You did it! You hit it off with someone at a networking event and the conversation is going really well. This person seems like a really great person to stay in touch with. As the conversation winds down you’re wondering whether you remembered to bring business cards with you.
I believe the answer is yes.
It’s a physical reminder. When you receive or share a business card it acts as a physical reminder of your conversation and any follow-up you hope will happen. That won’t happen if you write yourself a note in your phone, send yourself an email, or use an app to exchange contact cards.
Get it in writing*. Before passing your card, jot a note on the back about what you talked about or the resource you hope they’ll remember to share when they get back to the office. Do the same when you receive a card – and also add the date and name of the event. This will increase the odds that you’ll actually do the follow-up you said you’d do.
Make it memorable. Your business card has your logo and depending on the industry you’re in (e.g. real estate) might have your photo as well. This is an opportunity to increase brand recognition and help your new friend remember you when they see your card on their desk. Pro tip: Point out something on your card as you hand it over so they actually look at it.
Look professional. It’s unlikely that when you get home, you empty your pockets and toss all the business cards you collected into the recycling bin without a second glance. If someone hands you a cocktail napkin or scrap of paper with their contact info on it, there is a much higher probability that you’ll end up tossing it into the trash, maybe even before you get home – because it doesn’t look important. Don’t let this happen to your contact info when you are trying to stay connected.
Provide More (or Less) Information. Decide ahead of time what information to include on your business card that will make it easier for new contacts to learn about you and your work. Job hunting? Include your LinkedIn link. Are you a photographer? Include a link to your portfolio. Don’t like to receive random calls on your cell phone? Only list a landline or leave a phone number off entirely so all inquiries have to go through your email.
Make a statement. Show you care about the environment and support labor by printing your business cards in a union shop on recycled or certified sustainable forest paper using soy ink. Include the union bug and environmentally friendly symbols on the back.
Bottom line. Business cards are not dead. They also are not the point of networking. [click to tweet] Consider them a means to an end – the goal being building a supportive network based on strong relationships.
*Traveling? It's crucial to know how cultures differ around business card exchange etiquette. For instance, it's an insult to write on a business card in Japan.
In the comments
Why do you think business cards are still important and useful?
Share what you find challenging about networking. Maybe your question will end up as the topic of a future blog post!
Robbie Samuels has been recognized as a networking expert by Inc. and Lifehacker, and profiled in “Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It” by Dorie Clark. Check out “On the Schmooze” his new podcast.