What To Do With 97 Business Cards
Copyright 2005 Stacey Morris
Networking events are a waste of time if you don’t leverage your contacts. If you’ve ever been to a networking event, you know that you can meet dozens of people in a short amount of time. Sometimes these turn into valuable contacts or even clients. But most of the time you come home with a plethora of business cards, and can’t match the face to the name. A handful of people might stand out for you, but if you haven’t organized your contacts and information before leaving the event, you could be left not remembering the name of that woman who knew a valuable lead for you, or that man who wanted you to send him some information on your business.
The right marketing strategy can help you build and maintain business relationships.
To maximize your time and energy, and make sure the contacts you make remain valuable, you need to prepare and stay organized before, during, and after each event. The keys are to be consistent in the way in which you organize your information, and keep your system up to date.
Before the event
Prior to entering the room, have a specific purpose in mind. What type of event are you attending? Networking can be done at events ranging from a formal Chamber of Commerce meeting to a dinner party. How many people do you want to meet? What type of professional or business are you looking for? Are you looking for clients or contacts? Remember, most people have a sphere of contacts in the 200-250 range, so a contact could ultimately prove more valuable than a client. What kind of information do you want to collect—business cards, addresses, emails?
Prepare an “elevator speech”- a 10-20 second commercial about what you do and the specific benefits you offer. The goal of this commercial is to generate further interest. Some people will want to know more, so prepare an extended version, outlining how you help people specifically, through a program you’ve developed, a service you provide, or a product in which you have expertise.
Prepare some materials that you can send to interested contacts. Have a brochure, outline of services, sample product, article, anything that you can mention during the event, and then send out. Again, the goal of a networking event is to generate interest in your service or product, and maintain the connections you make. The number of contacts is not as important as the quality.
During the event
During the event, you want to do three things.
First, when you interact, emphasize quality over quantity. This is easier said than done. The only way to know if someone you meet is a prospect is to focus the conversation on them—what they do, how they do it, the types of leads they’relooking for. As Jay Levinson writes in Guerrilla Marketing, “Realize that all long-term relationships are reciprocal. If you help strangers, they’re far more likely to want to work with you in the future.”
Second, ask for two business cards from contacts. Offer to pass the second on to a friend or colleague that might be interested.
Third, make sure to make a note at the back of each card you receive, if you think that person can be a contact. Jot down where you met them and any reminder details, such as “…looking for a printer”or “…opened their business last month”. If you’re collecting a lot of cards and you don’t have time to make notations, you can bend the corner of the card to remind you that this person is a definite follow-up contact. The bottom line is that the more information you have about someone, the better your chances of a successful follow-up.
If you’ve done your homework at the event, you should have a group of business cards and names that you can sort. Only a handful may be truly valuable, and these you want to give the “gold treatment”. They will become part of your permanent database.
Immediately after the event, send a short handwritten notecard or letter to the contact, that briefly recaps what you discussed. Then offer to refer appropriate business to them, should it come your way.
Add the relevant contact information to your database, including information on what constitutes a good referral to that person. Also indicate whatever correspondence you have shared. Whenever you come across an article or clipping that might be of interest to your contact, send it.
Review your database regularly and frequently. Develop a keep-in-touch strategy that helps to maintain and nurture your contacts. According to marketing expert Robert Middleton, this strategy is the most important vehicle for establishing long-term business relationships.
Proper networking can make the difference between success and failure. Networking is not a one-shot deal, and building relationships is key to building a successful business. By preparing for every event, organizing our information, and practicing excellent follow-through, we can massively increase our success at networking. If you can formally integrate these principles into your marketing strategy, you’ll find that you can apply keep-in-touch marketing to your daily life. Networking happens every day—at the hairdressers, a friend’s dinner party, little league game—and if you can recognize and maintain valuable contacts, you’ll find your success increasing dramatically.
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