There is a simple secret that places you and your brand at top of mind with your colleagues who are influencers and referral sources: maintain regular outreach to them without asking for anything.
This strategy is beyond creating “buzz” by speaking in public, showing up at events, and posting on social networks. Yes, I know we are all busy – even busier now with the demands of social media, which you might assume lets everyone know what you are doing (not so – not everyone follows social media as closely as you might, or follows the same networks.)
I am talking about personal contact that puts you as a continued presence in the minds of your network. Personal outreach is special and very effective — the point is to let them know you are thinking of them. You should initiate contact perhaps every 2-3 months, even if you are in touch on work-related issues. This includes:
- Following up on all referrals immediately and copying them (or blind copying them, as appropriate) on all correspondence. This would include a public (in the follow up message) thank you, or a private email of thanks.
- Remembering to check back with your referral source on the development of the referral –even if nothing comes of it. A note that says “Just wanted to keep you posted that I met with ABC Company and we hit it off. They want me to get back in touch in a couple of months after they have completed their next phase. Thanks again for the introduction. I’ll keep in touch about ongoing developments.”
- Remembering to check back when the next significant step occurs with this referral, and another thank you.
- If nothing comes of it, and the referral comes to nothing, send an “end-note” that says, “Just checking in that ABC Company has decided to move in another direction. It is the right move for them. Thanks again for keeping me in mind and connecting me with them.” The courtesy of this simple communication thread shows your appreciation for the referral and respect for your colleague. It will get you more.
- Beyond this specific communication, you should be sending trinkets to your best referral sources and other influences. A trinket is a link to an article about something that you know they are interested in. Your email might say “Saw this in the Economist and thought of you. Assume you might have seen it, but in case you missed it, I’m sending it along in this link. All the best.” Same with appearances of people you know they follow, or networking gatherings that would be of use to them which require your invitation, or other resources that they might not be expected to have come across.
- With colleagues who are also personal friends, and where it is appropriate, a note from your holiday or vacation, or a photo they might like while you are away, is a special gesture, as is a birthday card on their day.
- When you send a trinket, don’t ask for anything. It is a gift, not a barter. It is a gesture that you are thinking of them, not an opening offer before asking for a favor.
At some level, this is just good manners. But it astonishes me how few good manners are shown in our busy business world… especially the ones that require that little bit of extra time and attention that “gets” you nothing.
What it gets you is respect, friendship beyond colleagueship, and top of mind for the next opportunity.