If time is money, then money must be time — right?

Seriously, when you think of the time you put into your networking efforts can you honestly say they pay off? Here are five things you can and should be doing for ROI on your networking.

1. Basic blocking and tackling

You might be in the wrong business if your idea of networking is hanging out at the buffet table handing out business cards. Effecting networking is a process, not just a meet and greet. It’s a contact sport that requires follow through if you really want to score. That means following up with an email or, better yet, a handwritten note to new acquaintances. Connect with them on LinkedIn and Facebook. Comment on their posts and forward articles that you think may be of interest to them. Building a relationship takes time.

2. Take it one step further

Don’t just go to events — get involved in them. Face it, you’re already going to those Chamber of Commerce events, so why not make the most of the opportunity by getting involved? For example, join — heck even start — a New Business Development Committee. This will give you a chance to meet up and coming professionals in your area. Participation means access to business leaders, government officials, and other well-connected individuals. If you’re going to take the time, make the most of it.

3. Give first

Make it a point to refer business associates whenever you can. Be sure to ask that your referral uses your name when contacting your colleague. It’s interesting that the old saying, “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine,” is often misquoted as “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” Giving first often takes people by surprise. It reflects an openness and sets the tone for reciprocation.

4. Give back

Your networking strategy should always include some philanthropic and volunteer work. Not only does it feel good and help others, but it also raises the profile of you and your company within the community.

5. Say thanks

Always be sure to acknowledge others who have referred or recommended you. Don’t take longstanding and valuable sources for granted. Things can change quickly and loyalties can shift.

6. Stay connected

Don’t forget about social media. Use LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay in touch and up-to-date with all your contacts. Develop a quarterly networking blog and newsletter and ask potential referral sources to sign-up and contribute.

Lastly, remember to keep your CRM database up-to-date. Update contact information as you get it and note any hobbies, pastimes, or other significant shared points of interest. The first step to successful networking is about getting to know someone. Once you’ve connected, maintain and grow those relationships by getting involved and giving first. And, when a contact refers you to one of their clients, always pay it forward.