I find them in the most unexpected places: in the pocket of the jacket I wore the last time at the Congress or in a pocket of the 24 hour with which I went to the Fair; they pop up dusty in a corner of the desk… These are the business cards I collected when, obeying the marketing manuals, I got involved in networking. Obviously none of these contacts have been useful or used. What happened? I probably ran into one of the 4 ‘post networking’ mistakes (or more than one!)
Dying as a prospect
Collecting ‘contacts’ indiscriminately is useless. Indeed it is counterproductive. You can’t be everything to everyone. Even regardless of the time it would take, if I want to interest ‘everyone a little,’ I end up not being relevant to anyone. I don’t know about you, but my profit depends 80% on a small number of good customers. So I don’t have to look for ‘customers’ but ‘good customers’. Potential good customers aren’t the ones with a big budget, nor the closest, nor the ones where I know the most people. They are the potential customers for whom I represent a potential good supplier. They are the prospects with respect to which I have a distinctive character.
To each his own list
A real list of contacts (customers and prospects) is a corporate asset, increasingly the main asset. It should be valued and depreciated like a server or machine tool. And it must be shared. Someone will invest in a CRM, someone else will just need an Excel spreadsheet but there cannot be a database of marketing customers and another of Sales. And it must be managed, updated, enriched. You can’t get to the day before the launch to find that half of the emails we sent went back because the address had changed.
Stop & Go
Communicating once in a while is not only useless: it is counterproductive. The hallmark of good customers and good relationships is continuity. I must therefore also be continuous in communicating. Each company has its own rhythm and this rhythm must be maintained.
Genius and recklessness
Creativity is fine but improvisation is not. The precise definition of the target (or targets: I can also start several parallel lines of communication) and the pace of communication are the pillars of a strategy. I have to decide which channels to use, define formal and content guidelines to ensure consistency and recognition of my messages. I have to provide procedures to be activated to react to feedback (whether positive or negative) with the timing dictated by the medium.
It’s always late to start strategically dealing with your network of contacts. But postponing is even worse. A strategy allows you to be more effective by investing less time. And not to fill your pockets unnecessarily with business cards!