Yesterday I was teaching a networking skills training class to employees of my client BlumShapiro, the largest regional business advisory and CPA firm based in New England. This training is part of their Dare to Lead company-wide talent development program.
During the class which was entitled Networking 301: Success by Association, we discussed the importance of follow-up in the networking process. I told them that not only will personalized follow-up help you turn connections into relationships faster, but also personalized follow-up will distinguish you professionally. Why? Because very few people do it consistently well.
Who sends handwritten cards anymore?
During the class, we explored the many different ways in which you could follow-up in a meaningful way. One of those methods was with a handwritten card, stamped, and sent snail mail. I gave them supplies including business note cards, personal stationery with different designs, colored envelopes and pens, postage stamps with different designs, and even Say-it-Forward quote cards that they could enclose in the envelope for that extra smile factor.
You should have seen the looks on their faces? They thought I was from Mars (or Venus?). But then something magical happened, the CEO of the firm, Joe Kask, stopped by. (Side note: Joe has stopped by and added value to all three of my recent classes. He is a truly accessible leader and I admire his leadership style.) Joe recognized the stationery on the table and said, “That’s my stationery. They made that for me.” He went on to share with the class that he has made handwritten cards a central part of his follow-up practice. He sends handwritten cards for people’s birthdays, promotions, anniversaries, and after meetings. He does this with clients, prospects, employees, strategic partners, and friends.
When Joe left the class, the energy picked up, and people started writing their notes with greater enthusiasm. As an instructor, it doesn’t get better than that!
Zig when others zags
You have the opportunity to stand out more than other people simply because you choose to do things differently. You zig while everyone else zags. Your zig gets noticed because it is different. It might feel “old fashioned,” but it breaks through simply because fewer people are doing it that way. The art of handwritten letters is not lost; it’s just been overtaken by more convenient and immediate communication.
Is social online networking enough to keep relationships alive?
It is so tempting to do networking follow-up right from the comfort and convenience of your computer or mobile device. Social online networking saves time, saves gas, and saves money. You don’t even have to get dressed or get out of your comfort zone to connect with people.
Social media is great and we couldn’t live without it, but I must remind you that social online networking is low-touch networking activity. You still need to mix in high-touch networking activities and follow up to ensure that your networking relationships are robust and real. Here are a few specific examples of networking activities that might fall into the high-touch, medium-touch, and low-touch categories:
- High-touch networking includes activities such as: attending a networking event; going golfing or to some other business leisure activity; having a 1:1 networking coffee/tea, sharing a meal together, seeing people at events; attending a charity event together; ride-sharing to an event.
- Medium-touch networking includes activities such as: telephone calls; birthday cards; handwritten cards; professional written letters; mailing books/gifts; Facetime or Skype video calls.
- Low-touch networking includes activities such as: sending an email; leaving a voice mail message, posting on their Facebook page; re-tweeting; email marketing; posting LinkedIn updates; sending LinkedIn invitations; texting people.
One of my secret weapons of personalized follow-up
I shared with my training class an on-line service that makes sending handwritten cards even easier and less expensive. The service is called SendOutCards and it’s a greeting card and gifting company that believes that people should act on their promptings and spread appreciation daily. I’ve been using the service since 2007. As of this date, I have sent over 9,000 cards, many customized with photos of the people who receive my cards. I use photos to mirror back to them and to honor them.
When I use SendOutCards to do my personalized follow-up, I find that it makes me feel good. I get joy from sending cards. I also know that it brings joy to others, because they have told me so. Another remarkable thing about SendOutCards is that they have longevity – that is, they stay on people’s desks and in their homes for long periods of time. Contrast this to the longevity of an email or text, that is viewed (or not) and then discarded quickly.
You can try out the SendOutCards service for free, if you like. I’ll pay for your first card – go to my affiliate site, www.MotivatingCards.com
There’s connective power in personal correspondence
However you choose to follow-up and stay in touch, be sure do it consistently. Make it a discipline. Work at it. There’s power in it. Personalized follow-up will distinguish you, help you maintain your professional relationships, increase your sphere of influence, and bring more joy to the world. What’s not to like about that?
The question is: Who do you need to follow-up with today?