When networking, most people fail in the follow-up. You know how it is; you collect some cards and have a few great conversations at an event. Then you find the cards in a pocket or a purse and don't recall who these folks are or why you have their cards. Or maybe you followed up timely and connected with them on social media after meeting them at an event. If you did, you get a gold star. You've done what most don't do.
But now what?
Once you have followed up and connected, how do you cultivate that relationship?
Here are some ideas to help you out:
1. The First 30
Within the first 30 days of meeting someone new, think about who in your network you can connect them with and make a virtual introduction. Explain to both parties why you wanted to connect them. People will really appreciate the fact that you took the time to help them build their network and offered something helpful. A lot of people will follow up in the first 30 days with emails about their own services and what they need. Distinguish yourself by helping them and not looking for what you can gain from a new relationship. Remember, you don't have any currency in this relationship yet. It is not about you.
[Related: You Made the Connection, Now What? Tips on Building a Networking Relationship]
2. Take a new contact out
Most commonly this could be for a coffee meet-up or a meal. But think outside the box and invite someone to another networking event you think they might enjoy, invite them to volunteer with you somewhere or even invite them to go get a manicure or take an exercise class together. The idea is to get to know someone on a more personal level.
3. Make sure you have a system
Besides having a system for immediate follow-up, think about how you will continue to reach out to new contacts. Set reminders for yourself at timed intervals of 30 or 60 days to check in with new contacts. See what projects they have going on and how you might be of service. Listen to the challenges they might be having with their business and see if there is anyone you can refer them to that might be able to help. It may be they need help with something unrelated to business. For example, a recommendation for a great nanny or a good contractor. This is where having a strong network yourself can be a real asset. Just make sure you have vetted providers before you recommend them to others.
4. Recognize milestones
Whether it is a birthday, a birth, a work anniversary or something else, reach out to your network with a call or a handwritten card or note. If someone is sick, lost a loved one or generally could just use some cheering up because they have been struggling, reach out with a card or call as well. When someone is recovering from surgery, for example, I like to send them an eAmazon gift card so they can purchase a book to read at home or something else that might help them out. And they can do it right from their couch since they are homebound.
[Listen: From Captive to Conqueror: How to Make the Most Out of Your Next Networking Event]
5. Schedule a party
Do you have a storefront or workplace? Can you accommodate a group at your home? Schedule a party to bring people in your network together. They can network with each other and it provides an opportunity for you to follow up with a number of people at once as well. People will remember that you were the person who brought them together and that is always a good thing.
Jennifer Lynn Robinson, Esq. is a litigator turned entrepreneur following a life changing accident. She conducts speaking engagements and workshops for universities, companies, conferences, non-profits and groups on issues surrounding networking and relationship-building. She also works one on one with people to help them be more comfortable and confident with their networking efforts. Jennifer lives just outside Philadelphia, PA with her husband and three rescue dogs. Follow her @AreYouNetworked and visit purposefulnetworking.com.
Ellevate Network is a global women's network: the essential resource for professional women who create, inspire and lead. Together, we #InvestInWomen.