You Only Keep the Relationships You Manage

Tuesday I talked about the importance of building and maintaining relationships…and saying thank you. Today I discuss how you can do that. As something of a disclaimer, I started my career before we had computers, cell phones and programs that automated your contact lists.

We had paper address books or address cards in a file box. When someone moved, or you wanted to write a note on the card, you just crossed the old off and wrote the new information. I still have mine as I can’t bear to throw it away even though I don’t use it anymore.

Anyway, at that time, there was a lot more that was local and fewer national/international relationships. But it remained important to keep track of the person’s particulars including:

  • Name (include maiden name)

  • Address(es)

  • Phone numbers

  • Work information

  • How you met the person; connections

  • Spouse, parents, children’s names

  • Assistants

  • Birthday and anniversary

Once you have the information, it’s important to transfer key dates to your calendar. Purchase a variety of cards (birthday, anniversary, etc.) so you can send greetings. When I have time, I address them ahead of time so they are ready to go.

The key is to find things to share. It can be anything from memories of your time together to news articles you think the other person might enjoy. When someone you know is in the news, make sure to share that too. Before we had email, I mailed these with a short note. I still like to do that occasionally today as snail mailings really stand out from the rest.

With today’s social networks there is even more information to collect about your networks, and a never ending array of ways to stay in touch. In addition to the list above, collect:

  • Email addresses (home and work)

  • Phone numbers (any and all)

  • Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, etc., contact information

  • Web addresses

The program I use, Apple’s Contacts, has a notes section. I keep track there of how I know people. It’s a nice reminder but also a way to search and contact a group of people with common interests. (Update: I now use a program called BusyContacts that's much more robust.) With the ability to sync in the cloud, there’s almost no excuse to keeping your contacts up to date. It’s a great project when you’re on an airplane or train. Also consider programs like CardMunch that will scan business cards so you don’t have to input contacts by hand. LinkedIn and others, can also automatically sync your contacts to keep things most updated.

Keeping in touch with your network is also easier, but it’s still time consuming, takes thought, and a strategic process. Consider a blog, e-newsletter, individual emails, social network posts, et al. But mix it up with lunch and coffee meetings and handwritten cards.

Whatever you do, make sure you’re sincere, that you stand out, and keep it personal. That’s what builds the relationships.

What are some ways you manage your relationships? Do you have tactics you can share to help build them? What are some bad ideas you’ve seen?

Photo: moarplease via Flickr, CC 2.0

The Barber Group

Gig Harbor, Washington


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