
    That method has become so second nature Top of Mind that I now have difficulty with accepting Auto Systems.
    Thanks again for you insight

    • Thanks for these great comments, Chuck. You’re absolutely right, the first message that you reach out with after you meet someone is absolutely vital. You need to communicate that you’re all about them, that you care about them, that you want to help them, and that you’re open and receptive to learning more about them. You can’t just be all about you and hope that they want to hear about you. And of course all of this truly needs to be authentic. These are truths that are irrelevant to technology, as you have shown. Thanks again for sharing!

  4. Great points you make about how to be more systematic , yet personal in your follow-up conversations and emails.
    I partially agree about the potential of being labelled a “spammer” if you just tell then you added them to your mailing list. But I also feel if you have had a good conversation and solid connection when you meet, then you have a pretty good baseline about whether the contact would be interested. So why not change it up a little and just make it a question: “I’d really love to keep in contact with you. would it be all right if I sent you occasional emails/newsletter/postcards/etc.?”

    BTW – I love how you snuck in “this guy” for website help – we love Robert!

    • Thanks, Josephine! I think your suggestion is a good alternative. It does require more work on your end, in that you’re reaching out to them with an email, holding back on adding them to your list until they respond, then re-finding their info and adding them at that point.

      With Robert’s help you could take this approach and automate it, by saying something like, “I’d love to stay in touch by adding you to my contact list and sending you occasional messages, but I don’t want to be presumptuous. _Here’s a sample) of what I write about. If it appeals to you, you can sign up for more _right here_.”

      It’s all a question of what you’re comfortable with.

  5. Way to go, Pete. Great post from a terrific networker. Your system really works, I’ve seen the proof of it, firsthand.
    Thanks so much for the info. These can help even the most comfortable of networkers develop the much needed follow-up.
    I have heard and read that for every hour of networking three to four hours of follow-up is needed. I love your system. It cuts that way down while establishing a concrete plan. The idea of telling them exactly what to expect is a great one also.
    Thanks so much.

    • Thank you so much for your comment, Lauri! You are spot on!

      And boy, that 3:1 statistic you quoted is a daunting one for a lot of us — maybe enough to put us off the challenge of networking in the first place. But we have to recognize that networking is far and away the single most effective way we have to build business. Because it allows people to experience us for who and what we are. And if we prove to them on a face-to-face basis that we’re authentically trying to help, they will trust us and want that ongoing relationship.

  6. Great post Pete! I think this is something that intimidates a lot of people out of staying in touch with good contacts. I felt that your suggestion to send a follow-up asking for permission to add the person to their contact list was the right way to approach the privacy concerns mentioned, at least here in the U.S. In fact, it could be a great way to establish trust because most people don’t even ask. So, you’re starting on the right foot by couching the question with the necessary follow-up note.

    • Excellent point, Christine. You know, it occurs to me that all of us are understandably cautious and suspicious about other people’s intentions. Everything and everybody seems to be selling at us all the time. So approaching other people with a simple agenda of wanting to help them the way they want to be helped is a huge breath of fresh air, and reaching out to them with a request to do so is a great symbol of that freshness.

  7. Hello Pete. Thank you for our blogpost worth thinking a while about it. After that I agree partially with Adarsh. But even if the email adress is on the biz card I think one should feel free to ask the person whether or not one can add she to the mailing list (at least here in Germany). Otherwise the person could get a bad gut feeling about you and the young relationship to you.

    • It is indeed a fine balance to strike, Sven. The most important thing to rely upon is your sense of yourself as being a source of value to them. If you don’t think you can be that for them, don’t reach out to them in this way. If you can, then you can be confident that your communication to them will be consistent with that self-assessment.

  8. Thanks for the share Pete Machalek. What if you don’t get email address from Biz cards. Worse, the person never actively checks his emails?

    I’m not so sure I’d like it if someone would start start sending me messages as if I have given them permission just because we met somewhere and I gave them my business card.

    • Adarsh, great question, and great comment!

      I always think of the goal of every networking conversation is to find a way to help the person that I’m talking to. Do I know a person or an organization or some information that I can connect them to that can improve their situation? That way I can offer to provide it to them, and the easiest way to do that is by getting their phone number and email address. If an email isn’t on a business card, I’ll specifically ask for that.

      As for the reluctance to sending emails to someone who didn’t invite you to, I totally understand. But think about it from their perspective for a minute:

      They’ve experienced you as a professional person interested in them, looking to help them any way you can, and you may have even proven already that you can help them. Don’t you think they’d want to hear back from you?

      You’re not just bulling ahead without their permission, you’re giving them the good news that you want to stay in touch in this way and you’re giving them permission to “opt out” at any point. After that, it’s up to the quality of your messages to maintain the relationship.

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