In this fifth and final post in the networking series I want to address follow-up. You put a lot of effort into your networking preparation and execution. At the very least you hope that something positive will come from your hard work and in all probability it will. But after the networking is over, the effort has only just begun.
Imagine you are a fisherman; the rod jerks heavily towards the horizon. Your next step is (a) jump for joy whilst tossing the rod into the water, (b) pull out your trusty camera phone to capture the moment or (c) snap the rod back to land the hook and proceed to reel in your catch. I am not a fisherman but I do know the answer is (c)- you have to finish what you started. And so it is with networking- you have baited your prospects and they want to know more about you but they will quickly get away like the lucky fish unless you follow-up.
The variety of follow-up ideas is vast but once again consider your intent as well as the audience you are looking to reach. If your intent is to elaborate more fully on what you do, you might want to provide content (e.g. links, brochures, etc). Perhaps you want to demonstrate a product or service. You may propose meeting over a cup of coffee, a request to add them to your mailing list or an invitation to participate at an upcoming event that you are hosting or attending.
As for the audience, there are those people (groups and individuals) who prefer phone calls to written contact and those who prefer electronic contact to paper-based media. If you happen to know what appeals to your audience, use it to your advantage. If you do not, then utilize the means that are the most productive for you.
In most cases you and your potential customers decided very shortly after meeting whether or not there is any value to a continued relationship. But unless there is a clear refusal to learn more, don't stop there! The difference between a passing interest and a new customer may well be in the follow-up.