I’ve Collected All Of These Business Cards…… Now What?
Like most networkers I am sure you go to an event with a plan, humor me and tell me you have a plan. Your plan should contain how many new contacts you would like to meet, what type you would like to meet and you have already checked that you will have plenty of business cards. (Please make sure you have enough cards, it really is annoying when you meet someone that could be a client, a power partner or someone you could refer business to and you or they are suddenly out of cards.)
You put your awesome plan into action and you come back from the event with a pocket full of cards that go in a pile on a desk and there they sit, for weeks, months maybe even years. You keep repeating this over and over until you run out of room on your desk for cards and of course you can’t find the one card you need. It took me a couple of years before I figured out that I was not making the most of a networking event. I am sure by now you have read everything that you have seen online on how to best “work” a networking event. Collect cards, don’t collect them, and make notes on them and so on. I can’t tell you the best way to “work” a networking event but I can tell you what works for me.
First and foremost, don’t spread yourself too thin. I have seen it happen time and time again, new networkers and veterans; they belong to too many Chambers of Commerce or Professional/Business Associations. They spend their time running from one event to another, meeting and collecting cards. Never really getting to know anyone at any of these events to establish relationships with. The only ones they seem to connect to are those that are like themselves and running from event to event. The saddest part is that they never really doing anything with the leads and thereby they underutilize their time. Remember this is not a popularity contest; this is not a race to see who can collect the most cards.
As I am meeting new contacts I make sure I ask them what they do and get them talking about themselves. This gives me a good idea on what category I will be putting them in. If the person does not ask what I do after we have chatted, their card goes into the “don’t follow up” pile. I know it sounds harsh, but honestly if they don’t ask me about me, I am not going to make the effort to follow up. If they wish to follow up then that will be up to them. These cards go into a separate pocket in my purse; if you are a man, use a different pocket in your jacket or pants. The cards of people that I have met are acted on immediately after the event, either that night or the following day. I check to see if they are on Linked In and request to connect. If I can see an immediate connection or possible fit, I will ask them to meet for coffee or conversation. Once I have done that I add them into my CRM, I use Business Contact Manager for Outlook, and of course there are plenty others, such as Sales Force, and a really Great one is SageCRM. Funny thing is that you can have the best CRM available, but it is only as useful as you make it.
Invest in a good business card scanner. This will cut down on the time it takes to enter the cards into your CRM program. Make sure you indicate where you have met the person at and any details you can remember, along with any action that is required. Business Contact Manager allows me to color code and categorize my contacts. I do this for each chamber that I am in I file them into 2 categories, Primary and Secondary. Primary is only for the contacts that I feel are of immediate importance. The people I have met that I cannot see an immediate connection or fit for them get placed in the secondary category. Take all of the cards; put a sticky note on them with the event/chamber/date. Everything goes into a box. I save all of my cards because one day I may need a resource or one of my networking contacts will need a resource. If I remember that I ran into someone at an event, I can look them up in my CRM. If I don’t know the name or if I have searched my CRM and can’t find it I can always pull the box out and give it a quick once over. Sometimes looking at the card will trigger the memory and you will be able to find the contact you are looking for.
Now you are saying to yourself, “Why keep the one’s I really am not interested in” , these make a good base for your email campaigns, for your newsletter and for when you need a resource in a hurry ( remember all of the appropriate rules). I recently had a networking friend reach out to me for some resources; I went to my CRM and pulled out quite a few that I found in my database.
Before you start complaining about having thousands of cards, you can’t possibly enter them all in etc. Get a card Scanner and do 100 a week, if that is over whelming then just start with the next event and work your way from there. Remember, this system works for ME, it may not work for you but take what I do and make it your own, because to be honest with you, that’s what I did.