It’s Not Who You Know

Chris Brogan, business and marketing advisor.

You’ve been told that it’s not what you know; it’s who you know. That’s almost true. It’s who you know that you maintain good relationships with that matters most. Warm contacts, not just contacts. Years ago, my friend and boss at the time Jeff Pulver told me, “You live or die by your database.” I’ve guided my business by that principle ever since, and it continues to pay off.

Warm Connections Beat “Contacts”

I’m typing this from the dining room table of two friends who are now also clients. I’ve known them for years now. Gary is a chef and author and Sylvia is a photographer and creative. They own a boutique inn located in the fabled Hamptons in New York, and through that, I’ve seen them nurture guests and deliver amazing customer experiences. They treat their friends as if there’s no one else in the world besides them and it’s a treasure to bask in their presence.

When they asked me to come work with them on a few projects (some marketing and some business work), I said yes without a moment’s hesitation. And while I’ve worked with the two of them in limited ways over the past several years, this is our first big business undertaking.

My point is this: these are the types of engagements you want in business. You want to work with people you like. You want to work with people who matter. And that takes time and effort.

The Opposite of Serendipity

Some parts of life happen by chance. They’re beautiful. Sometimes, we meet someone simply because they’ve wandered into our world. That’s great.

But for business purposes, and for life plans, and for mapping out a way to thrive, I have to caution you: your business success will increase if you learn how to nurture warm connections with people who you want to work with in business and in life. This particular success comes from effort, not serendipity.

How to Keep Contacts Warm

I could tell you the simplest method possible:

  • Make a simple spreadsheet with names and contact columns, an area for notes, and an area for an ongoing log of dates.
  • Ensure it has a “last contact” column where you can add a date.
  • SCHEDULE TIME to reach out and connect with people on your list daily (or almost daily).
  • Do this a lot.
  • Visit people when you can.

I know it’s insane. I know you wanted there to be more to this. But this is how it works. You connect. You observe. You leave messages. You recognize the good work of others. You find ways to help however you can, even in small ways.

And here’s the most important one:

You make warm introductions where it makes sense between people you know, and using the following model.

  1. Ask party one if an introduction to party two might be helpful. Wait for a yes.
  2. Ask party two if they’re willing to connect with party one. Wait for a yes.
  3. Introduce both parties and get out of the way.
  4. Follow up with party one and party two separately after the fact.

(I can’t tell you how many times someone sends an email to me and someone else without following this model and how rarely this is beneficial to either me or the other party.)

Trust in Relationships

I never connect with people solely for business. I have to like the person. I have to want to eat meals with them, drink beverages with them, and laugh outside of work with them.

And I just lied. I said “never.” Every time I end up doing business with someone I don’t really like much, it fails. Either I don’t give it enough love, or the other party treats the business relationship as transactional, and nothing good comes of it.

I don’t know. Maybe other people can do this. I can’t. I need to actually like the people I work with.

I just gave you a super easy recipe to work this way. Trying it might benefit your business. What do you think? Willing to try?

(And drop me an email –

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