If you’re gonna show up, don’t screw it up.
Let’s be honest: there are dozens—nay, scores—of things we see people do and say at networking events that are at least ineffective and unproductive and at worst annoying and off-putting. Sometimes we leave a meeting thinking, “I will NEVER do business with THAT person!” But it’s gut-check time…does anyone ever think THAT about YOU? If networking is part of your marketing strategy, you absolutely must do it right. If you show up and then screw up, your credibility suffers and that’s worse than not showing up at all. But you can make big mistakes AFTER the meeting, too, and many of us are guilty. Here are just 3 super stupid networking sins to avoid at all costs. And don’t worry—if you have made these mistakes in the past, today is a new day, and a chance to do it right!
FOLLOW-UP FAUX PAS #1: Adding people to your e-newsletter without permission. Just because you had a conversation with someone and/or collected their business card, that doesn’t mean they are interested in your product or service. It doesn’t even mean they like you. The only thing you know for sure is that they were being polite! A conversation or card exchange is NOT tacit permission to add someone to your list. Add them at your peril. How about a personalized phone call or email where you can ASK them if they would like to get your emails?
When this happens to me, I always immediately unsubscribe and silently vow not to do business with the sender. People could do worse than that though, including marking your message as spam, which can hurt your standing with your email provider.
FOLLOW-UP FAUX PAS #2: Being hard to find on social media. A networking event is just a vehicle for getting lots of people in the same room together for initial meetings. All the good stuff happens AFTER the meeting. Many people go back to the office and will search for you on social media—especially LinkedIn and Facebook. Frankly, I think you’re crazy NOT to have a business profile on BOTH of these sites. Not a social media person? That’s fine. But at least create a profile, and accept the request to connect. Worried about comingling personal and professional stuff on Facebook? Either create a separate professional profile (different from a business fan page), or use the “Acquaintance” label when adding networking connections.
When this happens to me, it’s a big red flag. If I am on the fence about whether to put effort into a relationship with someone I have just met, I seek them out online to see how they represent themselves, and dip my toe in the water with them by connecting via one or more social media platforms. When someone makes it hard for me to find them, sometimes I give up searching, and silently judge them as not serious about business.
FOLLOW-UP FAUX PAS #3: Sending a canned email as a follow up. You know how your mom used to tell you that if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all? Well, when it comes to follow-up emails after an event, I say if you can’t write something PERSONAL, then don’t write anything at all. A canned follow-up email tells a person either (a) I talked to you, but I don’t remember anything you said because I don’t really care, or (b) I talked to you, but I am much more interested in pitching to you than forming a genuine relationship. Or worse, (c) I didn’t even talk to you, but because I have your card, I’m going to try to sell you something. Sure, it can be hard to say something personal, but if it’s worth sending the email, then it’s worth digging deep. You could always try some honesty, like, “I’m glad we had a chance to meet, but I feel like I need to know more about what you do, and I’d love a chance to tell you more about what I do. Could we chat this week?”
When this happens to me, I don’t reply. What would I be replying to, exactly? I resist the urge to tell them they need to hire a coach to help them with their follow-up skills! Just this week, I received an email like this from someone I had a long, personal conversation with at a networking lunch. I had planned to ask him if he wanted to meet for coffee and talk about possible joint ventures, since we are in complementary industries and we had hit it off so well. But when I got the canned pitch, a part of me wondered if our conversation had gone totally unnoticed and unappreciated by him. This was NOT a situation worth getting hurt feelings over (though I bet he has hurt people’s feelings in the past). It WAS, however, a signal to me that we approach business relationships too differently for me to invest in this one.
You might be saying, “HEY…you are being WAY too judgmental. You could be missing great opportunities with people because they did something you think is stupid.”
And my response is this:
The world is full of people, and full of networking events that are full of people, and my time is too precious to waste on people who don’t GET IT. Isn’t yours?
We can only invest in a limited number of relationships, right? MAKE YOURSELF EASY TO INVEST IN.
If you read all the way to the end, you’re in for a treat. Leave a comment below about the one networking behavior that drives you absolutely nuts. I’ll pick my favorite one and if it’s yours, you will be the winner of a tasty gift. Trouble posting? Send your favorite sin to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Deadline April 17, 2014)