Last February, I was at a dinner party in Holmby Hills and met a woman Mortgage Broker who I had an interesting conversation with. We exchanged business cards and expressed a desire to keep in touch. That Monday, I phoned her to say how much I enjoyed meeting her.
I followed up the phone call with a personal note, promising to keep in touch. She called me a few days later to say how classy she thought the personal note was, and claimed she rarely meets anyone that actually follows through with conversations. Since that time, we've met for lunch, drinks and kept in touch by phone. She's also sent me a great client referral and I've sent at least one lead.
I've discovered since becoming a Professional Organizer the best way to build my business is through relationships. Because all my best Clients (and computer consultants, dentists, financial planners and Realtors) are the ones I get through referral.
According to Denise Kotula (pictured, bottom left), a referral marketing expert located in West Hollywood, CA, "New contacts, or people you meet, have a shelf-life of about 1 week. If you meet someone and don't contact him or her within the first week, they probably won't remember you. So if you are going to an event and collect business cards, these cards become "cold" calls in a very short period of time."
Kotula continues: "To maximize your relationship building, you need to have a system in place. Always be sure to set aside one-hour the day after an event to follow up with folks you've met and would like to get to know better. Sort your business cards into those you want to pursue, and those you don't. Decide which people you want to explore a business (or friendship) relationship with-- AND CALL THEM. It's important that they know how much you enjoyed meeting them. The conversation can be brief. Use the phone call to learn more about their business, and to tell them more about yourself."
But what if you leave a message, and don't get a return call? Kotula says "Don't be discouraged if you encounter a few people that don't return those calls, or aren't comfortable talking to you. Different people have different boundaries."
"For those people who do respond positively to your call, send them a personal note with a promise to stay in touch." Kotula's company, DK Strategic Consulting Inc. recommends the book Business Notes by Florence Isaacs.
"What you will find, like your story about the Mortgage Broker, is that people will often call you to thank you for the personal note. Not many people will take time to hand-write a note."
"If you don't hear from them, call them within a week and this time have a goal in mind for the phone call. Suggest lunch, or let them know you've just seen an article that you feel would be of interest to them and you would like to send it to them. At this point, you have a relationship with them. Now, it's just a matter of staying in touch. Add them to your database; schedule a reminder to contact them again so that you don't lose the relationship you've been working hard to build. If the business card doesn't list an e-mail address, or snail-mail address, be sure to ask them for it so you have complete contact information.
Finally, take their business card and put it in a binder where you collect business cards. So if you can refer them Clients, you'll have a business card to hand someone." Kotula's tip is to approach every relationship as one that can be mutually beneficial. "Too many people go to events looking for Clients when they should be looking for relationships."
What should people do with those dusty business cards over the years and never used? "Toss them into the trash!"