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It’s all in the follow up – how do you follow up leads after a networking event?

Fri 6 July 2012

When you go to a networking event, the aim of the game is to scope out potential business opportunities with the intention to secure some business leads that can be followed up after the event
We all have our own tactics in how we go about doing this and then how we go about following up any leads that we may have been acquired. I thought I might outline two very different tactics in order to demonstrate how a badly executed follow up could end up ruining any efforts that may have been put into a networking event
Joe – Joe works for a law firm and sat next to a potential hot lead at his latest networking event. Joe really sold his business, creating a very positive impression on a couple of other networkers at the event. Joe swapped business cards and kept the topic of conversation very much business orientated. It was pretty clear that one of the leads was very interested in Joe and the business he had to offer. With business card in hand Joe left the event feeling pretty confident that, if he wanted, he could acquire some business from this lead.
Helen – Helen has just started her own catering company and attended a networking event recently where she met lots of interesting people, some who may turn into leads and some may not. Helen didn’t really approach anyone outright but merely chatted with everyone about what she did and asked questions about what others did. Helens conversations were not always centred around business but she felt that she had got to know a few of the other people in the room. Helen left the event with barely any business cards but felt encouraged by the business in the room and the conversations she had been part of.
If we look at both these scenarios it would seem pretty obvious that Joe has a clear lead to a business opportunity. Helen may also have some good opportunities in the pipeline, but not as clear cut as Joe’s.
Joe – waits a week until he follows up his lead, he does what he always does and sends his generic ‘follow up’ email that is copy and pasted into outlook and whisked away. Unfortunately Joe is unaware of any formatting errors that occur as he just copy and pastes to networking leads when he remembers to do so, usually about a week later.
Helen – Goes onto LinkedIn when she gets home from her networking meeting and looks up some of the people she had interesting discussions with and then asks them to connect with her. She messages two of the people with whom she was particularly interested by, asking them if they fancied meeting up for lunch. Helen’s messages link in small parts of the conversations that she had with the two other networkers and her messages are informal but personal.
Joe’s follow up results to nothing – mainly because his ‘hot lead’ ends up feeling like a number on his database. The follow up is impersonal and clearly a ‘copy and paste job’ with formatting errors. Having received a business card, Joe decides to email rather than call and therefore the email gets lost in the inbox of another busy business. 
However, interestingly, Helen’s follow up resulted in a business opportunity and then a referral - even though Joe had experienced a much more positive networking event, with one very clear lead. The difference between them both, is that Helen’s follow up displayed that she was interested enough to do her research on LinkedIn and then take the time and effort to meet up, even though she had no clear indication that this lead was going to result in Business. Helen created credibility and trust through her follow up efforts, something that Joe was unable to prove. 
Remember to be thorough with your follow- up activity, be sure to make your potential lead feel as if you are being genuine and personal. There is nothing worse than taking the time to go to a networking event, in order to enjoy a personal and face to face experience, to then be faced with an impersonal, generic electronic follow up.  Your activity after a networking meeting can be as, if not more, important than the actual networking activity itself. 

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