Some believe business cards don’t carry the weight they use to in the business world. With the invent of online business cards and social media, people have started to put more weight into their online identities. The truth is business cards can still be powerful networking tools if used properly. The problem is a lot of people simply collect business cards during networking events and then forget about them. They wind up in the bottom of their desk drawer collecting dust.
Every entrepreneur should have an system for organizing business cards they receive. If not, you could be losing clients and money.
Tip 1: Take notes
I’ve always been a big note taker, so what I like to do is jot down simple notes about the person on the back of each card I receive. Some things you may want to note are the name of the event where you met them, their area of expertise, if you think they could be a potential client, what they look like, any special contacts they have, etc. When you come across the card at a later date, you can flip it over and take a look at the notes you wrote and you’re instantly reminded of when you received the card and the person you received it from.
If you use a contact management program to keep track of your contacts and clients, you would simply transfer your notes to the system after the networking event.
Tip 2: Make contact sooner rather than later
Just as you send a follow-up message after a job interview, it’s good practice to do the same thing after a networking event. When I say “follow-up”, I don’t mean anything fancy or formal; it could be something as simple as a quick email to say “Jill, it was great to meet you last night. Please let me know if there’s anything I can ever do for you.” The point of this is to stand out in the contact’s mind. Later on down the road, when you call them to set up a real meeting, they’ll know who you are and may be more inclined to meet with you.
Tip 3: Put them in their place
A lot of my clients tell me that their business card filing system consists of their desk drawer at home and a rubber band. Most people don’t take the time to set up a real filing system for their business cards. It may have something to do with the size of the card. The fact is, those business cards you collect are just as important as any other business documents. One of those cards could be your next big client.
Your filing system should be simple but practical. File the cards according to networking event, services, or how you plan to follow-up later.
Tip 4: Purge when necessary
I recently found a business card I collected 8 years ago during a networking event. There were notes on the back of the card but I had no memory of ever meeting or talking to this person. Why was I still holding on to that business card? After I read the notes I had written on the back, I was even more perplexed and wondered why I had even bothered to accept their card. I suspect it was out of “professional courtesy”. I’m sure you have a few cards in your collection that you really have no use for but you accepted anyway because you felt it might be rude not to. Those are the cards you should purge. Review your collection monthly and toss the cards you know you don’t need.
Tip 5: Keep your card updated
I recently enhanced my business card to include a QR (Quick Response) code. QR codes are two dimensional bar codes that are easily scanned using any modern day smart phone (iPhone or Android). The QR code is linked to a 40 second introduction video that I created for potential clients. When the recipient scans the QR code on my business card (or any other marketing material I add it to), they are instantly taken to YouTube right on their phone to view my video. The QR code can be linked to a website, a SMS message, an image or even an electronic version of your business card (they scan the code and your contact information is automatically downloaded and added to their phone address book).
Following these 5 tips could help you meet more quality clients and partners.