Many of us in New York have been there — the exclusive party or networking event where we are surrounded by people significantly cooler and more influential than ourselves. We loaded our pockets with business cards, rehearsed our elevator pitches, and put on our imaginary night-vision-esque networking goggles that list everyone in New York's credentials next to their not-as-important faces.
At the end of an evening of New York hardcore schmoozing, we arrive home with sore smile muscles and a stack of the embossed business cards of our new “friends.” Inevitably, the more ambitious of us begin emailing right away. “It was so great to meet you tonight at cool-networking-party-number-458. As promised, here is the information about my new business/product/project. Let me know if you’re interested in chatting about it.”
We plow through our new contacts and reach out to each one. Whew. Networking DONE. We wipe our brows, pour a nightcap, take off the inevitably uncomfortable party wear, don some much-more-cozy tattered PJs, and head for bed feeling that our work is done.
Guess what? My unverified statistics vault says that 80% of folks who think they are done after one email to a new contact in New York have wasted their time emailing them in the first place. Why? I have news for you:
Networking is useless if you don’t keep in touch.
I ask you, what use is meeting a person once, connecting with them one more time, and then never connecting with them again? You guessed it. Not so useful. You have the contact information of someone in New York who will forget you in a few weeks — again, not so helpful.
One chance is not a lot
I have been studying networking for over 20 years (and implementing my findings in my own life). One of the most important things I have found is that the most useful people in your network almost always end up being the ones you have connected with more than a few times.
Now, after reading the introduction to this article, you might be thinking that your fancy-dancy networking event might have been attended in vain. Au contraire, my friend. In fact, your pocketful of business cards is equivalent to the first word of the sentence that you should be hoping to craft over the next few years. That’s right. You should consider each connection you make as an introduction to what will be a lifelong friend or colleague.
Like pretty much anything in life, one try will usually not make you an overnight success. One lottery ticket gets you an infinitesimal chance at wealth, one audition gets you a minuscule opportunity to be a movie star, and one meeting with another person creates the tiny possibility that they will remember you.
Trust me — you want to be remembered. And the good thing is, once you have a person’s contact information, you have a lot of control over whether they remember you or not. With every additional point of contact in New York that you create, you increase your chances of being remembered and, thus, raise the odds that your new contact will advocate for you or your business in the long-term.
The rule of seven . . . eleven . . .
There is an old marketing theory that a customer needs seven points of contact to purchase a product. Marketing expert Jeffrey Lant created the “Rule of Seven.” Lant states that “to penetrate the buyer’s consciousness and make significant penetration in a given market, you have to contact the prospect a minimum of seven times within an 18-month period.”
So, in order to successfully solidify one of your new New York party contacts as a lifelong supporter of you, your business, or your product, you will need to commit to a longer-term relationship than you might have thought. Feeling frustrated? You shouldn’t. I wholeheartedly believe that if you adjust the settings on your imaginary night-vision-esque networking goggles to see the human behind the resume, you’ll be significantly more likely to succeed.
Unfortunately, though, you might have your work cut out for you. Lant’s theory of seven points of contact was created over ten years ago — before the creation of Instagram, before Tik Tok, and before we consumers were regularly inundated with the amount of content that we must sort through in today’s day and age.
Because of this, many modern marketing analysts believe that the rule of seven is outdated and perhaps obsolete. Many of these people assert that the rule of seven has grown to be more like a rule of eleven. And, inevitably, that number will most likely increase over time.
While these numbers of points of contact may seem daunting, I firmly believe that it is still important to cultivate and maintain relationships with individuals in (and outside of) our respective industries. Even if that means that you need to talk to or email one person eleven times for them to back your product or business two years down the line. In New York, if you put in the work, you will eventually reap the reward.
How to (re)connect
So, how do you keep in touch with your new New York acquaintances? Fortunately, there are a lot of ways. While this is not what this article is about, I highly recommend that you also find ways to add value to the lives of your new contacts while you’re at it.
Once you have obtained the contact information of someone with whom you care to keep in touch, you can reach out in one of the following ways:
- Snail mail letter (these are super novel these days — I highly recommend them)
- Direct message on social media (LinkedIn is most appropriate)
- Positive or encouraging comment on a social media post of theirs (without relaying any sensitive information)
- Add them to your newsletter mailing list (after asking permission first)
- Send a small thank you gift (reserve this only for people you REALLY want to impress and/or people who have provided an exceptional level of value to you)
And don’t forget that when you reach out to someone in New York, you must have something to say. You can send a fun bit of information that will entertain or educate your new contact, you can follow up with materials pertaining to a previous conversation, or you can say thank you for a conversation or bit of advice.
And you know what? You can even follow up later and let your person know how you utilized their piece of advice to achieve greater success.
The point (and some other unsolicited advice)
The point is that single-interaction “networking” is like buying a bag of avocados at your local New York bodega and letting them go bad before eating them. It’s a waste of your time and efforts. And, remember friends, time is our most valuable nonrenewable resource.
If you take the time to properly market yourself and/or your business in New York, people will remember you, you’ll create genuine relationships, and you will eventually (most likely) reap the personal and professional rewards of a carefully cultivated relationship. I believe that you have two good choices — choose not to “network” at all and save everyone’s time, or choose to be all in for the long haul.
I have a former student in New York who was not the most talented of all of my students. Unlike more talented students, though, she has kept in touch. She has added value to my life, she has been consistently supportive and positive, and she has shared her victories and challenges with me in a respectful way.
Guess what? She is one of the first people I think of when an opportunity arises. The memories of some of my other more naturally talented students from many years past have faded, but this particular student has effectively solidified a relationship with both myself and many other people in her industry. And I’m proud to say that this former student is now very successful.
Networking in New York takes time. Creating genuine human relationships in any industry also takes a gentle touch and some thick skin. At the end of the day, though, after seven, eleven, or 200 points of contact, I have found that it is always worth it.