One of the things I quickly discovered when I was learning to network (and yes, networking is a skill you can learn) is that networking isn’t a one-time event. Not only does the process of building a single relationship require multiple steps—don’t even try to go from cold to sold in one conversation—but building and maintaining your network for the long-haul requires ongoing effort and attention.

Your ongoing investment is critical

This same ongoing investment is also critical to building a brand. That’s why blowing an entire marketing budget on a single event isn’t smart. Companies may get a bump in web traffic or even sales, but with consumers exposed to over 4,000 marketing messages a day (according to marketing guru Jack Trout), these companies are soon forgotten if they’re not consistently feeding the machine.

While you may need to crank up your networking and personal branding efforts for a specific goal you’re striving for, like finding your next job, expanding your business, or landing a book deal, if you don’t have the energy or the budget to keep yourself visible once you reach your goal, you run the danger of becoming irrelevant and forgotten over time. And you’ll be starting from scratch, or close to it, for the next goal you want to achieve.

Maintain visibility, relevancy and value

Here are 8 ideas for maintaining visibility and relevancy, and continuing to add value on the job, in your business, and to your network so you’re always top of mind:

1) Talk to people
. Get out of your office and connect regularly with others one-on-one. Conversation helps to spread your message, but more importantly, it gives you the opportunity to absorb different opinions and perspectives and see what others are working on. You learn what’s important to them, what makes them tick and how what you’re each doing can help the other. Conversation also opens channels for feedback and questions so that you can address potential gaps and issues in your offering as well as in your communication.

2) Incorporate trends. To stay relevant, your products, ideas and skills should keep pace with the needs of the market. When I started writing and speaking about networking six years ago, connecting with people online isn’t something I covered at all. In fact, I was very much an advocate of face-to-face networking. While there are certainly ways to waste time with social media, I’ve now integrated into my discussions a handful of powerful online strategies that tie in well with the foundational principles I’ve been sharing all along.

3) Test and refine new ideas. The best stand-up comics don’t tell the same jokes for years and years, even if those jokes are a hit. They continually develop and test new material. For business professionals, we can test our ideas through writing, speaking, and blogging. Not only will you regularly exercise your ability to expand on and explain your ideas, you’ll see what gets traction and what doesn’t. And don’t be afraid of failure or criticism. Thomas Edison found 10,000 ways to fail at making a light bulb before he discovered the one way to do it.

4) Seek outside inspiration
. Connecting the dots in different ways helps you tell a better story, develop more powerful analogies, and touch people in new ways. In prior posts here I’ve linked going to the symphony and learning to ski with lessons on personal branding, and last year I started a video tip series called Passport to Networking to connect my personal passion of travel with my business passion of helping people network more effectively. Each 2-minute episode tells a brief story about the destination I visited—ranging from China to Europe to various US locations—and links it to a lesson about networking. [If you’re curious, you can see the series on Facebook or YouTube.]

5) Read other people’s stuff. One of the biggest benefits of Twitter that I’ve found is the exposure to a wide variety of new content. While there are publications, websites and blogs I read regularly, I do look to my Twitter base to surface links to new and diverse articles and resources. Some people might find this overwhelming, and you certainly don’t need to read everything that comes across the stream, but if a number of people have retweeted something in your area of expertise, it’s probably worth a look.

6) Acquire new assets
. Developing new skills, new partnerships and new platforms can help you refine your message, gain leverage and reach more people. For example, I’ve led a regular teleseminar series and started a new BlogTalkRadio show to connect my email subscribers and online friends to experts in my network. I’m exposing my audience and my contacts to each other, and at the same time, I’m developing new skills in hosting and interviewing, which I realize I LOVE to do.

7) Make a regular commitment. There’s nothing like having an ongoing deadline of a blog post or a radio show to stay on track and force yourself to develop new content on a regular basis. Another option is to teach a class, or even have a standing meeting with an accountability partner, whatever you need to keep pushing yourself forward.

8 ) Venture beyond your comfort zone. The times I’ve been the most uncomfortable and put myself out on the longest limb have been my biggest periods of growth. During the first talk I gave on networking, for example, I was shaking. But if I had stopped there, I wouldn’t have reached as many people and developed the business I have today.

According to Newton’s first law, “Unless acted upon, a body at rest stays at rest and a body in motion stays in motion.” The common theme to all of these ideas is to find ways to keep moving forward and fight complacency. While staying in place is certainly less risky, only when you leave your protective bubble can you, your brand, and your ideas become more relevant, more accessible, and consequently, more valuable to your market.