I call it “pinging.” It’s a quick, casual greeting, and it can be done in any number of creative ways. Once you develop your own style, you’ll find it easier to stay in touch with more people than you ever dreamed of in less time than you ever imagined.
Becoming front and center in someone’s mental Rolodex is contingent on one invaluable little concept: repetition
• People you’re contacting to create a new relationship need to see or hear your name in at least three modes of communication—by, say, an e-mail, a phone call, and a face-to-face encounter—before there is substantive recognition.
• Once you have gained some early recognition, you need to nurture a developing relationship with a phone call or e-mail at least once a month.
• If you want to transform a contact into a friend, you need a minimum of two face-to-face meetings out of the office.
• Maintaining a secondary relationship requires two to three pings a year.
I also send e-mail constantly. Using a BlackBerry, I’ve found I can do the majority of my pinging while in trains, planes, and automobiles. I remember—or at least my PDA remembers—personal events like birthdays and anniversaries, and I make a special point of reaching out to people during these times. When it comes to relationship maintenance, you have to be on your game 24/7, 365 days a year.
One way I’ve found to make maintaining my network of contacts, colleagues, and friends easier is to create a rating system for the network that corresponds to how often I reach out. First, I divide my network into five general categories: Under “Personal,” I include my good friends and social acquaintances. Because I’m generally in contact with these people organically, I don’t include them on a contact list. The relationship is established, and when we talk, it’s as if we’d been in touch every day. “Customers” and “Prospects” are self-explanatory. “Important Business Associates” is reserved for people I’m actively involved with professionally. I’m either doing business with them currently or hoping to do business with them. This is the mission-critical category.
Under “Aspirational Contacts,” I list people I’d like to get to know, or I’ve met briefly (which is anyone from your boss’s boss to a worthy celebrity) and would like to establish a better relationship with.
Create a segmentation that works for you and your objectives. This is a good habit and one that deserves repeating. All successful people are planners. They think on paper. Failing to plan, as they say, is planning to fail. And a plan is a list of activities and names.R
I ping via e-mail. I’ve developed the habit of saving every e-mail I send and receive. I put each e-mail, when I receive it, in one of my categories, and Outlook records whether I’ve returned the e-mail or not. Then I just open up those files and respond, pinging away. I make a habit of reviewing my master list at the end of the week and cross-checking it with the activities and travel plans I have for the following week. In this way, I stay up-to-date and have my trusty lists at my side all week long.
My personal favorite pinging occasion remains birthdays, the neglected stepchild of life’s celebrated moments. As you get older, the people around you start forgetting your big day (mostly because they think they want to forget their own). Mom might not call a day late, but your brother or sister will. Your friends will figure, “Why remind the poor guy he’s getting up there in age?” Before long, that residual disappointment turns into resentment, and the resentment turns into apathy. Or at least the appearance of apathy. “Nah, birthdays aren’t my thing,” I hear people say all the time. You persuasively tell your family, “Don’t do anything big, but if you do something, make it small.” Well, I don’t believe it. I’m onto your game, friend. You care, and so does everybody else.
Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi, Tahl Raz