Success Is in the Cards

By Heather Baldwin

You have just returned from a high-powered lunch event where you made some great contacts and acquired a pocket full of business cards. Now what? It’s time to organize your follow-up strategy, say Rick Frishman and Jill Lublin, authors of Networking Magic (Adams Media, 2004). “Most people find it hard to follow up,” they acknowledge. “Some are shy, some are afraid they’ll be thought of as a nuisance and others think they appear to be groveling.” But following up is smart business and should be approached like everything else in business – with a system. Here’s how Frishman and Lublin suggest you follow up.

Create a system. First, make an electronic record of basic business card information such as name, address, phone number, email address, Website and specialty area. Also include information such as common friends or contacts, where you got the contact’s name, the contact’s background and personal information, the date you last spoke and what was said, your next step and future plans. After you’ve recorded that information, file the original card. Don’t throw it away.

Prioritize. When you’re at an event where you’ll be collecting a lot of business cards, don’t throw them into one big heap. Instead, classify them into one of three categories: A – those you promised to call, you most want to court and you need to thank; B – contacts you would like to spend time with again or help, but not immediately; and C – people on whose radar screen you wish to remain, but with whom you don’t want to meet at this time. Further separate your A list into those contacts you can help. “By helping first you build goodwill and give your contacts a strong reason to remember you and reciprocate,” say Frishman and Lublin. “Contact individuals on your A list within two to three days while the memory of your introduction is still fresh.”

Make your move. In your initial communiqué state where you met and include a reference that will make the connection clearer, such as mentioning a story that person told. Then state your request directly and specifically, such as: Are you free for lunch this Thursday, March 19th?

Say thank you. Always say thank you to someone who introduces you, recommends you, endorses you or helps you in any way. Say it quickly and sincerely. A hand-written note makes the strongest impression.

Don’t give up. Top people usually are busy and may not have time to respond to you now. To maintain the connection, occasionally send reminders such as articles or information that might interest your contact. Include a brief note such as: I thought this might interest you. Hope all is well. My best, Phil. Don’t overdo it or you’ll be considered a pest and your communiqués will be avoided, caution Frishman and Lublin.

Make an appointment. Schedule a regular time each day for networking follow-ups. Put it on your calendar like any other appointment.