Turning business acquaintances into customers

What have you done with the business card you were given at that recent networking event?

Did you follow up with a nice email? Did you try to connect with the person it represents via LinkedIn?  Did you send them a copy of your latest newsletter? Did you put it in a drawer somewhere for when you get time to follow up?

Perhaps you left it in your shirt/blouse pocket to eventually go through the wash?

If you did either of the latter two, you may well be closing the door on valuable future business. You have effectively wasted the valuable time you’ve invested in business networking by not consolidating the business relationship.

And really, in this age of online networking, that is bad business.

Using new business cards

All the networking experts tell us that a connection is useless unless you follow up with them.  And this makes perfect sense.

What are the chances of the fleeting connection you made at that event methodically storing your card so that when they are in the market for your product or service, they can instantly produce it and make contact with you?

Pretty skinny, I imagine.

But instead of hoping in vain for that contact, you can ensure you are on that person’s shortlist to provide your product/service in two simple steps:

  1. Acknowledge your introduction
  2. Make regular contact with them

Acknowledge the introduction

This is the simplest step. Depending on your finger speed, it won’t take that long to drop them a short email acknowledging your introduction and reminding them about your product/service.

Better still is to provide them some kind of small gift voucher or offer to encourage them to make a small business commitment to you.

I often attach a copy of my latest eNewsletter to provide even further evidence/consolidation of what I do.

In case you are wondering if this unsolicited email might breach the Spam Act, you can rest easy. The business card is evidence of a business relationship with the recipient, which is permissible under the Act.

Some like to phone as this first step. While that might suit some people, I find it invasive so prefer an email in the first instance.

Step two of the procedure is much harder.


Make regular contact with them

Regular contact equals stronger relationships. As the above diagram indicates, it’s rare for a connection (or suspect) to enquire without first making some contact with you digitally – via your website, an email or a social network post, or possibly a combination of these.

At some point it’s polite to ask if they mind receiving your eNewsletters or offers etc. One way to encourage them is to do a regular prize draw (your state regulations permitting) for new eNews recipients.

The best way to regularly send emails is by way of an Email Broadcast System like Mailchimp or Constant Contact or, better still, one which is integrated with your website management system.

These allow you to send graphical, personal emails to thousands of recipients at once. They also provide excellent statistics on how well it performed. 

An integrated system goes one better by keeping an ongoing record of all interactions – not just that of a single email – you have with your customers.

Get social

If you don’t produce regular emails, the next best shot is to try connect with them on a social network like LinkedIn or Facebook.

In addition to seeing your messages and comments in their feeds, you can also bulk-send a message to your connections.  This approach can either supplement or replace an email campaign.

Remember the greater number of times they come across you either in person or via one of these digital communication methods, the stronger the relationship becomes and the greater the chance of doing business with them.

In other words, don’t let those business cards go to waste.

In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond. 


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