Maintaining Your Networking Relationships at Scale
posted on July 30, 2012
So you've been networking for a while and you've met hundreds perhaps thousands over a period of time. Now how do you effectively maintain all of those relationships you've worked so hard to build? Personally I think maintaining a network is much harder than building a network, and very very few people do it well. Those that do reap incredible rewards.
First it's important to recognize that you can't maintain perfect coverage. If you've met 500 people and want to stay in touch with all of them you would would need to have 2 face to face meetings every day of the work week and you'd still only see people once a year. To compound the challenge if you've been networking well you're now pretty busy with new opportunities.
Given these realities here are a few ideas to maintain your network at scale. Now please don't use this as an excuse, but remember that you're only 50% to blame if you don't stay in touch with someone. It takes two to have a relationship.
1) Stay in regular communication and maintain your visibility.
Out of sight is out of mind. So you have to find some way(s) to stay top of mind. I send a newsletter to several thousand people every week. It's not overaly personal, but it does deliver some value. You have lots of social media options here as well. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. are all good tools to maintain visibility.
I don't do them myself, but I have a couple of friends who do what I'd call a regular "Christmas Letter." Like that big family update you get from your Aunt at Christmas every year these communications (quarterly is probably the best cadence) are a great way to keep people up to date on all that's happening in your life. It also let's people into the other parts of your life and helps create a more personal relationship.
2) Be intensely regular at something where people know they can find you.
For me this is our monthly NetStorming events. Since much of my professional focus is outside of Austin these days this is a place and time that most people know that they can find me if I'm in town. There's no reason you can't leverage our events in the same say. If not ours choose the organization/event where you've built the most productive part of your network and stay involved even if it's just 1 event a month. Invite people to join you at your key event and leverage the time before and after for additional face time with your core network.
3) Focus on your core network.
Of all the people you know, who are the one or two dozen people that you enjoy spending time with the most? Who has helped you the most and provided the most encouragement and opportunity? This is your core network. This is the subset that you can and should focus your relationship efforts on. Make a list of who these people are. This list will not be static and will need regular updating as people come in and out of your life. When you have an open lunch in your schedule these are the people you reach out to. I just updated my own list and put a copy in my car. Now when I have a long drive or find myself stuck in traffic I can make a very important relationship building call. No agenda necessary, just a quick hello to show that you care.
4) Be open. Make it easy for people to get back in touch with you.
Remember that you're a part of other people's networks. Allow them to get back in touch with you and show that they care. Pay very special attention to these people. People who really effectively maintain their relationships are the rarest of the rare. Notice the people that reach back out to you as they likely deserve some special attention.
5) Apply your own style and personality liberally.
This is by no means and exhaustive list and you probably have your own great ideas. Ideas are great, but you've got to put them into action. What are you known for? What special skills and talents do you have that can help you better maintain your relationships in your own personalized way? Contribute to the conversation on our LinkedIn Group and share your ideas. What are you doing that's working? What would you like to start doing to keep your network strong?
Author: Scott Ingram