A short time back I received a 'catching up' message from someone I had met years ago at a networking event. Alicia Williams of Aliste Internet Marketing and I had 'stayed in touch' in the modern sense- newsletter exchange, less frequent e-mail, etc. Her reach out message led to a phone conversation, which in turn led to a face to face meeting. That face to face left us both asking, why did this take so long?
I value relationships as much as the next person but there is just not time enough in the day. Yet, there is a lot to be said for "out of the blue" contact as was the case with Alicia and me. We did not discuss it, but I imagine Alicia reached out to several folks like me for any of a variety of reasons. I have to admit it was not only a great idea but it highlights the value of maximizing our networking connections. As a result of our get together we plan to pursue collaborative efforts. So how does one take advantage of these relationships that we have not yet cultivated?
Sort It Out
Before you do anything else it’s a good idea to sort out what you are hoping to accomplish. Are you looking to re-acquaint, collaborate or sell something? How many people do you hope to connect with? The answers to these questions will shape how you reach out.
Yes, people get your newsletters, promotions and so on, but that is not the same as reaching out directly. Reaching out with a call to action or a question is a great way to re-ignite curiosity, especially when a bit of time has passed since you last spoke. Regardless of your intention, this is a great next step. If the number of people you seek to reach is small, the best approach is a phone call to touch base. For a larger group, an individually addressed e-mail (even if sent in bulk) can be just as effective and far more efficient.
The fact is that not everyone you contact will return your call or respond to your e-mail. Think of your reach out effort as a screening tool. Remember, these are contacts with whom you have fallen out of direct touch. Some may no longer be in the same place, some have lost interest and still others are poor responders. What matters is this- those that do respond are the ones with whom there is opportunity.
When your reach out effort leads to a response you get to start with a clean slate. The passage of time is irrelevant; what happens next is at your discretion and that of the responder. At this point the opportunity is boundless. I should know; I am experiencing it first hand.