Business Networking Follow-Up
According to Wikipedia, business networking is a socioeconomic business activity where business people and entrepreneurs meet to form business relationships and to recognize, create, or act upon business opportunities, share information and seek potential partners for ventures.
After attending a business networking event, do a follow-up with new contacts in a professional manner. If you have collected some business cards, write the date and name of the event on the back of the business card or in a contact notebook, spreadsheet or CRM database. Include a note about any topics you discussed, leads or referrals exchanged, common interests or requests for a follow-up meeting or more information.
When meeting during a networking event, seminar, conference or trade show, ask permission (agreement) to call to discuss business or to send email so your new contact will be expecting communication from you. Better yet, use a signup sheet. You might show a sample newsletter, blog post or list of blog topics, or offer an incentive for signing up such as a free tip sheet, checklist, ebook or coupon.
If you collect business cards in a fish bowl as entries to win a prize, to avoid complaints, make the terms very clear that all entries will be added to your email list.
Don’t send follow-up email to other event attendees that you did not meet or to email addresses obtained from websites, directories or purchased lists since you do not have opt-in permission.
Do follow-up within a few days before memories fade. Busy business people may be calling or meeting many prospects, customers, clients, vendors, advisors, friends and colleagues and may not remember meeting with you briefly at one of many business networking events or which topics were discussed.
Don’t wait weeks or months to do follow-up and expect a new acquaintance to remember you. It may help them to remember you by including a digital photo on your website or on a business card or in an email.
If many weeks or months have gone by before you attempt to make a follow-up contact, the information may be stale. The person may no longer have a need or interest. Start with a re-confirmation email to ask if they are still interested in hearing from you.
Do some online research on a new business contact. Read the information on their website, which may include a resume or About Us section, a list of products, services and brands offered, and a blog. Read their LinkedIn profile. Reading may generate some ideas for collaboration, new opportunities, common interests or questions for further discussion.
Look at their social media accounts to learn the size of their network, frequency of posts and recent topics being discussed. Their network of contacts can greatly expand your reach and number of referrals if they post a positive comment about their experience working with you or if you make a positive contribution. They may be able to make a personal introduction to a member of their network.
Read online customer reviews to learn what customers think of the products and services offered, quality, prices, professionalism, and how they were treated.
If you notice a reason to connect for mutual benefit, choose a follow-up method.
Extend an Invitation to Connect Online
Send a customized invitation, with an explanation, inviting them to connect with you on LinkedIn. If they post articles on LinkedIn, add a useful comment or ask a relevant question.
Invite them to subscribe to your newsletter or blog if it contains helpful information, not a barrage of self-promotion.
Be Helpful, Not Pushy
Focus on giving, sharing and helping, without expecting anything in return, not selling or pushing your unwelcome agenda or sales pitch. Most people will be thankful for sincere efforts of assistance and will reciprocate the favor in the future by helping or doing business with people they know, like and trust. Use business networking to grow positive relationships by planting and nurturing seeds, not quickly picking fruits.
Set Up a Phone Conversation or In Person Meeting
If there is a mutual agreement that a follow-up coffee meeting or phone conversation would be beneficial, ask the person to suggest a convenient date, time and place that fits their schedule.
In addition to following ethical business practices and etiquette, do not violate state or federal laws (CAN-SPAM Act) or company compliance policies regarding telemarketing or sending unsolicited commercial email (UCE), known as spam.
The CAN-SPAM Act applies to individual and bulk email. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can seek civil penalties up to $16,000 per email violation.
Receiving a business card is not automatic opt-in permission to add a name to your email list, newsletter or blog subscription. Get opt-in approval first. If you start sending email solicitations to someone who does not remember meeting you, or signing up, they might report it as spam.
Double opt-in works best, so a prankster cannot add a name to an email list without genuine approval from the real user at an email address. Include an opt-out provision.
Many websites and blogs use a pop-up window to invite a visitor to opt-in to a blog or newsletter subscription or mailing list.
Sample Business Networking Follow-Up Email
(Within 1-3 days)
(1. Subject) a. Nice meeting you at [name of the event], b. Can we meet to discuss [topic]?, c. Thank you for your time meeting with me, d. Here’s the information you requested about [subject], e. Thanks for hosting/organizing/speaking at the networking event. f. Did you receive my previous email, voicemail? g. Meeting Recap and Action Items, h. Congratulations on your Achievement.
Note: Don’t use deceptive or blank subject lines. The federal CAN-SPAM Act requires the subject line to accurately describe the actual content of the message.
(2. Greeting and reminder) Hello [new contact name],
It was nice to meet you at the business networking [event name] on [event date]. You may recall, we sat at the same table during the program and briefly talked about [discussion topic] and exchanged business cards.
(3. Common background or shared interest) [You mentioned / your website mentions] that you [grew up/went to school in state] [have an interest in hobby, sports, book, author, business guru, etc.]. We share a common background since I also [grew up/went to school in city/state name] [share the same interest].
(4. Research and questions) I read the information on your business website and was impressed with your industry knowledge, influence, experience. Specifically, I read an article you wrote in your blog (or newsletter) titled [article title] and have some questions for you.
(5. Invitation to Connect) I see that you have an account on LinkedIn and invite you to connect with me at [web link]. I am now following you on Twitter, Facebook, your blog, etc. You might also be interested in my blog or newsletter at [blog link or newsletter link] or this article at [web link].
(6. Request for phone meeting or coffee meeting) Would you be willing to schedule a 15-minute telephone meeting (or coffee meeting) where I could ask a few questions and we could discuss [article title] [topic]? I would be glad to (buy you coffee and) answer any questions you have for me. The best day/time for me to meet is [day/time].
(7. Leads and Referrals) I also have several contacts of potential customers for you.
(8. Closing) I am looking forward to hearing from you or seeing you again at the next business networking event.
For your information, I have attached my business card and my website link below.
[contact information] (include your valid physical postal address)
John Smith, CEO
Smith Consulting, LLC
1234 Entrepreneur Ave
City, State Zip
(9. Sign-up date Reminder) We never send unsolicited email. You received this email because you requested it on [sign-up date].
(10. White List) To make sure our future email goes to your inbox, add our email address to your address book.
(11. Opt-in) To sign up for our blog or newsletter, please click here to opt-in.
(12. Opt-out) P.S. If you prefer not to receive any future email from our business, please click here to opt-out.
Note: Under CAN-SPAM law, you may not charge a fee or penalty or impose additional steps, conditions or require more information to honor an opt-out request or demand.
attachment: business card
Proofread and Edit
Carefully proofread and edit your follow-up email or letter to make a professional impression. Correct any spelling or grammar errors. Include an appropriate, informative subject line. Customize your message for the recipient. Avoid using spam words that will send your email to the spam folder.
Don’t be a Nuisance
Don’t call or email too often if you don’t get a quick response. Be patient. The person may be interested, but not available, or may have a future need. Unprofessional behavior may be viewed as a nuisance or harassment. Your email and phone number may be blocked.
Wait at least a week to do a follow-up note, email or phone call, or plan to meet the person again at the next business networking event.
Share your thoughts and favorite business networking follow-up tips in the comments below.
1. CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business
3. Book: Business Networking for Dummies by Stefan Thomas, 312 pages, first edition July 2014