‘Tis the season where you may be shopping for holiday cards to send to clients, customers and suppliers. While the annual ritual may be a great way to remind those in your Rolodex of your existence, getting the most out of your network requires more than seasonal greetings. But constant emails and sales calls can also quickly annoy your contacts.
Networking expert Nancy Fox agrees maintaining regular contact is important to any business’ success, but says in order for it to be effective it must take into consideration the needs of those you want to reach out to rather than making every point of contact about increasing your sales (even if that is the ultimate goal).
Try these four stay-in-touch techniques:
A personal phone call or email. Getting your name in your client or customer’s inbox or getting them on the phone is a great way to connect on a personal level, but, Fox warns, make sure they don’t get the impression that your phone call or email is self-serving.
“A person will feel annoyed by emails if it occurs to that person that you want something from them,” says Fox. Calling to follow up on a sales pitch you sent two weeks ago may be seen as hassling. “The way not to occur to somebody as an imposition is when you have something for them,” says Fox. Put yourself in your client’s shoes and think about what’s going on in their life and what they might need. Rather than a follow up stating, “I’m wondering if you’ve had some time to look over that brochure I sent you,” an email saying, “I saw this article in the local newspaper and it reminded me of you” or “Here’s a link to an event I thought you would be interested in” sends the message that you care about the client and want to help better their life rather than you want something from them and all you care about is that they keep buying from you.
Use social media. Follow clients and prospects on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Watch when their names and their companies are mentioned and re-tweet or comment on the posts. You may even want to follow up with a personal email along the lines of, “Hey, I saw your company won an award this weekend, way to go!” Follow clients on LinkedIn and send congratulatory cards or emails when you hear of a job change or anniversary. If they have a blog, posting a comment there shows that you’re paying attention and when the time comes, when they need something that you offer, your name will be the first on their list.
Revamp your newsletter. Newsletters seem to be a dime a dozen these days and can easily become another item in somebody’s inbox that’s easy to delete. Fox says a newsletter can still be an effective tool to stay in touch so long as its content is relevant to the reader. A newsletter that sounds too much like a sales pitch will quickly be deleted and may even appear annoying, while a newsletter with relevant content that appeals to the needs of the target reader is more likely to be read and may even be circulated among that individual’s contacts. “Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and think about what’s in it for them to hear from you,” says Fox.
Making personal introductions. Help your clients or suppliers build their businesses by making personal introductions. “If I meet somebody that I think somebody else would love to know, I get permission from both to introduce them and send out an introduction,” says Fox. People will appreciate the gesture and want to reciprocate when it comes time to do business with you.