If you’ve been networking — whether to stay current on industry happenings, secure a job, lure new business, find qualified employees or just to socialize — you’re probably amassing a sizable collection of contact details of new people you may want to connect with again. If you’re not compiling all this information into a manageable system that helps you nurture these contacts, you’re failing to maximize the potential of your networking efforts
Yes, the classic Rolodex on your desk can accommodate the business cards you may have collected from people you’ve met in person, but modern networking also includes interacting with folks online via email, social networking sites and other platforms. Creating and maintaining a system for managing all the contact information you’re collecting ensures that the most important details are available to you when it’s time to connect again.
Developing a System
Among the simplest and most affordable ideas for managing the fruits of your networking efforts are these possible systems:
- Create an Excel spreadsheet with fields for name, email address, company and phone number as well as other potentially important information such as interests, special skills or viewpoints on a particular topic.
- Scan paper business cards, meeting notes and other documents related to a contact, and then save the files in a folder dedicated to contacts on your computer. Consider grouping contacts by company or other meaningful descriptors to stay organized.
- Enter contact information on your mobile phone’s Contacts program and then back up the data to your computer or Cloud.
- Create an Outlook contact record for each new person you meet. This program allows you to sort contacts by type and record email contact history.
If you don’t want to manually enter basic contact information for your friends, potential employers, colleagues, new acquaintances and team candidates, you can export that data. Dan Schawbel, author of Me 2.0 and a popular personal branding blogger, explains how to export the email addresses and phone numbers from your contacts on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter by creating a .csv file, which can be merged with your contact spreadsheet. Especially if you’re a prolific networker, the exporting process can save a significant amount of time when you’re trying to compile a contact management system.
No matter what merge method you decide to use, when entering information about your contacts, consider including details that may come in handy during later contact, such as how and when you met and highlights of your conversation.
Be sure to update your contact records periodically to stay accurate. That is, note promotions and job changes when you get alerts about these events in your contacts’ lives. You also may want to keep track of your ongoing relationship and note when and how you interact with individual contacts. For example, note the date of follow-up calls or emails and record other events in the relationship development process. This ensures that you can reference information and timelines accurately if needed.
The possibilities for managing information about your personal and professional network are abundant. Use these ideas as a springboard to create a system that makes sense to you. The important thing is that you have some kind of contact management system so you can access critical information when you need it. After all, interacting with your contacts after meeting them is a pretty important part of the networking process. Use what you learn about the people you meet to build strong and mutually beneficial relationships.
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