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December 10, 2014

Here's My Free Template for Tracking Personal Connections

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You know what sucks about networking? Keeping track of everyone you've talked to

I attend events, send emails, tweets, the whole networking nine-yards. But it often feels like I'm shooting shotgun pellets into the distance in the middle of the night.

red-ex Having a "handy" stack of business cards doesn't remind me how or when I met the person.
red-ex "Connecting" with everyone on LinkedIn doesn't share the specifics of what I talked to them about.

Since I've yet to find a great tool to manage my networking, I've created my own.

Inspired by the HubSpot CRM deal boards and the way I manage my sales pipeline, I modeled my own Personal CRM using Trello, a free collaboration tool. Trello makes it easy for me to visualize my connections, take notes, and understand the relationship I have with anyone in my network.

If you're interested in learning how it works / trying it for yourself, I've listed the steps below. Here's what it ultimately looks like -


Step 1: Copy the Personal Connections template.

To follow along with this post, you can access my pre-built Trello template here. On that page, you'll notice you get access to three templates - two Trello and one Evernote. Feel free to use Evernote if you prefer. For this tutorial, I'll be speaking to "Trello Template 1." Each template contains the same core information, just formatted slightly differently based on different preferences. 

Now, you'll need to sign in (or sign up for free) with Trello. Once you're logged in, select the "Menu" drop down on the right side of the screen. Under there, you'll see an option to "Copy Board." Go ahead and do that. 

Step 2: Create your first contact card.

Trello is based around the idea of “cards.” For our purposes, each “card” is an individual. Within each card you can take notes as you connect with people and have conversations. To create your first contact card, simply click the tiny pencil icon at the top right corner of “EXAMPLE CARD” and click "Copy" from the right-side menu that appears. 


Once the card is created, I typically like to populate it with some basic information about the contact - such as job title or even a headshot to make it an even more visual networking database. To accomplish any of this, just click into the card and scroll down to the "Comment" section to attach images or write notes.

Step 3: Populate each contact card with a high-level relationship status.

By clicking into the card, you'll notice three high-level questions that provide a great quick-view of what your relationship with this person is like. 

The questions in the template card are:

  • Have I added value to this person? To jog our memory on how / if we’ve helped this person.
  • Have I asked for something from this person? To know if we've asked them for favors yet. I generally aim for a 1-1 ratio of asks-to-favors.
  • Does this person actually know my name/face? Be honest with yourself - if this person passed you on the street or saw that you wrote an article that they’re reading, would they make the connection and know you? If not, we need to get a few more touch points.


Step 4: Drag and drop cards with each touch point.

In a previous article, I discussed my six touch point strategy for building a true networking connection. This Trello Board follows the same principles listed there. In summary, a true relationship is formed with a contact after you've interacted at least six times. 

So, let's say I had Anum Hussain on my Personal Connections Trello Board with the intention of blogging for her one day. One checkpoint I may make is commenting on one of her Sidekick blog posts to show my interest in this blog. After marking off that checkpoint, I can move Anum from the "People to connect with" list to the "Touch 1" card. 


Step 5: Comment helpful notes as the relationship progresses.

As you work through each connection, consider commenting helpful notes on their respective cards. Most of the time, we're hustling many connections at once. Some we'll work through in a month, some may take a year, so having the right notes to spark conversations and jog our memories can prove incredibly valuable. I typically take notes along the lines of ...

  • What are the things this person is passionate about?
  • How did I meet this person?
  • What was something we spoke on last that would be good to check in on?
  • Any other notes on their mannerisms or ways they communicate.

Tip: Card Aging

On this Trello template, I've enabled "card aging." So, if any of your cards progress with no activity at milestones of one, two, and four weeks, the card will begin to become transparent. Once the card completely fades away, it may be a good reminder to make another touch point or re-establish the connection.

Of course, once you go through all six touch points, you can drag your contact into the "Established Relationship" list.

Now, at any given point in time, you can look into this Trello Board and see where you stand with any of your contacts.

Or let's say you suddenly bump into one of these contacts at an event - just pull up this Personal Connections Board and refresh your notes on who they are and where your relationship stands before conversing. 

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