It's Monday -- that means it's time to open up the mailbox and answer YOUR questions!

It’s Monday — that means it’s time to open up the mailbox and answer YOUR questions!

It’s time to answer your questions!

Remember, every Monday is Mailbox Monday.  Which means I dig into the ol’ mailbox and see what kind of questions you have for me.

To have YOUR question answered in an upcoming Mailbox Monday issue, simply email it to me at

I’m happy to take on your single-most important question about marketing, selling, copywriting, business-building, life, whatever!

Now, on to today’s question…

Hi Roy,

I appreciate your thorough posts.

How can I maintain strong engaged relationships online? I struggle with maintaining consistency & continuity with the acquaintances I make at conferences and online. Do you have any strategies or systems I can implement that can help with this?



What an interesting question!

I was thinking about the nature of friendships and relationships just yesterday, in fact.  And it had nothing to do with the fact that this question was coming up in the queue — I didn’t even realize it at the time.

Here’s the thing…

Believe it or not, relationships come down to one main thing…

And this is going to seem really silly…

Because we THINK relationships are about all kinds of things…

We think relationships are rooted in shared beliefs…

About shared interests…

About being “two peas in a pod” and all that fairytale stuff…

When really, relationships aren’t really about that!

The secret to an effective ongoing relationship is in something called “The Proximity Principle.”

The Proximity Principle is a term out of social psychology.

It basically says that we tend to form and keep relationships based on who is close by.

That’s it!  Nothing more…

Think about this. Unless you’re a total recluse, there are people who live around you.  In any other context, most of these people wouldn’t be your “friend.”  Sure, maybe some would.  And yet, you form relationships with these people that can last years and even decades just because you happened to move in next to them.

Or, if you’re a parent, think about this.  First off, your kids started making friends as soon as they went to school.  With whom?  Classmates.  Kids they were around every day.  Then, something interesting happened.  You started to become friends with your kids’ friends’ parents, because your kids were friends with each other.

If you work in an office, the same thing happens.  You make friends with your coworkers and office mates.  Some of them, you couldn’t imagine developing a friendship with outside of that context — and yet you speak with them every day, and you even grow to enjoy and look forward to your conversations.

This is all The Proximity Principle at work.  There are countless other examples, if you go digging.

Friendships develop simply because you’re “close by” to someone.

What you think are exceptions really are not!

Let’s say, for example, that you have a friend who you’ve never worked with, never gone to school with, etc.  You’re “just friends.”

And you think this is the exception.

Let me explain how it’s not.

Most likely, you met this person first through a mutual acquaintance.  Both of you happened to be close by to the same person, who ended up connecting you — either on purpose, or on accident.

This happens every day.  People meet friends of friends.  They’re nice to each other.  Then, they move on with their lives.

But in this one particular instance, you didn’t move on.  Based on some bond formed in that first meeting, you decide to get together again.  And again.  And again.

Suddenly, you’re making it a point to be “close by” this person on a regular basis.

And because you’re “close by” your relationship continues to develop.

So what might have started as a happy accident is only turned into a relationship through The Proximity Principle.

Don’t worry — I’m getting to the marketing, selling, and business lesson…

First, The Proximity Principle is digital, too!

Let’s imagine for a minute that you move across the country from this person with whom you’ve had a close relationship.

Now, you’re no longer “close by” in the physical sense.

But you decide to keep up the conversation.

You chat online.  You call each other.  You share pictures of your nights out.

While this isn’t physical closeness, you are remaining “close by” in a mental/emotional sense, through technology.

Here’s the thing though…

Digital or technological proximity is not as powerful!

And this tends to be the problem with maintaining relationships at a distance.

The ongoing strength of a relationship is subject to…

The Hierarchy of Proximity Power!

You probably recognize this, but it’s worth laying out here.

— A face-to-face meeting is definitely the strongest relationship builder.

— A video call — engaging visually and auditorily — is next.

— A voice call is next.

— A recorded personal video is next highest.

— Live text chat is below that.

— Recorded audio is next.

— Physical mail comes in below that.

— Then digital text communications (email, etc) is below that.

— Any kind of mass communications (Facebook posts, email messages like this, etc.) are below that.

ALL of these maintain relationships.  There are other ways of communicating that would fit in here somewhere.

Relationships are about maintaining proximity — in both quantity and quality!

If you were to stay in touch with someone every day — in a personal way — it would definitely maintain a relationship — almost no matter what method you used.

If you were to occasionally (every year or so) have a really high-quality interaction with someone — on the phone, a video call, meeting up for coffee — it would also maintain the relationship.

But the more infrequent and low-quality your contacts are, the harder it is to maintain the relationship.

Email someone every year after meeting them once?  Bah.  Might as well not do it.  Especially if you make the email about YOU, instead of them.

Touch base every couple months with something you know they’ll be interested in, as a way of saying you’re thinking about them?  That relationship will strengthen through time.

And…  It’s worth noting.  You CAN be too frequent for your current relationship strength.  Meet me once and have a 5-minute conversation, and it’s going to get annoying if you email me every day.

Build a relationship with me through time, and eventually I may be open to you reaching out to me whenever you want to say “hi.”

Now here’s the really tactical way to use this high-level observation…

When you’ve connected with someone, focus first on having a really high-quality interaction.

If you meet someone for the first time at a conference, that’s your first conversation, face-to-face.

If you meet someone online, you may want to have a phone call or video Skype call — if they’re up for it.

Then, if the relationship warrants, you could set up a reminder.  You could do it in your calendar.  You could get fancy, and use a CRM.

The thing is, you just want to reach out to them, from time to time, and say hi.

Even better, offer something of value, that you know they’d be interested in.  Bonus points if it’s a personal hobby and outside of work.

Or, find an opportunity for them, and bring it to their attention.

Give 100% value.  Don’t expect anything in return.  Keep giving.

And stay in touch.

If it’s been a real long time, and you have reason to catch up, you can go to the top of the hierarchy of proximity power again.  Schedule an in-person meeting.  Get on the phone.  Whatever.

Then, in between those, find other ways to stay in touch.

The real secret is to maintain proximity — even if it’s not physical.

You can use this to build personal relationships.  You can use this to build business relationships.

This is also a critically important strategy when it comes to selling, too.  But that’s a story for another day…

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

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