Building Partnerships
Engaging the Business Community, Step 7: Following Up

Updated: 6.1.06

To successfully engage companies in outreach efforts, you will need to follow up. It is important to follow up with your contacts after each interaction. Do not wait for them to initiate the follow-up. Keeping in touch with your contacts and moving the relationship process forward is your responsibility.

Follow-Up Tips

Send a thank you. If you talk to a business contact by phone or meet in person, be sure to send a formal thank you letter along with follow-up materials, if applicable. Other thank you tips include:

Customize follow-up materials. Use the information that you gathered from your business conversation or meeting to customize follow-up materials. For example, if a company contact expresses an interest in a particular type of outreach activity, be sure to mention the activity in your follow-up materials.

Confirm receipt of correspondence and materials. This is a professional courtesy. You can leave a voice-mail message, send an e-mail, or speak with your contact's assistant to confirm their receipt of items you have sent.

Provide a proposal if requested. Some companies may ask for a written proposal. Be sure to ask if the company has guidelines for proposals. Always keep the document concise (one to three pages). Download a template Proposal.

Establish a rapport with your business contact's assistant or secretary. Assistants are often gatekeepers for business leaders. Be sure to learn the name of your business contact's assistant and be cordial when you call. An assistant can help keep your program on the boss' radar screen.

When a Company Says "Yes"

Confirming a business commitment in writing will provide you with an important reference document.

Confirmation of participation letter. A confirmation of participation letter can be used for simple outreach efforts (e.g., a company agrees to place an article about your state's program in its employee newsletter). The letter should thank the company for agreeing to participate in outreach efforts and indicate what the company has agreed to do and when the activity will take place. Download a sample confirmation of participation letter.

Letter of agreement. For business outreach activities that involve more detail, a letter of agreement is a useful tool. A letter of agreement will help ensure that the agreed-upon activities are properly implemented. The letter should outline each party's commitment, clarify responsibilities and provide a timeline with applicable deadlines. Download a sample letter of agreement.

When a Company Says "No"

Remember that it is not about you. A company is saying "no" to your program/project/event--not to you as a person. Most companies have a form letter they send to decline involvement in community events or activities. If you receive a response in person or by phone, you may still receive a form letter. The letter is the official company response to your request.

Keep your contact information. If a company that you would like to work with declines to participate, keep your contact's information on file. There may be an opportunity to approach them in the future. You should consider sending your contact a summary of highlights and results from your outreach activities to pique their interest for the future.

Look for opportunities to turn a "no" into a "yes." The key to a "no" follow-up conversation is to indicate that you have heard the initial "no" and thank your contact for considering your request before exploring other opportunities to work together. Once you acknowledge their answer and thank them for considering your request, you can decide whether or not to gently let the contact know that you would be interested in exploring opportunities to work together at another time, thereby presenting a new chance for company involvement.