The art of gathering business cards starts long before asking for a card and ends well after receiving one. Getting good business leads and cards at networking occasions, meetings or through other channels requires planning before an event, working with contacts at the event, and following up on a targeted, individual basis.
Before an event, get information about the meeting’s topic and speaker. Writing for the University of Washington Foster School of Business’ Technology Management MBA Talk website, 2009 MBA graduate Kalpesh Shah advised, not knowing “is not the best way of creating a positive image about yourself.” In his article “Learn From My Mistakes,” Shah says carry this information gathering further. Learn what you can about who is attending and who you want to talk to, with specific starter topics.
Make sure you carry enough of your cards. This seems simple. One goal of getting business cards is to make a new contact feel positive about meeting you. When you follow up later with someone you have exchanged cards with, you do not want to be remembered as the person who did not bring cards to the party.
Writing for ForbesWoman, author Jenna Goudreau has simple advice about when to get to a meeting. Arrive early. You will already know some people when others start showing up. You also have a better chance of being in a group conversation, rather than trying to walk into an ongoing conversation.
Before asking for a business card, ask questions. Building rapport and building trust are basic ingredients for successful marketing. Columbia Business School Management Professor Rita Gunther McGrath says talking too much about yourself “will get your business card dropped in the trash.” Show genuine interest, and keep your eyes on the person you are talking with.
Share your talents. Networking is a two-way street. Let other people know what you bring to the table without dominating the conversation. It may sound like a cliche to have a 30-second “elevator pitch” of what you do ready to go. The goal is to have that 30 seconds not sound like a pitch to make the other person more comfortable.
The British intercultural communication firm Kwintessential offers specific information about Japanese card exchanges. Some Japanese etiquette should be universal. When you get a card, study it carefully. Show respect for the person and treat the card as you would treat the person. Likewise, treat your cards as you would like to be seen.
Write information on the card specific to the person you met. This step is usually not done at the meeting, since time at the event is used to gather cards. Connect personal information with the card soon after the event so you can do a proper followup.
To move forward, follow up. Build the relationship with a short email or phone call the day after the event. Keep in touch a few times in the next few weeks. Extend the conversation with reminders of the meeting, article links or other items of interest. If meeting for coffee or lunch is appropriate, offer some available days and times.
To gather more business cards without meeting someone, use the fishbowl technique. Put a bowl at a business checkout counter. Offer a chance to win a prize in return for patrons dropping in a business card. If you do not have checkout counter, offer to sponsor a fishbowl prize at a favorite restaurant in return for getting the cards. You chose the winner.
For fishbowl runner-ups, offer something less than the grand prize in a follow-up email or phone call. This technique takes a broad field–total number of people who put a card in the bowl–and lets you apply a targeted response to the results. You decide who gets special offers based on information on the cards.