We’ve all received business cards only to leave them stranded in a desk drawer and forgotten. Chances are some of the cards you’ve handed out to those you’d like to connect with have experienced the same fate. So how do you get the most out of your contacts' business cards? Here are some tips that will help you do just that.
1. Take a proactive approach
The most effective way to use business cards is taking a proactive approach. When given the choice of receiving someone’s information versus just giving them my card, I always choose taking their information. When you’re receiving contact information, rather than giving, it puts you in control. You can initiate the next contact on your timeline—and as proactively as you’d like. So, anytime you hand out your business card, ask for one in return.
2. Stay organized and take notes
Always keep the business cards you’ve received organized and together. If you’re attending a conference, store the business cards you receive with your conference badge so you know when and where you received them. Another way to keep business cards, contacts, and conversations organized is to jot quick notes down on the back of the cards you’ve received. Take notes on whether it’s urgent to get back to the person or not, and take notes about the conversation you had with them. This will help you remember the individual and in writing a personal follow-up. Try to immediately log all the contact info you received electronically in a way that also references bits of conversation you had with that person after receiving their card.
3. Follow up immediately
Set yourself apart by responding via email within 24 hours of receiving a card. Although it might seem like an immediate follow-up makes you look too eager or pushy, keep in mind that your new connection provided you with their information so you could be in contact. The least awkward time to initiate contact professionally through email would be immediately after meeting them. This will come across as more personal than reaching out a couple weeks or a month later. If you exchange information with someone, make them a professional contact immediately. Who knows what the future could bring.
Remember, the key to giving and receiving business cards is making sure to initiate continued contact with that individual after meeting in person. Don’t waste the personal connection you made. Personal connections are stronger than those made over the phone or through email. Take advantage of the networking opportunity that was literally handed to you.