Yesterday, I said I’d write more about effective follow up after an event.
Two questions I am frequently asked are:
1. How soon after an event should I follow up?
2. How should I follow up? Email, phone call, etc?
The answer to the first one is easy. As soon as possible, but no more than 24-48 hours afterward. I do make an exception for Friday events. I’m a big believer in setting work and personal boundaries, and I’ll never think less of someone if they wait until Monday or Tuesday to follow up after a Friday event.
Why so soon? The answer should be obvious, but considering how many people don’t follow up promptly, it must not be. The sooner you follow up, the more likely someone is to remember you and what you had talked about.
It also shows commitment and good organization. If I refer you to someone, I expect you’ll contact the referral as soon as possible. If you can’t contact me promptly after an event, you’ve already damaged your credibility.
So we are in agreement that sooner is better, right? Which brings us to the how. Should you email the new contact? Call him? Send a snail mail card?
All good questions. And the answer is, “It depends.” No really. It does.
I hear a lot of discussion around this one. Some people say you should always use email for convenience. Others say email is highly overused, and you should always pick up the phone. I don’t disagree that email is both convenient and overused, but people are individuals. What works for one won’t always work for someone else.
Take me. I prefer an email follow up. I’m not a slave to my phone. I spend a lot of time in meetings or writing (like now). I frequently can’t or don’t want to answer my phone. Calling me can lead to endless voice mail tag. Who wants that? So I always tell people it’s better to email me first. If we need to talk by phone, we can set a mutually convenient time.
Someone else may have an Inbox that is always overflowing and the thought of one more email to deal with is on par with getting a root canal. He wishes people would just call him.
See why one size doesn’t fit all?
So how do you know? Easy. Ask. When you exchange cards at an event, make a commitment as to how you will follow up. Ask if the other person prefers email or a phone call. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the look of relief in the other person’s eyes when I’ve asked that. Whatever method they request I know is going to be the best one.
And if I use the preferred method, I’ve just about guaranteed I won’t get blown off.
What if someone says, “I’ll call you tomorrow,” and you’d rather get an email? Just say so. You both will appreciate it, and it starts the relationship off the right way.
What about snail mail? It’s good for a “glad to have met you” message if there was no specific commitment set to follow up later. It’s terrible for setting up a meeting. Handwritten cards, however, do get saved and displayed on my microwave for a couple of days. Just saying.