What to Do with That Old Stack of Networking Business Cards
Networking business cards! They are so retro! But sometimes you go to an event and collect a little stack of them.
Where do you put them? Anywhere, right?
When do you retrieve them from your purse, pocket, phone case, etc.? Sometime in the next eight months, right?
They stack so nicely into a little pile of uselessness.
Once upon a time – a time called “The Nineties” – serious businesspeople had systems and methods for the influx of cards, which were much more important back then, because you really did need people’s phone numbers and physical mailing addresses if you were ever going to find them again. You might send a handwritten thank-you note, perhaps on some kind of business logo notecard. You might make an unscheduled landline phone call. You would probably have a Rolodex:
You would consider this Rolodex very important and sometimes take it home with you. A backstabbing assistant might steal it! (Didn’t this happen to Samantha Jones?)
Some people would keep a spreadsheet (possibly on a non-networked computer!), because very few people’s networking business cards had their picture on them, so you would really need to write down that you met Darlene at the Chamber of Commerce mixer on 3/15 and she was wearing a blue shirt and you both have dogs and she is looking for referrals in the custom homebuilding industry.
I wasn’t old enough to do these things, exactly, but I am old enough to have gone, as a teen, on aspirational trips to the office supply store, to look longingly at all the black, navy, and burgundy colored office supplies (those were the only colors, there was literally nothing that said BOSS BITCH in gold foil on white velvet), and satisfy myself with a black leatherette padfolio I would use in debate tournament. I rocked.
But enough ancient history. (I also had a bellybutton ring in the early aughts. I could do this for awhile, actually.)
Here is what you should do when you get someone’s business card.
1. As soon as you have a free moment away from the person who gave you the card, make a note physically on the card
…about where you met and what you should contact the person about (“Museum charity benefit, interested in our videoconferencing solution”). A lot of cards are annoyingly glossy, so a fine-tip Sharpie can come in handy.
Or, alternately, make a note in your phone containing this information and any needed information from the card, and then either toss the card, or put a checkmark on it to indicate that you have done this.
Some people are offended if you write on their card in front of them. Treat the card with respect, even though I also recommend that you recycle this card forthwith.
Also, if the person is just trying to sell you something or get free advice from you, do none of these things. They’ll contact you. If they don’t, great! Recycle that card!
Of course there are apps for all of this – where you can photograph a card and its details will upload into your CRM – but if you deal with a small handful of cards a month, we can keep it simple.
2. But you didn’t do any of that, did you? And now you have a stack of three years’ worth of networking business cards, which is why you clicked on this post.
That’s OK! It is 2020! You do not have a Rolodex instinct.
When you clean out your bag and find eleventeen business cards floating in it, put them in a little stack next to your computer.
One-by-one, send a version of this email:
I was just going through my papers and found your business card! I can’t remember where we connected, but I thought I’d drop a line. I’m Jen, I go to a lot of National Association of Women Herpetologists events and other women in science groups, and I’m head of SnakeCo.
Happy to connect on LinkedIn as well: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jensnakedoc
Hope all is well with you and in your business!
“The Snake Doc”
Come to SnakeCon Dec 1-2 in Las Vegas: www.snakecon.com
That is, make your email signature a list of every link you have. Go for broke, inasmuch as your industry permits it! Put a tiny picture of yourself! Or a snake!
Save this email as a Google Canned Response, in Notes on your computer, or similar.
Send the emails, then recycle those cards.
I wrote in How to Go From Inbox 20,000 to Inbox Zero in One Hour that everyone gets behind on email, and there’s no need to lie and say “Oh no, your email went to spam!” or “I wrote you a reply three months ago and it got caught in Drafts!” Just say you got behind on your email, “dropped the thread,” etc., and re-initiate.
No one expects you to follow up promptly on every business card you receive. Anyone who does is probably a full-time salesperson. You are not. So be honest, be cool. Your purse is full of crumpled business cards that smell like Tic-Tacs. Your networking business cards are also at the bottom of purses that smell like Tic-Tacs. There is no need for embarrassment about the human condition. Make the first move in a semi-automated fashion, then let it go.