Every so often, I like to surprise my newsletter subscribers with some free advice on a question they have. I recently sent an email that simply asked for a business challenge each subscriber faced. I received loads of replies with questions related to my areas of expertise like social media strategy, content marketing, and business networking.
One question that stood out was specifically about networking from Paul Schatzkin. Paul asked me what to do with the stack of business cards, which had accumulated over the past year on his desk. He joked that most of the cards were received from the “ritual card swap” at events. His problem is that he doesn’t recall many of the people. What should he do with these cards?
Prevent Business Card Pile Up
This happens to most of us from time to time, especially when we return home from a large conference where we meet many people. The best way to prevent this from happening in the first place is to follow these steps:
- When you receive a business card, find a quiet moment to write a note on the back of the card about the person. Be sure to include how you should follow up.
- When you return home or to your hotel room, scan the business cards using the free Evernote app. Send a LinkedIn connection request automatically (unfortunately, this defaults to the generic connection request message.) Add private notes about the person, like how you can help them and what you spoke about.
- Send a follow up email. Determine how you can bring value. Why not share a link to a story you were speaking about at the event? How about scheduling a coffee or lunch? It’s good to add a note that you sent them a LinkedIn connection request, and you are happy to provide an introduction to someone in your network should they need it.
Now back to Paul’s pickle. I still believe there is value in growing your network using the cards you received, even if you don’t remember the person or where you met. In this case, I would scan each card and connect on LinkedIn using the aforementioned Evernote app.
How to Deal with the Pile of Business Cards
Your LinkedIn connection request may jar their memory. They may remember you and help you to connect the dots. If they don't remember you and ask how you met, it's time to be honest and tell them you don't recall. You can politely explain that you received their business card, but you have attended so many conferences recently that you're not certain which one you met at. Now would be a good time to ask them if they attended one of the events you attended.
I love email, because you have a record of your communication, whether it's the immediate follow up, or the humble reminder of how you met. I recommend using a service like Contactually to keep your connections in check. It automatically tracts your contacts in your email and reminds you when you should follow up. You can also use Baydin's Boomerang to set a reminder date for this too.
Now that you have the pile of business cards scanned in Evernote and connected on LinkedIn, you can decide whether to store them in a box or recycle them back to mother nature. The next time you're doing the ritual card swap, be sure to add the step of following up as soon as possible. This will make things much easier on you and your connections stronger. Thanks for the great question, Paul.
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This article originally appeared in The Tennessean newspaper.