The Critical Networking Step Many Writers Miss

Carol Tice

Networking Requires Immediate Follow upIt’s confession time. This past week, I made a tragic error.

I washed a pair of my husband’s pants.

No, I do laundry around here. It’s not that.

It’s that inside a small side pocket of the pants, it turned out, were about 30 business cards my hubby had collected at a big networking event several days before. It was a multi-chamber, all-county networking event at a local casino. Sort of a once-a-year opportunity.

The cards were turned into mush in the wash. Totally unreadable. I should have checked the pants more thoroughly before washing.

I felt so bad! After all, I had been the one encouraging him to get out and more aggressively network to find clients for his new Web-video business.

What allowed this mishap to occur was…it had never crossed my mind that the business cards would still be in the pants! Because what was the point of collecting those business cards?

So you can follow up right away with all your new leads! This is the missing link in networking, the critical step so many new networkers — freelance writers and all other types of freelancers, too — so often overlook.

When I get home from a networking event, before I even put my purse down, I get out the business cards I’ve collected from wherever I’ve squirreled them away. Then I walk them straight over to my desk and put them down right next to the monitor. That way, they’ll be the first thing I see when I’m next in the office, and I’ll get straight to my followup.

Those leads are gold. They represent thousands of dollars of potential new business. Great new relationships. Fun new friends.

You’d be crazy to leave them lying around, or shoved in a pants pocket.

Without followup, networking is often a total waste of time. The people you talked to also spoke to dozens of other people. It’s all a blur! You need to make another connection and start building the relationship.

Connect with them on LinkedIn. Start following them on Twitter. Send them a quick “Nice to meet you!” email. Send them a contact for someone you know who might fit a need they have. Email them an interesting article, your resume, or whatever other followup is appropriate to the conversation you had. Update your marketing calendar to get in touch with these new leads again in a month or two.

Sometimes, prospects need a while to come around to the idea of working with you. I’ve had networking connections take a full year of development before they offered me a gig.

So follow up. Get in touch. Or your networking is as useful as that soggy stack of unreadable business cards I sadly fished out of the laundry.

Photo via Flickr user PolandMFA

3 Comments

  1. Carol

    Certainly a business card is not necessarily equal a lead. I usually don’t collect cards from people unless we’ve connected in some way and I think they’re either a real lead or someone who might connect me to prospects, or is a solid possible future source. I know some people just scoop up every card they can.

  2. Nancy

    Excellent advice in this post.

    When I first started going to networking events, my objective was to GIVE OUT my cards. It took me a while to figure out that I was getting more returns from the cards I COLLECTED and followed up on.

    In response to John White's comment: that's true that a business card does not automatically equal a lead. But networking events allow you to talk to people and figure out who is a potential customer. Then you take cards from those qualified leads… and follow up afterward.

  3. John White

    Don't get your (husband's) trousers in a twist, Carol. A great deal of business card exchanging is only pseudo-networking.

    I believe in networking, and I applaud your husband's efforts to network. But a business card does not a lead make. In fact, it doesn't even a newsletter recipient make, as we all find out when we send unsolicited e-mail to people who have given us their business card.

    A lead is a relationship. A business card alone isn't.

    That's been my experience, anyway. Still, you have the talent, skill, personality and luck to make these pan out for you, and that's why I'm reading your blog…

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