It’s difficult to know how to stay in touch when you’re juggling emails, phone calls, text messages, task updates, social media, and weeding through spam. As a graphic design agency owner, I probably get 200 emails daily, and only a handful are relevant to my client work and moving tasks forward. I also have a terrible habit of going through my inbox while I’m distracted by another task and marking emails that I want to respond to with the intention of following up later. A few days usually pass before I have time to see that intention through.
Although time is few and far between, staying in touch with previous connections is just as vital as keeping up with your rapidly changing inbox. At least in my line of work, those previous connections’ networks and referrals are why my current inbox remains so full.
One of my business goals is to make a commitment to improving and understanding how to stay in touch with networking contacts. Below are my strategies for staying in touch, and I thought they could help you too.
Before worrying about how to stay in touch, consider who you want to stay in touch with and why staying in touch matters to you in the first place. For example, if you’re looking for referrals, staying connected with former clients who run in the circles where you want to work is more important than staying connected with every single client you’ve ever had.
Taking the time to ask your contacts how they prefer to stay connected keeps you visible and makes it easy for them to respond. For instance, I would rather text a connection than email because my inbox fills up too quickly to keep track. Some people prefer social media messages. Some prefer a phone call. Go where the people you want to talk to run.
Social media laid the foundation for how to stay in touch in modern times. It enables you to share personal and career milestones without reaching out to people individually.
You can also use social media to your advantage with clients, colleagues, and other professional connections. Before you get on a phone call or meet someone in person, look at their social media for updates that can drive the conversation and show them that you care.
While sending a text is more convenient than popping a handwritten letter or card in the mail, the latter says you care and shows the other person that you took time out of your precious schedule for them. Think about how many emails and texts you leave unread versus personal cards in the mail. I’m much more inclined to open a card!
You must be intentional about staying in touch with people and never assume that you’ll magically remember to do it. Set reminders in your calendar, or talk to people who are really important in your professional life about setting regular appointments to connect. Maybe you have lunch with someone every other week to catch up.
Benign neglect is a horrible thing when it comes to staying in touch. If you don’t carve out time to do it, you never will.
Start improving your communication today by setting a goal to review your contact list and set up meetings with a few people. Before you know it, networking will become your most fruitful habit.