Taming the Business Card Monster
It’s Fall, which generally means show season in the Lower Mainland. Thinking of events that either I attended or I know some of my networking group members were exhibiting at or attending, there were at least three good opportunities to get your business out there in the past week alone. There was the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce Business Showcase – always well attended, the Girls Night Out Fundraiser for the Port Moody Arts Centre, and the large and bustling Vancouver Home Show.
Chances are good that you left these or any other networking events with a pocket, purse, or briefcase full of business cards that you collected. While the temptation to leave those cards in a pile on your desk or in a drawer to deal with later can be great, don’t do it! We’ve already discussed the importance of following up after networking events, and dealing with business cards systematically is an excellent way to start.
First, use the business cards to makes notes as soon as possible after meeting someone. You might want to make notes immediately, in the venue, before you leave. This can be especially helpful if you want to set up a meeting with them or promise to follow up. Otherwise, you might decide to wait until you get back to your car or your office. Regardless, include information such as the date, where you met, who introduced you, conversation highlights, physical characteristics (if you wish), and any other relevant information – whatever helps you remember the person, what they need, and any action you promised to take.
Next, enter information into your CRM or customer/contact relationship management system. If you don’t currently have one, now is the time to do something about it! Talk to others in your network to find out how they manage their contacts, or hire a consultant to assess your needs and recommend a solution. People deal with those they know, like, and trust. It takes time to build and nurture relationships, so a system that helps you track your contacts and your interactions with them is essential.
As with everything in life, knowing what you “should” do and actually doing it are often two different things. If you know that you won’t enter business cards into your CRM, use an app such as CamCard, purchase a card scanner, or hire one of your kids, a student, or a virtual assistant – whatever it takes!
As you or your delegate enters the information, you will also want to categorize your contacts according to what makes sense for your business. Possible categories include client, prospect, referral source, supplier, newsletter recipient, particular industry, etc. Your goal is to be able to find your contacts easily and save time when performing tasks such as sending out your newsletter or other communications.
After you’ve entered the information from the cards you collected, decide how you are going to follow up with each and every one of the people you met. Then schedule your follow up and do it – by phone, email, handwritten note, or other means. There’s no point in networking and making all these contacts if you don’t actually do anything about it. So get out there, meet those people, and follow up!