Powerful Networking Through Business Card Etiquette
Putting aside petty business card wars, proper business card etiquette can be an extremely powerful networking tool.
Image by girlie_in_sydney
Who can forget this fabulous business card exchange scene from the cult movie American Psycho, starring Christian Bale:
While modern day business card exchange is not likely to induce mass murder (unless you're swapping cards with David Berkowitz), it can be pretty cut throat and riddled with gloating, show-offs, and one upsmanship. Putting aside petty business card wars, proper business card etiquette can be an extremely powerful networking tool.
The Basics Of Business Card Etiquette
Before you go flinging about your business cards like they're going out of fashion - try to observe the following basics of giving and receiving business cards:
- Make sure you always have enough business cards. The amount of men who don't carry business cards or run out when networking at a function is laughable. You've just been given a card by the MD of a very big corporation and lo and behold, when you come to hand yours over - you have none left. Contact gone.
- If you're traveling to another country, get one side of your business translated into the appropriate language. There's no point handing your card over to a Japanese Marketing Director if he doesn't speak English.
- Bit of a no-brainer this one, but always hand the card over so that the recipients language is face up.
- After receiving a business card, don't just stick it in your wallet. Take some time to study it and make the person feel important.
- Hand business cards out to everyone and anyone. I hate men that hoard their business cards. Keeping a load of cards in your wallet may make you feel important but that's not going to get you a referral is it?
With the basics covered, let's look at how business cards can provide powerful networking skills.
How to use business cards for powerful networking purposes
By following the basics, you can ensure that a business card exchange goes smoothly. Once you have a number of cards from various contacts you need to be able to use them appropriately, not to mention ensuring that your business cards provide value to your prospects.
Organize your business cards for effective contact management
You'll need to find a way of keeping your contacts in an uncluttered format so that they are easily accessible and can be found quickly if needed. Old school traditionalists will stick to their trusty business card Rolodex, while more tech-savvy chaps will store them in a file on their laptop. If you're a super-nerd you'll probably want to buy a Samsung G600 which can store business card information by simply taking a photo of the card with the 5MP camera.
Once you've got your choice of system in place, it's a good idea to write on the back of the cards a few notes so you remember the person who gave it to you. When making contact with them later, the fact you've remembered them will be to your advantage. You can file them in whatever order you prefer, but personally I'd go with the simple A-Z. Other orders could be by company name or the category of business.
You might also want to set a reminder to go back and review your cards on a bi-monthly basis; you'll keep the contacts fresh in your mind and it might prompt you to make contact with a few of them again to go over unfinished business from the last time you spoke.
Make your business card a conversation starter
There is an unlimited number of things you can do with your business card to make it stand out from the crowd. Dare to be different and you could just spark a conversation with your next big client. This image from Matt Cutts' blog is one example of how business card creativity can stick in your mind:
Sadly, however, there is no contact information on this one but you get the idea.
Develop a business card strategy
Once you've got your fancy stand-out-in-a-crowd business cards all printed up and ready to go, you need to figure who you're going to distribute them to, where and how. Focus on your intended clients and think about where you'd be happy to receive a business card for your services. Place them on bulletin boards at local restaurants, supermarkets, libraries and include them in all snail-mail correspondence (even bills you pay). You never know who is going to come across your card and give you a call.
Give people a reason to keep hold of your business card
The longer people have your card, the greater the chance that someday they'll need to use your services. Giving prospects a reason to keep hold of your card could be the difference between them hiring you and them hiring someone else through the Yellow Pages. You can do this in a variety of ways by printing something unique on the back of the card. Things such as a calendar, a list of your services, important measurements, or anything relevant to your industry.
You could also add a referral coupon on the back, giving them a discount if they bring the card in to an appointment. Catchy slogans can work well, as can simple, to-the-point call to actions that show a direct benefit to the prospect: "All major credit cards accepted" for example.
Making sure that your business card asks for the business
One of the fundamentals you get taught as a salesman is to ask for the business. If you don't ask, you greatly reduce your chances of getting anything. Your business card needs to not only give the prospect a reason to contact you, it needs to flat out ask for it too.
Examples of this could include:
- Present this card for a 15% discount
- Log on to justaguything.com for FREE networking advice
The number of ways you can use business cards as a marketing tool is almost limitless. If you have any networking tips or advice for socializing at shows, conventions and events then please leave us your comments.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression.