What do you do with a business card 2: the ones you collect!

This is the second post in a short series on business cards.  The first post was about the design of business cards, and the second what to do with your own business cards.

This post is going to cover what you do with the business cards you collect – and here I am assuming you are actively collecting business cards while networking to promote and market your business. It is important, once you have collected them to do something with them.

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I recommend that you keep all of the information you collect as you never know who you might meet in the future. One of the attributes of an excellent networker is that they put other businesses in touch with each other if they can see a good link – whether or not that is of benefit to their own business. If you are known as someone who works hard to support other businesses, then other businesses will remember you and promote your business too.

1. Keep the business cards

You may want the information for a number of reasons-

they do something that would be of use to you in your business

you know/ meet someone else who would benefit from the services/products they offer

they do a similar business to you and you want to meet them for a 121 to see if there are ways you can help each other out

A box full of cards is better than no cards at all, but it would be much easier for you to get at the information if you have spent some time – or got someone else to- organise the information for you.

2. Create a database of the information on the business cards

This can be as simple as a spreadsheet with the key information on it – you can even include key words to remind you about the unique selling points of the businesses you are recording. This can then be searched in the future if you meet someone who, for example, needs a plumber, then search your spreadsheet for plumbers and pass on the information. What is even better is if you have heard a testimonial about the business at a meeting make a note of that so that you know you are referring a business that has a good track record.

If you are an active networker, though, a simple spreadsheet could soon become unwieldy and difficult to manage. If that is the case then there are a number of packages you can use to manage the data.

3. Contact management packages

Help you to record and track all contacts you make. This is useful to help you track the effectiveness of your contacts if you take the time – or employ someone – to keep them up to date. The added advantage is you could possible start by uploading the information you have already collected in your spreadsheet. There are a range available, with a range of costs depending on the level of use you want to make of them in managing your contacts. I am not going to name packages here as I am no expert – but I know people who specialise in supporting businesses using these packages and can refer you if you want more information.

4.Use an  app or package that takes an image of the business card.

These apps are available for your Smart phone or tablet and make use of the camera technology for taking the images. Many will also have a scanning or uploading facility to enable you to add larger documents and will also work on lap tops or desk top computers. Talk to friends to see which ones they find the most useful. Many are available free for a basic service with limited volume, but then have a subscription service to enable you to do more of them. I also know of colleagues who use these apps to manage documents – but that is a whole other blog post.

Once you have added the data you then have the choice of keeping the business cards to pass onto to other businesses when making referrals or of disposing of them.

How do you manage your business cards? I would be interested in hearing what you do, and what I have missed from the list above.

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What do you do with a business card 1: using your own business card?

Having written a post about the way in which the design of your business card can affect its usefulness I have been asked to write a further piece about what you do with business cards. This has two elements – what you, as the owner of the business card, uses if for, and what the person who receives it does with it! I have decided to do this in 2 parts starting with:

What do you do with your own business card?

Image courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you don’t have your business cards with you and use them effectively you are closing down one of your communication routes.          

1.  Take them with you wherever you go

You never know when you will need it. I have lost count of the number of times when someone I know is talking to someone else in a social situation and says ‘get in touch with me’  and then writes out their email or phone number. DON’T  do this – use your business card – it has it all written on there, and you never know if they see the card they might know of someone who could need your services. Even if this is not your personal email address they can still contact you – or you can write your personal email or number on the back.  

 2. Have your cards somewhere where you can get at them easily. 

If you wear a jacket with pockets keep some of your cards in one of your pockets so that you can quickly get it out. If you don’t have pockets keep them in a box or holder that you can easily spot in your bag. If you are going to a professional meeting – especially a networking meeting hold a few in your hand for ease of access. It does not give a good professional image if you are scrabbling round in a bag for your business cards when you are at a networking meeting. Keep some in every bag you use so that you always have them with you.

3. Give them out to people They don’t do you any good unless they are circulating.

 If you have any additional pointers for the effective use of your own business card please comment below.

Business Cards

I don’t know about you, but I have looked at a lot of business cards in my time, especially since I have started the Admin Angel element of my business. One of the roles that I offer to businesses is to populate spreadsheets with information from the business cards they have collected while networking. This is a useful way of collecting the data in one place to use when referring your contacts to each other, and to use as the basis of any mailing or information sheets you may decide to do for your business.

But – and this is a big but – you don’t always get the information you need from the business cards you receive.

What do you do?

I don’t have the benefit of having met many of the people whose business cards I am using to garner the information and I regularly cannot tell what business the person is in who has given out the card. Even if the business area is obvious – what is the Unique Selling Point (USP)? Sometimes I have met the person that has given the card, but I cannot always remember them as I do a lot of networking, as do the people whose cards I am collating.

Contact Information

I am amazed at how often business cards do not have basic contact information on them – like a phone number, email or website. How are the people you have met going to contact you if you don’t include this information? Quite often there is 1 or 2 of the 3 elements I have listed, but I personally feel that you need all 3 to be an effective business. Different clients have different preferred ways of contacting their potential business providers and by closing down any of the routes listed above you are not helping your business to grow.

Some cards do not have the name of the person who has handed it out – only the business they are representing. This will not help with future contacts and does not help you to work out who is being effective in getting additional trade for your business.

Additional Information

In these days of online networking it is also a good idea to include your online networking links, any of which could act as your website if you feel you cannot afford one yet, or don’t have the time to maintain more than one online presence. You have a range of potential sites – Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest to name a few that I have used. I wouldn’t recommend listing all of them on your card as you would need an A4 sheet and it would be overwhelming. My next post will be on my observations about the benefits of different kinds of social media for different types of businesses.

Legibility

Some business cards look beautiful and very fancy, but finding, and reading, the information on them can be very difficult. So please, please think about the legibility of the print – size and the contrasts between the colour of the print and the back ground are very important. Make sure that the key contact information and name stand out in particular.

The other element of legibility is how cluttered the business card is – so be selective, but make sure that the card links to other potential sources of information.

Any other points?

I have heard lots of comments about using both sides of the card – this is great to get more information across but leave some space for a note to be written on the card as many people, myself included, like to make a note of where I have collected each business card. This helps me to see which networking groups are getting me the best contacts, but it also acts as a memory jogger if I am trying to remember more about the person who gave me the card.

Using colour or a distinctive shape to make your card stand out. A good idea, but remember that people who collect business cards will often store them in a business card box if yours doesn’t fit it could get lost. Also don’t let the colour or design take away from legibility or the information you are trying to pass on ( see my other points above).

I know my businessIMG_0689 cards are not perfect, and I will definitely be redesigning the Business Consultant one in the future as my business has developed and changed since I designed these. In the interests of openness, though I thought it a good idea to share my own cards so you can critique them too.