By Brent Kelly
Networking and business cards. They go together like peanut butter and jelly.
If I have learned anything from my 15 years of business networking, it’s that you can collect a ridiculous amount of business cards in an hour.
I have a drawer full of hundreds of business cards from people whom I have connected with in the past. Many of these cards have not been touched or looked at in many years. In fact, many were not even addressed the days following the networking event.
Besides the fact that I did a terrible job of following up, there was no real connection made, no engagement, and no valuable reason to follow-up.
Great networking has never been about a business card, it’s always been about a connection.
I used to keep track of how many business cards I collected and how many business cards I gave out. The more cards obtained and given, the greater level of success I felt I had achieved.
At some point, I realized how ludicrous that concept was.
Today, I would take one valuable new connection over 100 informal business cards any day of the week. I am not anti-business card. I actually like business cards (see my Google Me card above). What I don’t like is what they often represent………empty relationships.
If you grabbed a stack of business cards right now and went through them, how many people could you provide immediate value for? How many of them are still even working at the same job from when they gave you their card? Networking is not about products, services, or companies.
Great networking is about finding ways you can provide actual value to the other person.
The best part of networking today is that you don’t really need a business card to connect or follow-up. Use LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter to connect. If you have a smart phone, you have virtual and interactive Rolodex in your pocket at all times.
Not only can you connect using business social media channels, but you can find common interests, share valuable information, employ humor, and continue a conversation 24/7/365 with anyone.
My Challenge to You
The next time you attend a networking event, don’t carry any business cards (or at least pretend not to have any).
When you are having a new conversation with someone you are interested in following-up with pull out your smart phone and connect on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. Sure, you can still put them in your CRM, but go check out their social profile first. Then when you get home, send a value message to that person on one of those business social media channels.
Think of that person’s desired customers and vendors. How can you help connect them to new contacts or valuable information?
Sure, this can be done via business card with a follow-up email, phone call, or coffee appointment and I would still recommend that. But why would you waste the opportunity to provide value on a platform like LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter to take the conversation to a higher level?
No, not every networking contact will be active in business social media, but I can promise you that most are active in at least one of these platforms. Stop thinking about networking as a one or two-time event and start approaching networking as a continual process.
I guarantee if that if you provide consistent value to those contacts you meet at a networking event, you will make more friends, develop higher quality business relationships, and obtain more clients.
Question: How do you follow-up after attending a networking event?
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