Last night, you went to your local of-the-moment watering hole and met some new people at a business networking event. You had some lively, interest-sustaining conversations. You even encountered a true kindred spirit who lit up all your entrepreneurial core principles like an old-school pinball machine. This morning, that special new friend’s business card is at the top of the pile, beckoning you to do something. But what?
Before you paralyze yourself like an unsure business deer caught in the oncoming headlights of a speed networking event, fear not. Just do everything I suggest and it will all be rainbows for you – unicorns are optional.
Just As There Are Levels of Giving, There are Levels of Connecting:
- If you’re serious about benefiting from last night’s networking extravaganza, take action within the next 48 – 72 hours.
- If your spider senses tell you a new acquaintance will remain exactly that, file the piece of cardboard into your binder of misfit business cards.
- If you believe you made a decent connection with a new friend, decide which piece of social media candy would be the initial place to commit to an online relationship (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, etc.).
- If you had an amazing conversation, send your professional soul mate an invitation to connect on LinkedIn or become friends on Facebook, and…
- …offer some pending dates for a more intimate tête-à-tête (in a public place, of course).
Choosy Networkers Choose a Mutually Agreed-Upon Meeting Place (sorry, not Jif peanut butter):
- While you’re crafting that custom social media (or email) invitation, be sure to offer a few meeting venue suggestions.
- At the risk of reopening a heated blog post discussion from last September…
- …some usual suspects might include Panera Bread, Starbucks, a bookstore, a beloved indie diner/coffee house, or even a business like Beneficial Bank, which lets you meet at their location for free.
- Be flexible if your new friend gravitates to a meeting destination you don’t prefer.
- If you’re a solopreneur but your new friend works in a public office with multiple employees, accept the invitation to meet there (and discreetly conceal your mace spray).
Do Yourself a Favor – Do Your Pre-Meeting Due Diligence:
- While the type of due diligence you need for a job interview isn’t mandatory here, I believe in Todd Cohen’s philosophy of Sales Culture, so do it right.
- Look at the other person’s website and/or blog (if available), read their LinkedIn profile description, and don’t be shy about ‘Googling’ their name.
- Simultaneously, write some questions regarding information you sincerely want to know about this lovely person and their business.
- Transport your questions via a notebook or notepad, not just on your smartphone/iPad/iChip. (It’s okay to laugh – that last one was an iJoke…)
Ensure You Both Claim Your Time in a Fair and Balanced Manner:
- Be on time, and get a cup (or plate) of whatever you need to keep yourself steady for at least an hour.
- Find as private a table/booth/alcove/piece of real estate as possible.
- Be sure you both agree on a time limit for your meeting, especially if one of you has another appointment afterward.
- Some words of warning: If your friend is a professional who might bring a portfolio of work to the meeting, you should go first.
- If you sense the meeting is unbalanced, take control and interject with the essentials regarding your business and professional needs before the networking clock runs down.
In the Networking Afterglow, Send a Thank-You and Fulfill Your Promises:
- Whether or not the meeting fulfilled your every business networking fantasy (!), send a thank-you note either via email or your preferred social media platform.
- If you offered to make an introduction, promote your friend’s upcoming event/seminar, etc., then do it quickly, or let your friend know by when you’ll be able to help.
- By doing so, you’re pushing out some good karma and also solidifying your local reputation as a nice professional.
- According to Peter Shankman, nice businesses finish first, so work from nice; see where it takes you and your company.
Does this road map for successful business networking follow-up mesh with your modus operandi? What did I forget to mention that you deem vital to your one-on-one networking special sauce? I know a lot, but I’m certainly no Oracle at Delphi…
Lori Shapiro is the owner of By All Writes LLC, a business writing, editing, and research company in Marlton, New Jersey. She revels in shielding her clients from the pain of writing their own print and web marketing copy. Call her (856-810-9764) or email her (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a no-obligation project quote today!