By Nancy Marshall, The PR Maven®

Make Sure You Keep In Touch With Your Business Contacts

Remember that person you met, but whose name you can’t remember? You had the most interesting conversation, but you don’t know how to reach out because a simple name has slipped your mind.

Bob? Bill? Something else? We’ve all been there before.

I pride myself on meeting new people and building new connections—personal or professional—and even I’m not immune to the occasional lapse in short-term memory. There was recently an individual who could help me with certain projects for work, but for the life of me, I could not remember his name. Several months ago, he was reaching out regularly to see whether my agency had any work for him, but we didn’t at the time. And so, he went from top of mind to back of mind.

Today, I could use this person’s services. But I don’t have enough information to even search for him or his company’s name. (He specializes in book publicity. That’s all I know.)

There’s a lesson here: Keep in touch with your contacts. If you meet someone for the first time, do whatever you can to store their name away in your mind—whether that means writing it down repeatedly, connecting with them on LinkedIn or even sending them a friendly note in the mail. I am personally an advocate for handwritten notes since I find that they foster a different, deeper sense of connection than digital outreach. It is easier for me to remember a name when I put pen to paper instead of just sending my 35th text message of the day.

Remind People That You Exist

Over the years, my agency has grown because of the connections I’ve made—and remembered—along the way. It may be a cliche to say that “your network is your net worth,” but it is certainly true in industries like public relations. In PR, a single connection can lead not only to new business but also to referrals to five other prospects. If you do a good job for one person, you never know who will find out about you and end up paying you.

One idea is to send out monthly e-newsletters reminding people that you exist. As long as you’re not bombarding people with self-promotional content, your contacts will be interested in hearing about your recent exploits—new business, new successes and so forth. For thought leaders, a newsletter can also be a way to demonstrate subject matter expertise— you can opine on news of the day or share useful business tips based on firsthand experience.

Follow Up After Making A Connection

Networking is hard, especially for introverts. (I’m more extroverted, but networking is still a skill that you need to develop.) Small talk doesn’t come naturally to many people. But it is very important in business, and even a few words can make a difference.

As with life in general, the key is listening to people and expressing interest in their interests. Networking is not a monologue; it is a dialogue between two listeners. Engage in a back-and-forth, and you will make connections.

But making a connection is only the first step. The second step is following up and making sure that you don’t blend in with the crowd. When you meet someone at a networking event, you may give them a business card, but they will inevitably lose it. You may follow them on LinkedIn (and you should), but they also need to be able to easily find you if they search for you online. To that end, be active on platforms like LinkedIn or Twitter where people can find you and connect with you.

Beyond that, formalize your networking process. Make it an actual process. You need to have a formal method for touching base regularly with clients, prospects and other contacts. This means providing contact information that is actionable—with no exceptions. Give them your social media handles where they can connect with you as opposed to your email address.

Just like you need to remember people’s names, they need to remember yours. If they don’t, your networking will fail and your business will suffer as a result.

Stay In Touch—Or Someone Else Will

If you don’t keep in touch with your contacts, then your competition probably will, and they’ll have an edge over you. A simple name can go a long way in life. It only comes down to two words, so remember them.

This article originally appeared on the Forbes Agency Council CommunityVoice in July 2023.