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The Follow Through
Today, I received two letters and two emails following up with me after meetings I had. As with anything I do, I took a step back to analyze what I had received and how I perceived them in order to better improve my own follow through.
A little background about me: I own and operate my own growing law firm that focuses on helping small businesses out by reviewing/creating contracts, forming companies and handling general legal issues as they arise. Most of what I do is network and make connections within my own network.
The letters I received were from banks looking for me to relocate my accounts to them. The third correspondence was from another law firm whom I had met about helping each other grow our businesses, and the fourth communication was from an insurance company regarding our brief introduction the week before.
For the sake of anonymity, we're going to name the banks First Bank and Second Bank, we'll call the law firm the creative name of Law Firm, and we'll refer tot he insurance company as Insurance Company.
The first letter I received was a hand written note on a plain white card that had the bank logo typed on it. I had met with the person the previous week and the note read:
"Richard, I enjoyed meeting you for breakfast and am glad that business is booming for you. Keep me posted on the new hire and please let me know if I can do anything to help you. I look forward to seeing you again soon! Sincerely, /signature/ and /phone number/"
That was it. It was simple and illustrated a few good aspects about networking follow up that we will address later on.
Do You Always Follow Up After Networking Meetings?
The letter from Second Bank was received the same day, but the meeting was weeks earlier. It was an almost completely typed letter excluding only my name and the signature.
The letter was much longer, but to summarize, it described the products and services that the bank offered and contact information should I need any of those services.
This letter actually did do a couple of things right in certain circumstances, and we will look at what it did right and wrong later on as well.
The email I received from Law Firm was regarding scheduling a time to meet one on one in the near future. I had met with this person prior and received several email introductions. We could not, however, nail down a time to meet one on one. The email was fairly basic stating a few times she had available, and then went on to invite me to 'like' her law firm on Facebook.
When it comes to social media, there's absolutely no correct way to do it; however, with me, I prefer to build a relationship with someone before I market their services to my social network. There is, however, a reason to let people know about your social media, in case this is how they operate. My suggestion is to include your social media in your signature line, but I'm not a social media expert. I only know what I prefer.
The Insurance Company I had briefly met while I was meeting another person. He was introduced as an excellent person to get to know who could provide great strategic connections and potentially referrals in the future. When I got home, I immediately followed up with him regarding meeting with him one on one to discuss how we could help each other.
His response came a couple weeks later and it was this:
"I am not out until Tuesday, as we are going to the beach for a few welcome days. I could meet with you either Tuesday late afternoon or Wednesday afternoon. do either of these ndays work for you? I have a very good referral partner that can definitely help your web site and SEO... ... If you wish, I would be happy to create a warm introduction for you folks?
Hope all is well. I await your reply.
This email was saved for last for a reason, but we will get into the good things after this so all isn't negative. I'm sure you've already noticed and probably think I generated the typos, but I did not. There are a few typos in the email. "ndays" and lowercase 'd' at the beginning of the second sentence. Furthermore, offering the information that you are going to the beach is unnecessary, in my opinion. I, personally, schedule 2-3 weeks in advance, so I would not be heartbroken if I couldn't meet Thursday, Friday or Monday of the upcoming week.
Advice: It is actually best practices to schedule networking meetings 1-3 weeks in advance.
The part that was most interesting and likely the worst portion of this email was an attempt to sell me on the website and SEO services of his referral partner. Since many small businesses are based completely on referrals, as is mine, it's not the offer to make the referral that is bad. It's the fact that I've never had a meeting with the person, nor informed him that I'm in need of website or SEO services. What I took out of that offer was that either he believes my website is bad, or he's desperate to make a referral to his partner. I'm certain he has other referral partners and if he offered me one that I need, it would likely be a different story. What I learned from this is to find out what people need first before extending any offers.
