In my last column, I wrote about following up as a critical part of your business development efforts. I heard from several lawyers and more than a few law firm marketers who agreed with the concept, but are struggling with consistent implementation. All of them clearly understand the importance of following up, but they had questions about two basic categories: how to follow up, and when to follow up.
“Valid” Reasons to Follow Up
Many of my coaching clients have said that they don’t have a “good” reason for contacting people they’ve met at a networking event, or they don’t know how to maintain contact with someone over a long period of time. Ideally, if you have engaged in conversations at events, you will have learned something about both the business and personal interests of your contact. Given that most people have somewhat of a public profile, you can usually search for more information online. (And, of course, you will be discreet about the information you find, so that your contact doesn’t think you’ve been stalking them.)
Here are a few reasons to make a follow-up call or send an email to your newer contacts:
- To let them know that you will be speaking somewhere
- To send an article you wrote, or a link to a relevant online article
- To find out whether they will be attending a conference
- To let them know about a book, movie, restaurant, or event that they might be interested in.
If your contact is a current or past client, you can also:
- Schedule lunch
- Invite them to an event at your firm
- Offer to present a seminar at their site
- Ask them to be a co-panelist the next time you speak at an industry event
- Introduce them to one of your contacts.
When to Follow Up
If you meet someone at an event or a conference and exchange business cards, you should send an email within 48 hours after the event. Assuming that you discovered something you have in common, include a reference that will reconnect you. For example, you may have gone to the same law school, you may have discussed traveling to New Zealand, or you may share an interest in books by Gary Shteyngart. (I know this might seem unlikely, but it turns out that one of Shteyngart’s books has the longest waiting list ever at a library in Denver. Who knew?) Even if you didn’t exchange business cards, you can often find contact information for someone you enjoyed meeting.
When it comes to staying in touch with clients, most of us have a list of calls or emails we haven’t completed. Just because you planned to get in touch six months ago and didn’t, don’t feel guilty, and don’t let that stop you from taking action today. Your clients haven’t been waiting for your call for the last six months. They’ve been busy, and they’ll be glad to hear from you now. Just don’t wait another six months to make the contact. Send the email, make the call, do it today. Time goes quickly for all of us.
The Ultimate Goal: Face to Face Meetings
Let’s assume that you’re using LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook to keep your contacts updated on your activities. Posting information regularly to LinkedIn, for example, doesn’t guarantee that your contacts will see your updates. That will depend on how diligently they check LinkedIn. Even if you have posted an update about a speaking engagement or an article, then you should also send individual emails to your current and potential clients. They may not attend your presentation or read your article, but you have reminded them of your presence. As tempting as it is to use email or social media to “stay in touch” with clients, your eventual goal is to set up face to face meetings, where you can truly connect and continue to build your relationships.
If you have a more specific question about following up with your clients or contacts, I would be happy to respond individually, or in my next column.