6 Powerhouse tips to Networking with a Business Card

About a year ago I finally admitted something.   I was a hoarder.  I had stacks and stacks of business cards and had no idea what to do with them.   I met so many wonderful and inspiring people whose work I wanted to follow and who were genuinely interested in my projects, but when I looked at their card a day, a week, a month, or worse a half year later I couldn’t recall who initiated the conversation, what we talked about, why we exchanged cards, and even worse…I didn’t care.   

     At some point in the life cycle of business card exchange those whom you give your card no longer care to hear from you and even worse YOU DON’T CARE to nurture that relationship.

I realized I was squandering hundreds of valuable relationships and that had to end.   

Over the last year I’ve developed a system that I use to nurture these unique relationships.

The follow-up response rate to business cards is astronomically low,  therefore having a response system for every card you receive is the easiest way for you to set yourself apart. 

Here are 6 easy steps to get the most value from all those cards you collect.

Stage 1:  Act Immediately

When you receive a business card, immediately jot down notes on the back highlighting key points from the conversation.    Be sure to write a short one-word descriptor regarding why you took the card in the first place.

Stage 2:  Connect Virtually

LinkedIn is a great way to build your professional social network.  Many people want to keep their professional life and personal life separate and there are numerous professional social networks to help them fulfill that desire.   Find and connect with your new contact via your professional social network of choice.  I usually connect via Twitter and LinkedIn. 

Stage 3:  Categorize for the Future

Do you have a great blog with content your new contact asked to read or have a new app or product coming out for which they wanted an update?   Adding your contact to your CRM of choice makes it very easy to keep new contacts informed of new developments, events, or simple updates.    I have several projects I’m working on with separate contacts lists in the CRM I use.    In the evening before bed I add each contact to the list they asked to join.  In this way when I have an event I don’t have to remember to reach out to them to invite them.  When I add them to our events list they will receive the latest news when those newsletters go out. 

Stage 4: The Personal Touch

Nothing is better than a personal touch. Send an email in the days following your first contact.  In the initial email express thanks or appreciation for the meeting and recap the conversation.  This is as much for you as it is for them.  In the future, both parties will be able to refer back to this initial email to recall the purpose of the connection.   Put as much detail as you can while being creative in your delivery.   To avoid an avalanche in someone’s inbox try to avoid sending the follow up on Monday morning. 

Stage 5:  Schedule ALL future Correspondences

  1. Set a calendar reminder to ping the contacts with whom you’d like to build the strongest relationships. The time between pings can vary, determined (informed) by what would be reasonable given the desired relationship and their schedule.  
  2. Come to mind: I’ve received numerous opportunities because I’ve been at the forefront of someone’s mind when they were in need of my skill set.   Even writing someone once a year can be enough to keep a relationship fresh and keep you on their mind for future opportunities.

Stage 6:  Stop the Madness

The last stage is the most gratifying and for some of you may be the hardest:  Throw the card away!

Conclusion                                                                                                                         

No one can ever overemphasize the value of relationships in any business.  A stack of cards sitting on your desk doesn’t a nurtured relationship make.   Take steps TODAY to reduce clutter while building a vibrant and valuable professional network.  

I’d love to hear from you!  What ideas have been useful to YOU?

David France is the author of Bestselling book Show Up: Unlocking the Power of Relational Networking, he is a Speaker, violinist, string pedagogy clinician, and Founder and Executive Director of Revolution of Hope, a music for social change initiative transforming inner city lives through the arts. You can tweet at him or follow his project on