I use a combination of tools to track my Outlook (for personal and frequent business contacts) and an Access database I developed (for acquaintances, people I meet at conferences, and those I might correspond with only infrequently).
There are, of course, numerous contact management tools. Regardless of your tool of choice, here are some guidelines to help you cultivate those relationships.
Notate Your First and Your Most Recent Contact
You can, of course, notate and maintain every conversation or correspondence you have with someone, but the most important notes are typically your first contact and your most recent contact. The first contact helps you remember first impressions and why the person is on your contact list. The most recent contact is a great way to demonstrate your interest in them if you discussed kids, work, recent illnesses or promotions, and so on. All this information helps you remember the conversation and helps you create good will in future conversations.
Have a Planned Future Contact Date
Always have a future contact date. It might be two weeks or six months from today, depending on what the relationship warrants. If it is a casual acquaintance you met during a meeting, for example, your time between contacts will be greater than for a contact at a vendor or client you are currently working with. If you contact the person prior to your next contact date, simply notate it and adjust the future contact date accordingly. On Sunday, I run a simple list of those contact dates coming up in the next week. This helps me add networking activities into my schedule.
Notate Critical Skills and Interest
Whether you do this in a single searchable field or separate this information into distinct fields, take time to organize and notate people’s critical skills. Also, notate their personal and professional interests. When opportunities come across your desk, this information enables you to quickly determine the best recipient for the opportunity.
Set Aside Contact List Maintenance Time
Although I am updating my list constantly, it makes sense to set aside one day each month to quickly review the list. Look for entries that miss critical contact information. There are times when I find entries without a next contact date or with a next contact date that has passed. I have to determine whether I did indeed contact them or whether I need to put them on the next week’s list.