Networking blog

Monthly Musings: August 2017

The invention of the smartphone means that we all have the fastest communication tools literally at our fingertips, so do any of us have any excuse not to be responsive in all our business communications?

As someone who has spent over 20 years working in service-sector branding and marketing, I know that communications are the lifeblood of any business, but for many the pulse is weak and needs to be given a shot in the arm before flat-lining.

My old boss at the agency where I was Creative Director had some simple rules for any communication: It is NOT a Communication until it has been Sent, Received, Acknowledged, Understood and Acted Upon.

Now, I am not a fan of the Read Receipt you can set up through Outlook (other inferior email options are available), but we use them when it comes to emails which contain important instructions or invoice attachments. It helps when chasing the Acted Upon stage of receiving payment.

For most communication, I prefer email because I have a conversation trace of who said what, when and what, if anything, was the response? I try to reply within three hours of any email, but if I can reply as soon as I see it, even if it is just a one-liner acknowledging I have seen it saying when I will reply to whatever task is requested.

Teamwork within the Urbano office means that most enquiries get a proper response within 24 hours and I think with most networking, a quick ‘Thanks for your email’ reply alongside a promise to action within a stated time-limit, is the best response because then you are also inviting the other contact to follow-up again if you have not received anything.

At Urbano, for instance, we try to sort exact speaker dates within 7 days of their acceptance of our invitation, even though it means juggling venues and some other events we may have scheduled. Often, we try to do this within the same week, because we know our speakers are popular and therefore busy. The sooner we Act Upon their Communication, the better it is for our business network.

Often at Urbano we act as facilitators for our members’ communications and we rely on them to respond to introductions we have made on their behalf, both through our system, and through me or the office. There is nothing more damaging to a company or its brand than not replying to a requested or agreed email. If you meet someone at a networking event and your final parting words are ‘Email me and I will [insert commitment here]’ then if you don’t do exactly that, you have wasted any chance of potential future business that new connection may brought you. And if we know a member is not responding to communications, we give them a prod until they do. 

But you can buy yourself time. Be honest. Create a folder for your networking respondees and send them a holding email. Do it on the train the next morning. You can even write them on the Underground and they will send when you next get a signal.

But beware the firewall. Never assume an email has been received. I always say allow two days before sending a follow up containing the previous text. If that doesn’t elicit a reply, call them. You have their business card. Call their mobile, usually at lunchtime, and if they don’t answer, leave a message. If they don’t respond then, assume you are better off without them in your business life because how can you ever rely on them if they treat potential avenues to new business with such rudeness?

If you see any of yourself in the above descriptions, set yourself some rules for your communications. View anything you say to someone when networking as a promise to keep. And if you don’t keep your promises, you won’t have a business.

Because if I can be polite, trust me - anyone can!

CEO & Founder of Urbano

Always interested in views and thoughts - Email Mark

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