One of my favorite business networking books is Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, because you really should never eat alone if you can avoid it.

Everyone has to eat lunch, so why eat alone when you could be using your lunchtime to reconnect with VIP contacts? I’m all for online networking but there really is no better way to develop close relationships than by meeting up in person.

So, each month, commit to making a list of five individuals with whom you’ve lost touch or would just like to simply develop a stronger relationship, and reach out to them for an in-person lunch, breakfast or dinner – whatever they prefer. Ask questions about their personal life and company. Do research beforehand on your own time and dime to be up to date on developments at the company and your contacts there. You should never have to give an elevator pitch on your expertise and firm – your goal is to ask smart questions, listen intently, be helpful and find commonalities between each other.

Also, you should be using the LinkedIn notifications section to your advantage, using it to look for promotions, job moves and other professional successes of those in your network. Celebrating someone is a great hook to get back in touch with them, suggest an in-person get-together and strengthen your relationships. I’ve seen this type of interaction lead to new business over and over – and the best part is that you can do it right from your desk.

For more tips on building your business and brand, take a look at my latest JD Supra article: