One of the last memories I have from college is of a Professor telling us – as we were almost out the door – “Don’t forget to network! Networking is the key.” I have always remembered this and on occasion I have even put his advice into action. It is important to maintain great relationships with those who you see regularly, but it is equally critical that you check in from-time-to-time with former colleagues, friends and peers.

Don’t be pushy. We all have those friends on Facebook that are selling the latest Network Marketing fad, and all we want to do is hide their feed! When you’re in business, make sure you are using the right tools to grow, connect and network.

Most people in business want to grow, and business relationships are most successful when they are a two-way street. You cannot be narrow-focused and forget to listen to what others are saying. Communication must equally pass both ways.

The majority of business owners have put in the effort and gained valuable experience to be able to sit in the big chair and make big decisions. Along the path up the hill to Success Mountain you’ve no doubt met many others just like yourself. You’ve collected business cards, sent emails, attended similar events, but how do you keep those relationships from going cold?

Here are four top tips that might be helpful in keeping the sun from setting on your network of influence:

1. Review your network contacts: who is active, who’s not? This can help pare down the initial outreach. Those of your contacts who aren’t active might appreciate the friendly “nudge” to get them back in the game.
2. Create a calendar and categorize your clients: maybe separate by industry, or region, or by former co-workers? It’s your game so you make the rules. You don’t want to make it so complicated that you won’t follow through.
3. Start the conversation: You could send a “Happy Birthday” greeting…maybe they’ve recently been promoted. Or, a “just thinking of you” type of note attached to a “here’s a story I thought you might be interested in.”
4. “Let’s get together!”: this is great if you’re in the same town, but if not set up a phone call to catch up.

Be sincere and genuine. Start the conversation, or become part of a conversation. Listen – you might learn a new trick. Networking should be something that is done continually, not just when you need something. Who knows, by reaching out to someone you haven’t chatted with for a while might rekindle the spark – the reason you’ve become friends and colleagues in the first place.