Traditional networking is a brilliant way to add some very useful people to your contacts list. They may eventually become partners, customers or simply people to whom you can turn when you need advice.

But what if, having visited a networking event, you let all of that hard work go to waste? What if you neglect to follow up properly and the people with whom you got on so well during the networking event simply forget you exist?

In order to make networking ultra successful, you need to follow up the event properly, and that starts with your contacts.

Categorise them

You’ll probably come back with a bunch of business cards from a networking event, therefore it’s a great idea to categorise them so you can focus your follow up on the most pressing.

Your categories might be different, but here’s some suggestions:

  • Potential partners
  • Potential mentors
  • Competitors
  • Potential customer: cold/luke-warm
  • Potential customer: hot lead
  • ‘Good to knows’

The last category is important, because it will list the people who you know have something about them which will be of use to you – just not immediately. Trust us – they’ll come in handy.

The potential customers who you believe to be hot leads are the ones to focus your effort on initially, obviously.

Connect on social

If you’re not connected already, start by linking up with the contacts you’ve gained on Twitter and LinkedIn (Facebook, too, if you feel it appropriate).

Business cards are still relevant in this world of social media, but they should be viewed as your first point of contact – nothing more. Once you’re connected on social media, you’ll have a direct route to each person and can begin massaging that relationship by sharing content and liking and commenting on theirs.

Send an email

There’s no reason to make a call at this stage – it’s early days of the relationship, after all – but an email to say thank you for their time is definitely a good idea.

Try and beat them to it (not least because they may not do the same without being prompted by you!). All you need to say at this stage is how much you enjoyed meeting them, the fact you’d like to perhaps do so again and, if you can remember anything significant, a reference to a point of discussion on which you both shared a passion or view.

Set yourself a contact schedule

Now you’ve recorded the finer detail, linked up on social media and sent that all important first email, you can begin planning how to further the relationship.

Schedule a follow up call in for a week or so, and, if you’re particularly interested in the contact, think about how you could take it from there. A meeting might follow, for instance, or the suggestion of a joint attendance to a conference.

Wrapping up

Don’t waste those connections you make at networking events. It’s so easy to forget the importance of follow up after networking, but with our tips above, you’ll make some very good business friends indeed.