If you’ve just come away with a few new contacts stored in your phone after a networking event, congratulations! You’ve successfully networked. But now what? Don’t let the contact go cold — you need to do something with those email addresses and phone numbers and not just let them collect virtual dust in your list of contacts.
Here are a few tips on how to follow up with your new connections after exchanging business cards:
1. Stay organized
Keep your networking contacts in one file that can be shared on all of your devices, so that they are easily accessible at all times. Take the time to update the file and make notes after each event you attend.
2. Share something over email
The easiest way to initiate follow-up with a new contact is to send an email. You may be tempted to keep it short and simply thank them for their time at the event where you met–but will this guarantee a response, and will they remember you? You want to facilitate a valuable exchange, and the best way to do this is to pick up where your conversation left off. Sharing an article, recommending a book, or even a restaurant or film, based on what you discussed at the networking event, are sure ways to get a response to your email and lead to more back and forth with your new contact.
3. Invite your network to events
Each time you make plans to attend an event, invite your network of contacts. Not only will it help your relationship thrive by speaking to them in more depth at another event, your contacts will be encouraged to reciprocate when they receive invites to events.
4. Meet them for coffee and eggs
Whether it’s just to bounce an idea off someone over coffee or to hash out a plan over eggs Benedict, a breakfast meeting is the perfect first step for maintaining one-to-one, in-person contact with your network. If you’ve found a valuable contact that has matched your efforts to stay in touch, it’s important to meet with them in person. Even Reid Hoffman, the founder and chairman of the networking site LinkedIn, is a huge fan of breakfast meetings.
5. Make it a habit
Just like a flourishing garden needs tending to each day, a thriving network that adds value to your professional life needs the same care. The real trick to becoming a networking master is to become a creature of habit—that is, taking 10 minutes each and every day to reach out to your contacts in a meaningful way.