You Don’t Call, You Don’t Write…March 29, 2011 | By Wayne O'Neill
You know by now that I’m passionate when it comes to connecting – and, with so many great, business-oriented social networking sites out there, it seems like it’s easier than ever to keep up with your connections – current and former colleagues, business partners, and clients.
But, unless you are actively working your network and keeping in touch with the people who matter to you, your network is simply a list of names . . . unless you’re engaging the people you want to do business with, you are not reaping the benefits of being connected.
A recent blog post by Ford Harding of Harding & Company encourages firms to stay connected to their former clients – and, he does a fantastic job of identifying some sources of client frustration with firms who don’t make that effort.
There’s a lesson here: If you want to develop . . . and keep . . . sustainable relationships with clients, you have to keep your name fresh in their minds. But remember, there’s no schmoozing allowed. Sending a fruit basket or football tickets is a gracious gesture, but gifts like these aren’t going to impact significantly that your firm will end up on the short list for the next project. Gestures like that many times aren’t based in sincerity, and a client can smell it on you.
Here are five ways you can stay in touch without schmoozing:
1. Share information. Whether it’s an interesting article from the Sunday Times or simply a new development in the industry, take the time to drop your client a line and let her know about it. Even if she’s already heard the news, she’s sure to appreciate your effort.
2. Host an event. Organize a client forum that allows your clients and business partners to network, share best practices, and discuss the issues that keep them up at night. Not many firms make the effort to do things like this – you’ll stand out from your competition.
3. Just say ‘Hi.’ You really liked the COO from the last hospital project you worked on. So, why not drop him an email? If you built up a friendly rapport with a past client, there’s nothing wrong with taking five minutes to catch up. But, don’t go overboard: Keep it brief, and keep it professional.
4. Get LinkedIn. Invite all of your current and former clients to connect on some of the business networking sites – it’s a great way to stay in touch, and you never know how many connections you may have in common.
5. Give recommendations. Your clients have given you business – why not return the favor? If you’re connected to, say, the CEO of a hospital, and she’s looking for someone to upgrade her IT infrastructure platform, don’t be afraid to recommend a client or a project/scope delivery partner. And, of course, be direct: If you honestly can’t vouch authentically for someone’s services, don’t do so. Not only is it dishonest, but it may not do much for your relationship with the CEO.