We have all been there, a business card is thrust your way. What most of us do is take the card, stuff it in our pocket and then toss it when we get home. FORGET that kind of thinking right now, you just threw away a potential opportunity!
A seldom utilized networking technique is the art of business card networking. This is the process of exchanging business cards with others. Sounds simple, right? So why did you just throw away that business card? If you get in the habit of following these 4 steps, then you’ll be a master networker. No college degree required and no special linguistic skills needed.
1. Always Have Business Cards
You’ve heard the American Express phrase, “Never leave home without it.” Practice that with business cards. Absolutely, under no circumstances are you to go anywhere without your business cards. Don’t have any, then buy them immediately! This is essential because you can’t business card network if you don’t have cards or have them with you. Let me recommend a few places to keep business cards.
- Put 1 or 2 in your wallet (or purse).
- Give 2 or 3 to your spouse to do the same.
- Keep 5 or so in your car console (or glove compartment if you don’t have a console).
- At your day job (if you have one).
- Give 5 to your parents and ask them to give them to anyone who needs them.
I also recommend that you purchase a business card case, or at least some sort of carrier for the times you’ll need more. You don’t necessarily have to carry a stack of cards while you mow (which is ok because you already have 1-2 in your wallet). You just never know when you’ll need them and you can’t afford NOT to have them handy when needed. I used to fall into this trap and can’t tell you the number of times I had to ask my wife if she had a business card of mine. Now I never leave without the spares in my wallet and my business card case in my pocket.
2. Give Them Away
Do not be afraid to give away your cards. At first this may seem hard, after all you spent good money on them. I have been through this too, I thought that if I gave out my business cards sparingly and to only really good prospects then I’m effectively marketing. Forget it! Give them away! Get rid of them and then buy more. Yes some of those cards will end up in the trash, some of them may get lost in a pile or Rolodex, but most of them will be kept for networking on their part too. Building a network is vital to building your web design business. Think about it, if someone wants to start investing the first place they usually go is to their loved ones and friends for referrals. Even if your great aunt Susan doesn’t have a website and has never used your services, if Myrtle, her dearest friend, asks her for a referral, she’ll pull out your business card (or information) and give it out. Instant marketing with no work!
3. Ask For Them
Get in the habit of asking for business cards from everyone. Their business card is like gold to your web design business. Think of it as a mission, a well purposed mission of collecting as many business cards as you can everyday. Do this tactfully and with sincerity, anybody can collect a 100 cards a day, but they will be worthless. If you’re not passionate about your web design business and its success, then don’t bother. The method to this madness is: the more people you talk to daily and exchange business cards with the larger your network grows. Remember that 90% of your initial business will come from within your network. So build it up.
Don’t concern yourself with quality leads, potential clients, or anything like that. The point of this step is to get you into the habit of asking people you speak with (like you do every day) for their business card. The majority of your immediate network (those you exchange cards with) will not be your clients, but they have referral power which can sometime be far greater.
4. Follow up, Follow up, Follow up!
The real crutch to business card networking is in this step. This is where the majority of people lose the game. You now have a stack of business cards which you accumulate on a fairly regular basis. What do you do with them? What do most people do with them? What you should be doing with them is following up! This can be a quick call the next day to tell them you had a nice lunch with them, it could be writing them a thank you note and mailing it (yes in the snail mail), or it could be an email doing the same. The point is that you are initiating contact with them again, you are bridging the great divide that is between you both every day. You are making yourself available to them and their needs. The more they remember you, or recall how polite and passionate you are, the more they will refer someone they know to you.
You know you could even add them to or create a business email newsletter. Something that is relevant, opt out friendly, and yet it opens the door for direct marketing. There is nothing better than shaking the bush of your network and seeing if work falls out. Some of my best business relationships have been fostered through a bush shaking experience.
While growing my business, I have failed every step above:
- I didn’t always keep cards at hand.
- I was afraid to waste my money by handing out my cards too easily.
- I failed to ask for their business card.
- I horribly didn’t do anything with the cards I kept.
Learn from my initial mistakes, avoid them and give it a try. Start building your network today.
Do you have any tips on business card networking, using your business cards creatively? How do you follow up with your business card leads?