If you do a lot of networking and attend a lot of events, you probably collect a lot of business cards. Those little cards pack a lot of powerful information if you know how to use them. People may sift through them and pick out a select few that they have an immediate need for, while others may toss the less meaningful ones into the trash.
Most recently, I was asked about what should be done with all the business cards that you aren’t utilizing immediately. As the educational coordinator for a local chapter of BNI, a global networking organization, I come across a lot of articles that pertain to networking and how you can get the most out of marketing your business with limited resources. One article helped answer the question of what you should be doing with the business cards that you collect at networking events. Though this article is available to members only, I thought it would be beneficial to highlight the very basics of the article here, while adding a few extra marketing tips and notes of my own.
Don’t throw those cards away! They are powerful.
Anytime you attend an event, you get to extend and grow your network of contacts. Whether you come across people who can help you immediately or those who you may think that you have no foreseeable connection with, you need to consider that each of those contacts also come with their own extended network. It is those very extended networks that can benefit your business in ways you may not immediately realize.
Here are a few tips on how to get the most of those business cards before you consider tossing them (which after reading this you won’t!):
1.) After you leave the networking event, write down one note on each of the cards that pertained to something you talked about. Maybe it was about a common connection that you have or your favorite sports team. Either way, shared interests is vital when establishing relationships with new connections.
2.) Wait a few days and send that person a follow up email or handwritten note in the mail. Mention something to do with the shared interest note that was on the back of the card as a way to jog their memory of you and your business. We meet a lot of people at these events, so it’s important to have something you can refer back to and create a mental queue for both yourself and the contact. The quicker you can build on that connection the better, and a great way to do that is to make the offer to connect them with someone in your own network. This lets them know you are willing to trust their business and helps them gain the trust of your network, which is one of the most valued assets you can initially offer. If you have no way of connecting them to someone you know, or you don’t think they can connect you with someone at the moment, thank him or her for their time, and tell them you enjoyed meeting. Offer to help them in the future. Again, the quicker you can develop the relationship, the better. Asking them to talk more over coffee may give you even further insight into people from each of your networks that may benefit the both of you.
3.) Enter their information into your CRM and take notes of your conversation and email correspondence. Make a note to connect with them in a couple months to check in, ask about business, and maybe set up a meeting.
Your time is valuable, and when you attend networking events, it’s important to not let that time go to waste. The power of networking is real, and even if you don’t make a solid connection at that very moment, you never know who it can connect you to in the future if you stay in contact.