I’ve been thinking a lot about business networking lately. Because of connections I found out about my current job. Networking helped me in more ways than one procure the job I start in 2 weeks. In the business world it’s all about who you know and what they can do for you/you can do for them.
When I got my soon to be job I sent thank-you cards to my references. Since one is a really busy lawyer I included a Starbucks gift card in his thank-you card (because his time is money). It only took me 10 minutes to write out a thanks, but I can’t believe the responses I’ve received from these people! From Facebook words of encouragement along the lines of “Thank you for taking the time to write and send a hand written letter. I'm very happy to hear that things worked out for you...You totally rock at what you do and deserve the best for it!” to text conversations asking if I would contact the referral once I get settled into my new job to start up an affiliation.
I think what it comes down to is everyone likes receiving mail, and everyone loves being appreciated. Going that extra mile really makes a difference and will help you procure relationships that last beyond the company they were cultivated in. I still receive emails and questions from affiliates I worked with two companies ago, and I still answer their questions to the best of my ability and point them to the person at that company that could better help them. In return I know when the right offer comes my way, these affiliates will be more than happy to try it out.
Also, treat your top partners/business relationships like they are kings/queens. They are what drives your business and bring in the revenue. I’ve sent affiliates $100 Christmas gifts, flown them out to see the company campus, and taken them to expensive restaurants/skiing/snowmobiling, etc (all on the company bill of course). This helps foster more than just a business relationship but also helps the affiliate have a greater commitment to the company and to you.
With everything going on with the economy companies are cutting corners left and right and the schmoozing is one of the first things go. I’m not saying you have to go overboard, but even a Christmas/Holiday card/congrats on your wedding/baby card hand written telling the company/person you appreciated their business and look forward to another year of success will be well received.
Maybe some industries aren’t as inbred as the affiliate world is, but in my industry everyone seems to know everyone else. People can tell when you truly care and go out of your way for them. So if you’ve worked for and impressed some of the big names, your name will go a long way.