January 03, 2017

How to Reinvigorate a Past Relationship


The "Big Idea" behind relationship marketing is that staying engaged with key relationships puts you at a strategic advantage for your current business efforts and the task at hand. By consistently following up, keeping these relationships warm, and adding value, we are able to nurture new, repeat, and referral business opportunities.

One of the hardest parts of this, however, is that pesky little word consistently. As much as we try:

    • There are people who we forget about.

    • There are people who we worked with at one point, then moved on.

    • There are introductions we never followed up on, in-person meetings we never kept track of, etc...

    • Bottom line, there are people in our past network that we rediscover the importance of.

We all know that feeling - for whatever reason or another, you find yourself staring at a contact record for someone who you haven't spoken to in two or three years. If only I had stayed in touch!

How to revive your past relationships:

I could let your overwhelming guilt and shame invigorate your desire to make sure that you don't repeat your mistake again, but I'd rather provide a little bit more value to you.

We see a relationship where our mindshare is completely exhausted - but how do we reconnect with them?

Let's dive in.

First, get in the right mindset

You might be concerned that they hate you or that they've forgotten about you. But think how you feel - you feel bad that you didn't stay in touch with them - they are likely to feel the same (after all, we're social creatures!). Plus, what's worse - reinvigorating a relationship with just a tinge of guilt, or never speaking to them again and never deriving any more happiness or value out of that relationship? Yeah, I thought so.

OK, so what can you do?

Open with complete honesty. We all have people we haven't spoken to in some time, and this contact is no different. You could make up a silly excuse if you want to ("my dog ate your business card!") - but it's best to leave it at just "I know it's been some time since we last spoke, I hope you're well."

Remind them of who you are. I would not recommend that you assume they know who you are and remember the details of your relationship. Take a look at the last email conversation you had with them, is that relevant?

Consider replying to that email - as if you're an archaeologist who has just uncovered this past artifact. Otherwise, remind them of how you two know each other. "We were introduced via __________" or "We met at __________" or "We used to work together at ________" - all of them work.

Share any social objects (commonalities or personal details). If you were a good student of relationship marketing or otherwise super organized, you hopefully have some notes on them. If not, no worries, some quick online research can solve that. For example, if they had shared with you last time that they were a new parent, ask them how parenting is going. If you went to the same school, drop a hint to that connection to help jog their memory.

This hopefully evokes some additional memory with the person, and if nothing else can increase mindshare. What can work really well is if you are able to cite a more timely event that triggered your outreach - such as their name coming up in conversation, or you having an experience that reminded you of them,

State your purpose of reconnecting. Remember, our reptilian brains are always looking out for danger, so someone who just happens to reappear in our world may be met with suspicion. Not being clear why you are connecting can lead to further distrust. If you have a very specific, immediate short term goal in mind - don't hesitate to bring that up.

Otherwise, give your reason - such as "I just want to ensure I stay connected and valuable to my past clients" or "I know we would love to work together at some point in the future."

Be Positive and Patient

And just like any relationship you want to keep warm, they may not respond immediately, or at all. Don't hesitate to follow up again after a week. And if you're looking at your email, unsure whether you should actually reach out, if you should engage at all - just remember: most people won't. You will. You'll set yourself apart in a big ol' crowd, giving you everything to gain and nothing to lose!