When was the last time you contacted your client from 6 months ago? Or that guy you met at the meet up last spring who said he was really interested in learning more about your business? How about your old co-workers, bosses, mentors, advisers and colleagues?
Let’s face it: relationships make or break small businesses. If we want to be successful, we need to stay in touch with the people that matter most in our professional lives. Why? It’s simple: the people you know are your best potential customers AND best sources of referrals.
And while we know this to be true, chances are you’re not staying in touch with the majority of the people that matter to you. And when you’re not following up with the top people in your network, you’re losing mind share and ultimately losing business.
So let’s fix it. Start following up with at least 3 people every day with relevant, timely emails or messages. It’s quick and easy (honestly, it will take you 10 minutes) and the rewards are well worth it.
To get started, here are the best 8 tools on the web to help you strengthen your network and stay relevant with the people that matter most to you. They will help you gather relevant info your contacts care about and automate the follow up process.
Make it personal
1. Google Alerts
Want to stay get updates whenever a company or contact you care about is indexed on Google? Say hello to Google Alerts. Since Google’s always crawling the web for new content and web pages, you can set an alert to get an email whenever your keyword hits a match. I personally follow all of my company’s competitors and my top customers (as well as myself — need to make sure I keep up on my own news!). Whenever you see a mention of a company or client you care about, shoot them a quick follow up note.
Newsle is basically Google Alerts for your Facebook and LinkedIn contacts. Whenever one of your friends or colleagues is in the news, you will get an email update. While Google Alerts is great for setting a wide net and getting every piece of content that mentions a contact (like blogs and other non-news content), as well as getting updates for people you aren’t connected to on social media, Newsle only reports when people are actually in the news. Everyone likes it when they are recognized — shoot your clients a quick email whenever you see them in the news.
3. Job Change Notifier
Just like the name implies, Job Change Notifier tells you whenever your contacts change jobs (via LinkedIn). A new job is always a good reason to rekindle a relationship with a previous customer. Maybe their new job will need to hire you again.
While the previous three tools are all 100% free, InsideView is the Cadillac of people and company updates. There’s a ton of functionality in the paid version, but even the free plan has robust company and people updates, both for people you are and aren’t connected to online. InsideView also gathers info about competitor and customer companies, like their address, phone number, revenue and total employees — everything you will need to know to tailor a new business pitch.
Find the right content
An oldy but goody, Delicious is a collection of all the top content online, categorized by keywords (or tags). Know many of your colleagues are interested in web startups? Type “startup” into Delicious to get a list all the best content that’s been tagged as related to startups. While the previous 4 tools help make your follow ups personal, Delicious can help you deliver value in the form of good, high-quality, highly-relevant content. Share any interesting news you find that you think is relevant to your contacts.
Intigi is the social version of Delicious. While Delicious just provides a general overview of the top content for certain interests or keywords, Intigi mines the latest social media shares and recommendations to curate the top content that’s currently trending. You will stay ahead of the curb and can share the latest info with your contacts days and weeks before they hear it from anyone else.
Automating the system
The last 6 tools help you write personal follow ups that contain relevant info. Contactually helps to automatically remind you to send those follow ups. Contactually connects to your email and social media accounts to see who you’re connected to, analyzes when you last spoke to all your top contacts and prompts you (via a daily email) to follow up with the top contacts that are slipping off your radar. I have found myself following up with mentors and past customers I had forgotten about — and I’m already earning new business from it!
Lastly, Boomerang is the enforcer: it makes sure your contacts reply to the emails you send them and, if they don’t, it automatically reminds you to follow up with them. While Contactually’s great for following up with people where you don’t have specific next steps or a defined action plan, Boomerang helps make sure that any next steps you do have are taken. I impress my customers every day with my tenacity on following up with everything that I promise, and reminding them when they don’t.
So there you have it — my top 8 tools for personalizing your follow ups, finding valuable and relevant content to share and ultimately putting a process in place for regularly following up with your top contacts. I honestly couldn’t imagine building my business without them today!