NETWORKING is regarded as a powerful way of opening doors to business and job opportunities. So how do you nurture a quality network?

Keeping in touch is the key to cultivating real relationships instead of superficial ones.

How many of you have attended networking events where you collect hundreds of name cards but end up not keeping in contact with any of the people they belong to?

Networking is not just about exchanging business cards, but about keeping in touch and building long-term relationships.
In today’s competitive environment, we are constantly being sold, prospected and marketed to. If your keeping-in-touch process is uninspired and self-serving, you will be relegated to the level of spam.

One way to be truly memorable is to focus on embedding value in your keeping-in-touch process. It shows that you have taken the time to understand the other person’s needs and interests, and will motivate him to reciprocate in the relationship.

Here are seven ways to keep in touch by providing value:

1. Remember birthdays

Everyone values his birthday and will remember the people who send birthday wishes (and those who forget).

Birthday wishes are the poorer cousin of Christmas and New Year greetings because many people focus on keeping in touch with their entire network on two days of the year.

Keeping in touch is about being personal, not efficient.

There is now no reason to forget someone’s birthday with the availability of social networking tools such as FaceBook or websites such as birthdayalarm.com

2. Celebrate special achievements

If a businessman contact of yours has received an award, for example, the Entrepreneur of the Year Award, don’t forget to send him a congratulatory note.

People are proud of their special achievements. You can keep abreast of special achievements of your contacts in the media, especially in trade or club magazines.

Acknowledging a promotion, a special appointment to a company’s board of directors or a marriage shows that you care about what matters most to your contacts.

Celebrating the anniversary of these special achievements enables you to keep in touch in a special way every year.

3. Be a connector

People are continually looking for contacts to help them in their job search, secure financing for their business, engage a quality accountant or lawyer, find the best specialist for their ailments or even a potential mate!

A powerful way to build up your quality network is to be a connector.

If you come across contacts who will be useful to your network, offer to link them up.

However, it is important that you treat your current network with respect and only link people up when there are obvious synergies.

4. Be an information broker

Many corporate executives who attend my networking training programmes ask me: “If I am networking with the affluent, how do I add value to them, especially when they are already in a stronger financial position than me?”

One of the most powerful commodities today is information.

Many affluent people are starved for time, and your ability to provide relevant information to them will be appreciated.

People are most grateful for information that can help them manage their wealth, health and family.

5. E-mail humour

There is nothing like a funny e-mail joke or an interesting video clip to perk up a workday afternoon.

Please don’t take short cuts and forward every remotely funny e-mail message you receive. It’s about taste and personalisation.

If you come across a hilarious video clip featuring one of the world’s leading stand-up comedians and you know some of your contacts will appreciate his humour, send some comic relief their way.

They will be impressed that you thought about them.

6. Handwritten cards

These days, people rarely receive mail that is not a bill or an official letter. A handwritten card with a personalised greeting instantly adds value, as everyone loves pleasant surprises in the mail.

The message can be a simple “Thank you” or “It was wonderful meeting you, let’s stay in touch”.

The receiver will remember that you took the time to make him feel special.

7. Create experiences

In today’s recessionary economy, be a catalyst to spread some cheer among your network.

Organise a themed party, a movie night, a wine-and-cheese gathering or a dinner at a good restaurant.

Be creative and you will be amazed by how grateful people are to a proactive host.

Keeping in touch is about taking action. I like the simple concept of following up with at least one person every day.

Choose a variety of ways that work for you. Have fun adding value to your network and it will do the same for you.