Consistency is more important than intensity.

Would you skip brushing your teeth all week only to brush them fourteen times on Sunday? I’m hoping your answer is “no”. That’s not the way to good dental health.

The concept holds true for networking, too. We need to adapt those behaviors into our daily lives. We especially need to set aside time in our schedule to reach out to our connections on a regular basis. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get bogged down in less productive behaviors.

Activity isn’t always a good indicator of progress.

After a few years of doing this, I’ve finally come up with a particular order I try to follow with my daily correspondence. Try it out and adapt it for your own practice. See what results you get. In general, high value, high interaction activities come first. Lower value contacts or ones that don’t require actually talking with the other person come later.

Here’s my list:

  1. Confirmation messages. I look ahead to the next business day and send out confirmation messages to the folks I will be meeting. I know it seems like this break the whole interaction rule, but it has an extremely high value and since I have templates in my mail system for this purpose, it usually takes me about a minute to be done.
  2. Scheduled calls. If you told them you would call on or before a certain day and time, take it as seriously as any other appointment. In fact, this should go in your calendaring system as an appointment to make sure you are establish credibility with your connections.
  3. Referrals. When someone responds to your request for help, you had better do something about it. After all, this is the ultimate personal goal of networking. Again, this is a high value interaction, even if it doesn’t have to be a highly interactive one.
  4. Follow-Up. You met at the Chamber breakfast and they didn’t have their schedule so you could set up a coffee. Call them before the expiration date for their business card to set up that follow-up conversation. Otherwise there wasn’t much point in striking up a conversation with them in the first place. This category would also cover any of the other categories where you sent out an email and now it’s time to schedule an actual face-to-face meeting.
  5. Tickler File. You might not have any from the first three categories, but you will always have some from this one. This is how you maintain connection with your existing network. Depending on the size of the tickler file, you may be calling two, three, or more people whom you already know on any given day.
  6. Introductions. I know it may seem strange to place this one on a lower priority. Usually this is about responding to an e-introduction. Most people would find it a bit odd to receive an immediate phone call from someone to whom they’ve only recently been introduced. A quick email to make the initial connection and propose a call is all that you need to do. Of course, when you’ve scheduled the call, then it gets bumped up to #2 above.
  7. Asynchronous Contacts. This final section is for any other contacts — quick emails, thank you notes, etc. They don’t have a particular time commitment and they don’t require interacting directly with the recipient. You can do these in the early morning or late at night. They are still an important part of your networking practice, but shouldn’t take the primary spot in your efforts.
At first this may seem a bit overwhelming. For the most part, though, several of the categories will probably be empty on any given day. Until you are fairly far along in your networking practice, you probably won’t be seeing referrals on a daily basis, for example. Personally, a half hour to an hour of calls during the working day is all I need. Then I can add in another twenty to thirty minutes to respond to introductions and take care of other non-interactive (read “e-mail-based”) connections.

Most people spend at least this amount of time sending email, making calls, and posting on their favorite social media site. The process I’ve outlined simply prioritizes those efforts so you get done the most important activities first.

Photo by Jakub Krechowicz