Your contacts are like plants. They need cultivation.

Nurture your contacts well and good things can happen. They will give you Know How to Nourish Your Contactsreferrals, and they might even become clients.

Meet with them. Make introductions for them. Give them useful ideas. Help them find more business. Send them information.

In return, you hope they:

  • Like you and trust you.
  • Consider you the go-to expert in your field.
  • Remember you when opportunities arise.

But each person requires the right touch. “Drown” them with too much attention (by being a pest), and they will disappear. “Starve” them with too little attention, and they’ll forget about you.

Start by prioritizing your contacts.

Make a List

Rank them “A,” “B,” and “C” by the strength of your connection. Go through your database and review each contact to determine the appropriate level (A, B, C).

  • How well do you know him or her?
  • How often do you meet/speak?
  • How often do you refer one another
  • How helpful could he/she be for your business?

You can categorize a contact in ACT! using the “ID/Status” field in the contact record. In Outlook, you can use the “Categorize” command in the contact record.

This is a tedious exercise if you have several hundred contacts, as I suspect most of us do. To avoid turning into a zombie, I’d suggest you categorize ten to 20 contacts at a time over a week or so. Trying to do this in one sitting will leave you brain dead.

The Right Touch

Now that you’ve prioritized your contacts, determine the right touch for each level. First, think about your goals:

  • “A” Contacts—Get regular referrals and advice.
  • “B” Contacts—Stay visible and get periodic referrals.
  • “C” Contacts—Stay visible and prompt them to contact you.

To nurture your “A” contacts, you need to be in touch regularly (at least monthly) with referrals and ideas for them. Connect with your “B” contacts at least quarterly at networking meetings, one-on-one, or via the phone. Stay in touch with your “C” contacts with your newsletter.

The Care and Feeding of Your Contacts

Here are examples of touches

  • Meet One-On-One—This is a great (but very time-consuming) way to connect with your “A” contacts and selected “B” contacts
  • Meet at Events—This is an efficient way to stay in touch with your “B” contacts.
  • Make Introductions—This may be the most powerful tool in your networking arsenal. You are adding real value.
  • Pick up the Phone—Surprise a contact with a phone call. This can have real impact without consuming a lot of time.
  • Send Articles & Event Notices—Forward articles and notices regularly. You can showcase your expertise and stay visible.
  • Send a Newsletter—A monthly—or even quarterly–—newsletter is a great way to reach all your contacts (A, B, and C).

Here’s what your plan might look like:

[click on chart to enlarge]