You’re attending an industry networking party. At the end of the night you run into the CEO of a company you’ve been trying to get in front of for months. He’s about to leave, but you get two minutes to introduce yourself and hand him your card.
Two weeks later you still haven’t heard from him. Did he lose your card? Was he just being nice? Maybe he’s too busy. Could it have been your card?
Running a company, I’ve turned into a heavy networker. And like most networkers, I have a system for keeping track of people I meet: 1) collect their card, 2) write notes to remember our conversation, 3) scan the card into my contacts and 4) follow up after the event. The grit in the machine is when people don’t have a card, or try to be “different” without understanding how that difference hinders networking.
So I bring you: seven tips for your business cards to maximize your success when networking.
1. Bring Them
It sounds basic, but many people don’t. If you’re going to a networking event, reception, conference, meeting or any other social business function, bring business cards. Put them in your coat pocket. If you have multiple coats, keep a separate set in each coat. If you have a purse or wallet, put some there. You never know when you’ll have that chance encounter with a valuable contact.
2. Bring Extra
Bring more than you think you’ll need. Plan to have extra at the end of the night. I used to count them before I went into an event and count them when I left so I knew how many I gave out, a rough measure of how good I was networking that night.
3. Avoid High Gloss & Plastic
Sure they look nice, but you can’t write on them. Which means you’ve just taken away a key method for someone to remember you and your conversation. If you must use high gloss, use it only on one side.
4. Use Standard Size
Circular, extra small and extra large might be cute, but they’re difficult to scan and don’t fit into business card organizers easily. They’re also easier to lose, since you can’t keep extra large or circular cards in the stack with your other cards and the extra small ones tend to fall out and get lost in pockets or on the floor.
5. No Fancy Backgrounds
Your full color, beautiful background might look great, but it’s an optical character recognition nightmare. Aim to make your cards scannable or you’re just causing frustration when your information needs to be manually typed in or corrected.
6. Leave One Side Blank
Leave room to write notes. The exception here is if you do a lot of international business and the two sides are in a different languages. Small slogans can be fine, provided you leave ample room to write.
7. Include Relevant Details
Your business card is a reminder of an introduction, a form of advertising or a note to pass along to others. Include what’s needed to identify who you are and to take the next step in your relationship. Name, phone and e-mail are mandatory. Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs and web sites are recommended. Address is critical if you plan on people stopping by or mailing you; otherwise leave it off. Fax depends on your industry; for tech businesses, leave it off.
Tie your business card into your personal brand so that you get associated with the card. Make yourself and the card memorable by wearing something special, or including your picture on the card.
Finally, these are only guidelines. For certain situations, it may make sense to ignore this advice. But do so consciously, aware of the potential problems you may be creating by using a non-standard business card.
Good luck and happy networking!
Credits: The photo used in this article was taken by Andy Roberts.