Part of the learning process is learning from others' mistakes. If I learn nothing from these mistakes, I'm more guilty than they are. What I've learned is to follow up promptly, schedule in advance and don't let your connection know why you can't schedule earlier, and to find out what a person needs before making any sort of offer.
The Insurance Company, however, isn't the worst email I've received. I'm picking on them because of the very specific errors they've made that I can learn from.
Dwelling on negatives is not how I like to approach learning situations, so we're also going to look at some of the good things that these people have done. We shouldn't only learn from mistakes, but rather learn from everything that occurs in our lives.
My favorite follow up from all of these connections was the handwritten letter from First Bank. Most people feel good when they receive a handwritten letter in the mail and I am no different, but what else did this person do correct? Let's take it piece by piece.
"I enjoyed meeting you for breakfast..." Always a great way to start a follow up. It not only suggests you had a pleasant time, but also reminds the person when and where you met. In my note, he did specify where we had breakfast as well.
"... and am glad that business is booming for you. Keep me posted on the new hire..." This brings in a couple of things we talked about. Be specific. The more specific you are, the more you can show that you were paying attention. If you can pick one or two things that were really important to the person, you're going to be on his or her mind for a while. (Note: This works for all walks of life. I've tested in personal and dating messages.)
"... and please let me know if I can do anything to help you..." This is much different than offering your services or suggesting that someone needs help. This is an extension of a hand to a friend, and is well received. Such a comment makes me want to do business with this bank if I needed banking services. Since I don't, I'm going to go through my network and see if I think someone else might need their services, and that's priceless to First Bank.
"... I look forward to seeing you again soon!" It's not a one and done situation. The author of this note is suggesting that we will see each other again and again in the future and will build a relationship. We're far more likely to refer business to someone we feel will be around in the future and will interact with you frequently.
In his signature line, he included his direct line, so I know he isn't just passing me off to someone in his company.
The Second Bank also did a few things right, although not nearly as much or as well. They included the list of services they offer because frequently, you can't get an accurate and all-encompassing list in one meeting. This is highly beneficial if there is likely a referral situation. I'm a person who will need to know exactly what they offer, what a strategic partner looks like and what their ideal referral looks like. I appreciated the list of products and services offered. I also appreciated the contact information included at the bottom of the page, which I used to update their information in my database.
The Law Firm did well to include the social media in a message to me that wasn't unsolicited. If the social media request came in a separate message, I'd be frustrated with the person attempting to sell me on their page. Furthermore, if social media is important to your business and a part of who you are, it is important to let your connections know about it, whether it is LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or anything else. You just have to ensure you do it in the least pushy way possible. I'd suggest showing the value and extending the offer instead of the generic invite emails. Something along the lines of: "We're doing a push this month to try to get 500 likes on Facebook. If receiving updates on legal issues pertinent to small businesses is something that interests you, I invite you to follow us at <link or button>. Thank you for your consideration." This keeps it more of a polite request with value opposed to an unsolicited request.
Finally, the Insurance Company did provide a couple of specific times he had available to meet with me. This is important because if it is too broad, people may ignore it or think you're not doing very well for yourself. He also showed that he is loyal to his referral partners; however, his referral method could potentially hurt the partner's brand.
How do you typically follow up?
In conclusion, there was a lot of good and bad to be found in each correspondence, and we are tasked to look at each follow up we receive to do our own bit of learning. If we have the time and the handwriting skills, hand written notes are exceptional; however, it is not always possible or feasible. The follow up method should also be indicative of who you are. Handwritten notes are fairly old fashion, so if you're a tech company, perhaps it isn't ideal. For me, my law firm is trying to be a modern, technology-based, law firm. My follow up, although always adapting as I learn, is an email thanking the connection for his or her time. I've learned from these follow through messages that I should include a line that shows my excitement to see the connection again. This isn't included in mine thus far and would be an excellent addition.
I hope you've also learned a bit about your own follow up emails, letters, or otherwise.
© 2013 Richard Wayne Bobholz