How to Get Your Network Working For You

People do things for people they know and like. You’ve seen the “Old Boy Network” in the movies: “I called my old buddies in the Pentagon…” James Bond in Dr. No and “Our man in Nassau.” It seems most people in the British aristocracy went to school together. Then they dated each other.” You have a network too. How can you put it to work?

Tell Me About My Network…

It’s been said the average American knows about 600 people. ( New York Times) You know them in silos, like your office friends and gym buddies. You know them in a chronological sense. This includes your friends from college and the old neighborhood. The website reports a US Census report Americans move house an average of 11.4 times during their lifetimes. (1) Another article, from indicates Americans change jobs an average of 12 times during their careers. (2) You know a lot of people!

If you were to classify them into categories, you know professionals like lawyers and CPAs. You know people in the medical profession. Ditto people in the military. You know people climbing the corporate ladder in several industries. You know people in different cities, states and countries. Assuming you keep in touch, you might even have your own “Our man in Nassau.”

Unfortunately, many people don’t put effort into keeping up relationships . They connect on Face Book or LinkedIn. They post occasionally. They “Like” others posts. They think that’s enough. It’s not. You need to correspond.

Ten Ways to Keep Up With Your Network

Corresponding might sound like too much work. Let’s give it a cooler title. You want to become a Center of Influence. (COI) Here are ten high and low tech ways to do it.

1. Corresponding via LinkedIn. I’ve got about 1,500 first level connections. I break them down into a few major groups like managers at financial services firms and Heads of Distribution at money managers. About once a month, I send each a message through LinkedIn. It’s usually a simple article link to something I’ve written which was published online or in print. “Thought you would find this useful.”

Why it works: It’s better than a post, which they might never see. It reinforces name recognition. Some people write back. A dialog gets going.

2. Letter to friends. When I left production to enter management, the firm’s “witness protection” program relocated us from NYC to San Francisco. I had become friends with many clients. I wasn’t going to abandon them, so I sent a two page “form letter” each month, telling them about life on the West Coast vs. the East Coast. Some wrote or called.

Why it works: Clients would say: “If you ever return to production, let me know. I’ll move my account right back to you!” What an insurance policy!

3. Helping people find jobs. An advisor in New England knew lots of parents working in industry after he organized the town’s soccer league for their children. He heard about a parent who was downsized. He knew the industry. He had a friend in the same field. He put in the effort to bring them together. The guy got a new job.

Why it works: The advisor established himself as a Center of Influence. He certainly gained an appreciative fan!

4. Vacation postcards. Lots of people will tell you they don’t use surface mail anymore. A California advisor does. He sends vacation postcards to friends and prospects. He picked up a company retirement plan! How? The guy said: “You quietly stayed on my radar. When we needed to make a decision, you and your firm were the obvious choice.”

Why it works: You are raising your visibility. Postcards are tangible. People can hold them and save them if they choose.

5. Alumni association. If you live in a major metro area, your school likely has a local chapter. You connect with people who share a common experience. The “Old School Tie” is almost as famous as the “Old Boy Network.”

Why it works: If you keep in touch with your former classmates, the alumni association gives you something to talk about. You might motivate them to attend the next big class reunion.

6. Vacation friendships. We meet great people while on vacation. We always assume we will see people again and again. (We just don’t know how.) When we travel on other trips, we often send e-mails telling about where we are and what we’ve seen.

Why it works: Travel is the common denominator. They may have been there too. Suddenly you have access to subject matter experts.

7. Let’s do lunch. When I served on a museum board, I was one of 20+ directors. Our board chairman would call up and schedule lunch or dinner about every two months. Sometimes another couple was included. Spouses got to know each other. The relationships deepened and continued after I left the board.

Why it works: When you want to get something done, it’s a great way to build support outside the board room.

8. Invitation to visit. You know interesting people spread across the country, maybe the world. Invite them to stay at your home if they come to your city. You aren’t inviting 100 people at once! You aren’t putting them up for two weeks! It’s a couple of nights. They might extend the same invitation in return. That’s what brought us to New Zealand!

Why it works: Even if few people ever accept the offer, they will remember you extended it.

9. Attend charity galas. They are like industry conferences for the local movers and shakers. There’s a spring and fall season. You rub shoulder and shake hands. This lets people know you “are still in the game.” You meet their friends.

Why it works: It’s a small world. When they go looking for new non-profit board members, your name is fresh in their minds. Even better, if they are looking to bring in potential new money managers for presentations concerning their endowment!

10. Christmas cards. A 2007 report indicated about two billion Christmas cards are sent each year. 500 million e-cards too. (3) You might already do this for your clients. Cast a wider net.

Why it works: Like postcards, they are tangible. They keep your name in front of people.

Related: Are You Any Good? Dealing With the Experience Question

It takes work to maintain a network of connections. There are many people who don’t step up. This creates an opportunity.

  • Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides HNW client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book, “Captivating the Wealthy Investor” can be found on Amazon.