Both Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone and Harvey McKay, author of Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty recommend that you build your network before you need it and keep in touch with your network on an ongoing basis. They also recommend that you periodically connect with each of your contacts to keep abreast of their initiatives and share yours.
To do this efficiently and effortlessly, you will want to enter or import your contacts into an electronic database. You might want to use a professional contact management system like JibberJobber or a professional customer relationship management system like ACT! or Goldmine. You want to have the capability to enter contact information, miscellaneous notes and dates that are important to you and your contacts. You will also want the ability to schedule alerts to remind you when to reach out to your contacts.
Following are a few ideas you may want to embrace to keep in touch with your network.
1) Send out a newsletter through your email client that tells people what you’re up to. If your contacts don’t hear from you on a regular basis they will assume that you no longer need their help… or that you’re no longer interested in helping them. Your newsletter doesn’t need to be a fancy HTML version like this one, just a basic text format that you send out through your email client is fine. Of course, if you have hundreds in your network you might want to consider using an e-news service provider such as AWeber.com, ConstantContact.com, Emma or a similar newsletter distribution program. They charge a small monthly fee depending on the size of your list. If you have a website or blog you might want to consider PHPLIST, an open-source (f’re’e) newsletter manager that runs on your web server.
2) Invite your contacts to join you on LinkedIn, Facebook and/or Twitter. Between newsletters, use these sites to broadcast a brief, 140-character message regarding your status. Your newsletter will allow you to communicate your thoughts and status in detail and the 140-character postings will allow you to keep people up to date on a more frequent basis.
3) Send a link to your contact when you see their name mentioned on the Internet. This may be an article or press release that quotes or features them. It might be an announcement for an award they received, a speaking engagement, a tournament they won, or a charitable contribution.
To make this easy, you can set up a Google alert for each of your contact’s names. Google will send you an email with a link to where your contact’s name has recently been posted on the Internet. Then you can email the link to your contact with a few comments.
4) Send links to information your contact would enjoy reading about or information that would be valuable to them.
To help you effortlessly find this type of information, set up a Google alert for key words or phrases. Google will send you an email daily with new information that has been posted on the Internet that includes the key words you choose. Then all you need to do is copy and paste the link into an email and send it to your contact.
5) Send greeting cards for important business and personal dates in their lives. These might be employment anniversaries, graduation dates, certification dates, birthdays, wedding anniversaries, children’s birthdays, etc.
SendOutCards.com has made this really easy. You can log into the site, pick a card, write a message, and send a printed greeting card with your personal message. They print it, stuff it, and mail it for you. All you need to do is set up your contact management system to alert you to the dates.
6) For your contacts who publish a blog, post a few sentences on their blog occasionally. While this is a public forum where you will not want to post personal information, it allows you to remain top of mind with your contact and his network. To make it easy, you can sign up for an RSS feed that will deliver their blog postings to your email in-box so you don’t have to visit their site daily.
7) Pick up the phone and call your contacts at least every three to four months.
And a few that are not as easy, but are very effective:
8) Attend association meetings and trade shows where you can connect with hundreds of your contacts in a condensed time frame.
9) Before leaving on a on business trip, send an email to your contacts to see who you might want to meet with at your destination. Keith Ferrazzi recommends that you should never eat alone. Even if you can only carve out 45 minutes in your schedule, see who you might connect with.
10) Create a blog and invite all of your contacts to sign up for your feeds and post comments.
Harvey McKay states, “Network as if your life depended on it, because it does.” While I’m not so sure your “life” depends on it, your “career” certainly does.