How many follow-up emails do you think influential entrepreneurs, investors, and authors receive after going to a heavy networking event like a dinner, conference, or retreat?
If they actually hand out cards, my guess is a ton.
I’d like to share a few props and tricks that I use to create an interesting excuse to continue the dialogue after I meet an “A Player.” Before I talk guerrilla networking tactics, let’s paint a picture of how most people treat these interactions in order to understand why these untraditional tactics can be effective.
After their initial conversation, the typical networker asks the “A Player” for their card so they can send a follow up email to establish the connection (Score!). The next day they send an email that looks like the following:
Great meeting you at the event last night. I think it’s awesome what you guys are doing at CoolCompany. I look forward to staying in touch and let me know if I can help you out”
It’s not that this is a bad approach, it’s just that there’s likely 18 people sending the person a similar, hollow follow-up.
An Alternative Approach
Instead of being 1 of the 18 people pandering for contact information to formally establish the connection, I’ll try to insert something into the conversation that provokes the other party TO ASK ME TO FOLLOW UP. You certainly can inspire this through work-related dialogue like what you’re up to or a potential connection you can make. However, I prefer to make the initial continuation of our interaction focused on something unrelated to business. Here’s why:
1. Networking grounded in professional progress comes with expectations. I help you, you help me. I.E. when someone makes an unsolicited intro for me, I can’t help but wonder…are they going to ask me for one later? Would I feel comfortable making an introduction to this person? There is potential for this type of networking to be perceived as self-serving.
Compare this to when your dialogue is simply focused around making their life better. There’s far less of a perception that strings may be attached which makes this is a much better starting point to build a relationship.
2. Everyone else is likely following up with some sort of professional context. As a result, taking a more personal approach can be far more memorable and effective if we’re talking about building rapport.
For the reasons outlined above, my goal when approaching these interactions is to try and make the other person ask me to follow up with them about something non-work related. Here are a few props and tricks I use to do this:
My Awesome Phone Case
My Iphone case holds all my cards so that I don’t have to carry a wallet in my pocket. Everyone loves this thing. I estimate that 8 out of 10 people that see it ask me where I got it and how they can get one.
During our initial conversation, I’ll find an excuse to take out my phone and flash the case. Sometimes I’ll literally just flip it around in my hand so that the cards are visible just to provoke a response. The interaction often proceeds as follows:
“Whoa what’s that?”
“I love this thing. I keep all my cards in it so I don’t have to carry around a wallet. It’s awesome not having my pockets jammed with stuff all the time.”
“Nice! Where did you get it?
“I forget the name of the company off the top of my head, but I know I have it in my inbox. How about I shoot you an email?”
“Yeah that’d be great!”
“Cool, what’s your email?”
Boom. Instead of pandering for someone’s info and then having no actionable value to provide in the follow up email, I’ve now shifted the dynamics of the interaction so that this person wants me to follow up. The subsequent email doesn’t appear like some post-networking event formality, but rather an effort to provide information on something they’ve asked for. This is a much better starting point to begin building a relationship.
The 20 Minute Workout
For the past few months, I’ve worked out 20 minutes a week (post to come). My strength has increased and body fat has more or less stayed the same. Most treadmill jockeys find this earth shattering.
When it’s evident that someone is into fitness, I’ll direct the conversation to that topic so that I can bring this up. I’ll then find a way to provoke this person to ask me about the type of exercise I’m into so that I can drop the “20 minutes a week bomb.” Much like the phone case, I know that there’s a high probability that this person will want me to follow up with them with more information after I insert this into the interaction.
Here’s a sample dialogue:
“I just don’t have as much time as I used to.”
“I hear you. Do you spend a lot of time working out?”
“Yeah, I try to get to the gym 3 to 4 times a week. I just need it.”
“I used to be the same way until I started this crazy new program.”
“What is it?”
“I only work out 20 minutes a week. The interesting thing is I’ve gotten stronger and my bodyfat has actually decreased a little bit.”
“WAIT 20 MINUTES? What is the workout?”
“It’s all strength training. I got it from this fascinating book about the science of muscle building. If you want, I can send it your way…it’s pretty amazing that I now spend 1/5 of the time I used to in the gym and am getting the same results.”
“Yeah that’d be great.”
“Cool what’s your email?”
It’s that simple. Note* the book that I got this workout from is called Body By Science (affiliate link with proceeds going to charity). I’ll be documenting my exact results in a post within the next week or so. Make sure to subscribe if you’re interested in learning about this.
The Photo Follow-Up
Photos have a unique, emotional allure that’s hard to replicate with text. You should use this to your advantage when networking.
If the scenario is appropriate, I’ll offer to take a photo of someone so that I can send it to them afterwards. I’ll snap the photo and in very much the same way ask if they want me to send it to them. They always say yes. From there I’ll make a note to send it to them the following day instead of at that moment. I do this to space out the touch-points of the interaction which contributes to rapport building. The next day I’ll send the photo with some friendly commentary within the email.
Something as simple as “Look at this all-star” says all the right things.
Another effective tactic that can enhance a followup email is sending a photo of something funny or interesting you talked about during the interaction. A simple example of this could be the following:
You talk about how terrible the traffic is in the city your in. Take a picture of heavy traffic on the way home and send them the photo with some type of copy like “I’m seriously considering buying roller blades next time I’m back here.”
Wrapping It Up
Architecting a compelling follow-up during the actual interaction is a great way to start the relationship building process with influential contacts. Interactions with busy, important people are often fleeting. This is why creating a reason for continuing the interaction without seeming too self-serving or formal is so important.
If anyone else has any props or tactics for inspiring a unique follow-up I’d love to hear them in the comments.