As the holidays approach, there will be many opportunities to meet and greet, and collect business cards. One might think the more the merrier. But not so fast, there are reasons to not start a variation on a baseball card collection (some of you may remember when such a collection was a big thing).
What got me thinking about business cards was the marketing meditation of last Friday in 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons for Marketing & Communications Professionals by my friend Larry Smith and Richard Levick of Levick strategic communications. It states:
“Always have an excuse to collect a bunch of business cards. During a speech, mentioned some great article you can send them. ‘Please leave me your business cards and I’ll see to it that you get the article.’”
Over the years I’ve given similar advice at my marketing seminars. I go one step further and invite participants to come up and, in case they are out of business cards, put their name on a pad of paper placed up front.
The reason I agree with the tactic mentioned for speeches, is that it is more difficult to come away with contact information in order to follow up with a large audience. So, I see no reason for not gathering as many business cards as possible in that setting. At a minimum it will help you build up your database.
However, I have a different view about gathering as many business cards as you can in a networking situation. At a networking event, presumably you have more face time, and can determine more readily the persons you would like to follow up with. Further, you don’t want to be seen as a gadfly who walks around the room asking for business cards with no purpose in mind.
After either event, following up is often the biggest problem for lawyers. Grabbing a bunch of cards really means little, because often lawyers merely throw them in a drawer when they get back to the office. I suggest that you focus on coming away with a half dozen or so cards from people you want to follow up with.
Then make sure you follow up with those people you obtain cards from. Suggestions might include sending a handwritten (preferably) “nice to meet you” note, or at least an email, to continue the dialogue and possible set up a lunch, if the person is local. The goal is to build on the relationship and your network.
Collecting business cards from strangers is a good business development tactic, but not if you don’t follow up, or have no strategy on how to capitalize on them.