I’m one of Constant Contact’s most vocal cheerleaders, using their services for a majority of my clients. There is nothing that can beat a highly targeted email marketing program. Recently, my Constant Contact business partner representative asked me to give a marketing presentation at the NY Market Expo (#MKTNY).  What an exciting, education- packed, well-run event. I heard from a wide variety of experts in their respective fields, including Russ Laraway, Twitter’s Head of Small Business. Russ and other keynote speakers presented cutting-edge information on marketing, social media, lead generation, email marketing, and more. I left the Big Apple with some great take-away points to help my clients.

There were also networking opportunities including the Constant Contact Marketing Matchup as well different vendor booths promoting the newest, latest and greatest in marketing. I chatted with more people than I can remember, and politely exchanged business cards, the standard business-to-business greeting ritual. By the end of the day, I had more cards than a Vegas blackjack table.

I’m the first to admit that marketing folks are a persistent bunch. On a Myers-Briggs personality test, there should be a separate extrovert category just for us. But what happened the next morning surprised even me.

Boom! At the stroke of 9 am the next morning, I get a follow up phone call from someone whom I had briefly chatted with and had left my business card. I hadn’t even had a chance to review the materials of the prior day to see what I would even be interested in. As a marketer, I appreciate good follow up, but I was a bit taken aback. I prefer a graduated, low-key response. Perhaps an initial email follow up as a reminder, and then maybe within a week, a phone call. A little breathing space goes a long way!

Since the Expo, I’ve been bombarded with LinkedIn requests and follow up emails galore. This process of follow-up got me thinking: How do you gracefully follow-up without being perceived as annoying? What is the right balance of being assertive without crossing the line into boorish behavior? And how do you make each email personal and genuine instead of a generic, canned pitch? These questions all boil down to finesse. A highly effective lead management program must show a client that you are ready and eager to help and deliver a superior product or service.

From my own experience, here’s some advice on how to gracefully follow up a lead.

First, gradually escalate your communications. Start with a quick email note as a reminder of the initial contact and what your business or service offers, and follow up with valuable educational content that would interest your client. If you let the lead know you are available if and when they are ready, the door stays open. That potential client will respect you for respecting them. They may well call you later on, or they may recommend you to others if there wasn’t a good fit.