Making and maintaining connections can also be a lot of work.
Here are a few easy ways to use simple tools to benefit from and leverage who you know — or who you want to know:
- Reverse engineer a proposal or interview. Say you will submit a proposal and plan to follow up. You can check out bios on the company’s website, but canned bios are typically limited. Use LinkedIn to go a lot deeper: Background, experience, recommendations, personal interests, etc. The same is true with interviews. Use Twitter to find out what the interviewer tweets and also who they follow, since following says something about the follower. Then use what you learn as conversation starters or hooks. The better you connect on a personal level, the better your chances for establishing a professional relationship. Guaranteed companies and potential employers are using social media to check you out — you should always do the same.
- Find potential customers. Companies buy products and services but people make the purchasing decisions. A quick LinkedIn search can generate hundreds of leads in seconds — as well as much of the contact info you need to turn leads into actual prospects. Why pay for lists of leads when plenty of leads are free?
- Stay in touch — in a meaningful, memorable way. Say you receive an email like this: “Hey, we haven’t spoken in a few months, and I just wanted to stay in touch…” Certainly nice, but also formulaic and instantly forgettable. When you reach out to reconnect or network, always have a purpose that benefits the other person. Set up Google Alerts on the person, their company, their industry, and topics they are interested in, and then re-connect with something to offer: Congratulations, a heads-up about a new competitor, trends or innovations in their industry, etc. That way a bland, “Thinking of you…” becomes a more powerful and flattering, “I saw this and immediately thought of you.”
- Get found. Creating a great LinkedIn profile does not mean copying your resume, but your profile should be just as if not more thorough and comprehensive, filled with company names, industry terms, geographic references, and keywords. Don’t worry if your profile seems too long, because most people won’t read your entire profile anyway. Potential customers or employers will find you through searches, and since searches are based on keywords the more relevant keywords you include the better.
- Develop a fantastic memory. Admit it: Few things are more embarrassing than when someone asks, “Hey, how was Mary’s (pretend she’s your daughter) first year at college?” and you can’t remember their kid’s name… much less whether their child is in school… or even their gender so you can try to recover with the weak, “And how’s your daughter?” reply. Online searches provide plenty of personal information but we pick up a lot more through conversations. Make it a habit to add notes to your contacts. Memories come and go, but electronic data can be forever. And isn’t that how long you want your important connections to last?
Written by Jeff Hayden of BlackBird Media.