In my previous article, Build a World-Class Network in 30 Days, I talked about how to create a new network from scratch. But now that we have started to create our network, we face the biggest challenge of all: maintaining and regularly communicating to our network. If all we did was just collect names, then the important function of leveraging our network going forward would be irrelevant. But the whole point of capturing these names in the first place is not only to get us to the people we want to ultimately hire now, but also to enable us to go to the “well” numerous times to gain maximum effectiveness from our networks. Any of you who come from the pre-PC days of card files and reminders in diaries will agree that keeping in touch with a network was a full-time job. In some cases, this wasn’t such a big deal ó particularly if your job was an account management function and you focused on repeat business with a defined market segment. But most of us have to wear many more hats beyond just account management these days, regardless of whether we’re corporate recruiters or TPRs. The Challenge The world has changed from those card file days, and technology now allows us to do many more things in less time ó but we still only have 24 hours in a day. Technology has allowed us to be more productive, but there also seems to be so much more to do. Often, recruiters need as many of those 24 hours to just find candidates, screen them, manage our hiring manager relationships, and in the case of TPRs, handle business development as well. Things like maintaining and communicating with our networks take a back seat, as most of us only see the large amount of time it takes to regularly keep in touch with a network. Then there are also the pressures from management and business, which are usually about making the “now hire” versus building for the future. We all know maintaining our network needs to be done, but we can’t ever seem to find or justify the time it takes to do it. The Technology Before we jump into a potential solution, we have to understand that if all applicant tracking systems had an effective CRM component (including things like reminders on our desktops to call specific candidates that day, the ability to send out broad, reoccurring communication in a one-to-one capacity versus one-to-many, the ability to break up the demographics of our market or network into very targeted and relevant segments, etc.) then this article would be null and void. But as you might recall in my previous article, I mentioned that if you were to take anything away from your first contact it should be the person’s email address. You will now see why. For the purposes of this article I will show you how you can at least automate reminders and mass personalized communication (without it being spam) with some simple solutions available to the majority of us now. This could potentially be achieved with a few different technologies that are not true CRM solutions, but for this example I will explain how this is possible with a simple product like Microsoft Outlook. Apologies to those of you using other solutions, but you should be able to duplicate the main intent here with other technologies besides Outlook. (Please don’t beat me up because I work for Microsoft and leverage my own technologies!). How To Do It Outlook as most people know it is a way of sending and receiving email, but by leveraging the “contacts” section in Outlook we can now automate some of the heavy lifting that comes with tracking and communicating with our new and existing networks. Each time we want to add someone new to our network we can simply create a new contact record (like a card file) and categorize them into the appropriate segments. Again, using the first article example we could categorize the different “voice recognition experts” into different types of categories (e.g., marketing, sales, technical, operations, etc. within the voice recognition field). This way the types of future communication or requests to our network can start to become personalized depending on the audience. Additionally you could have different people in multiple categories and networks but still ensure that the relationships you develop are targeted and relevant to each individual. The more relevant and targeted the request, the greater chance you have of getting what you want and need. Now some of you are probably thinking that if I have to send an email to everyone in my network on a regular basis then I will be doing nothing else except sending emails all day long. If you plan to send one email to one contact then you would be correct in your assumption. But as promised, I am going to explain how you can literally send one email to over 200 people (this could be many more or less if you want) in the time it takes to send just one email, without it coming across as spam. So this is how it works: Outlook (along with other solutions) has the ability to do mail merges that allow you to send one piece of email to all people in your network. But Outlook sends that email as if it were just directed to that individual contact (by leveraging Outlook contacts you are actually doing the mail merge via email, not traditionally in a word document.). The message is not being sent as a bcc (blind carbon copy) or a cc, which give the impression to your recipient that they are one of hundreds receiving the same email message. This way you can send to as many people you want at once without it coming across as impersonal or spam, but rather one-to-one marketing. The actual content and communication you want to send is going to vary depending on how you want to operate. It could be a simple as sending an email to just catch up, sending a specific job description to leverage referrals, or forwarding useful articles for that market segment. The multitude of reasons why and what to send are really only limited by your imagination. I even know one individual who likes to send a weekly joke as a way to keep in touch with their network (quite funny, but not really my style ó could be yours though). Now that we have organized our contacts, we need to keep in touch (depending on your style you might choose to make contact once a month or every six months. Anything less is probably too frequent, and anything more is too long. Again, this depends on your style and the market you recruit in). Outlook allows you to set reminders (reoccurring on different schedules if you wish) in your calendar, tasks, or against individual contacts, so this way you can get on with the other key parts of your job without worrying about when to follow up. I personally like to block out some time in my calendar once in a while to think about or locate relevant and added value information that I know my network can use. This way when my reminders pop up I am not scratching my head thinking about what can I email now. I can communicate to hundreds of people in my networks very quickly with relevant content that is both useful to them as well as another opportunity for me to reach out and keep in touch. The Future To be fair, Outlook and other solutions solve a basic problem with maintaining a network (reminders on when to contact and how to automate mass contact in a personal way), but in my honest opinion it is still a band-aid to what we all really need as recruiters: an applicant tracking system that integrates true CRM capabilities into one product and the ability to track all the communication. To take recruiting to the next level of its natural evolution, we need solutions on our desktop that not only help us search for, manage, and track candidates through workflows, but also facilitate the building of rich networks and the development of passive candidates. I am personally excited about what the future holds in this area, as we would all love to have more time to focus on building our networks without watching the clock worrying about “inbox recruiting” and the “now hire” issues.
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