I Threw Away All the Business Cards on my Desk: Now What?

I had a few people who made the comment, “OK, I have thrown all the business cards away that were on my desk, now what do I do?” or “Now that all my cards are in the trash, where do I get more leads?” Another comment came from an associate of mine, “I did what you said and threw all my business cards away!”. I of course reminded him that this is not what I said at all. Thinking about it now I realize this may not have been such a bad idea for him… I have been in his office a few times and I know half the cards on his desk are over a year old! What if anything can business cards which you have had on your desk for over one year, most likely not followed up on at all, do for you now?

Ideally we have all removed our business card collection from our desk or at the very least are working through the stack by calling, making connections, adding them to our data base and slowly throwing those business cards away. I know this week I had some great conversations and reacquainted myself with those people behind the business cards! In fact right now I am skipping the first day at Blog World Expo just to catch up on calls. I have been regretting this decision at times today but the reality is following up with contacts is more important to me.

You are not alone if you threw away all of the business cards on your desk! Many people realize the cards on their desk were just too old to follow up on. The next step is to change how you follow up with them in the future! In my previous post, 7 Steps to Follow Up Success, I discussed my approach to following up with new contacts I meet at networking events, chamber mixers, trade shows, and expos. I also just read another great article by C.J. Hayden in the Entrepreneurs Blog section of About.com titled A Pocket Full of Business Cards. C.J. offers another perspective on following up with new contacts.

My challenge to you is to attend a networking event this week, collect new business cards, and implement the 7 Steps to Follow Up Success with them. Just don’t start another business card collection!

Why are you collecting business cards on your desk?

Today I was sitting at my desk scouring the internet looking for the allusive driver for my laptop which I had just wiped and reloaded with Windows XP.  Between what seemed to be hundreds of downloads trying one driver after another I was frightened by a small stack of business cards which seemed to be accumulating on my desk.

You know that stack of business cards that seems to grow and grow by your stapler, next to your pen cup, at the corner of your desk, or possibly a neatly 3 inch stack under your monitor…  Depending on your networking and social activities you can easily add another inch to your stack every month!  If you are anything like I used to be, this stack moves into some type of container or drawer.  Eventually all these business cards will end up in a box to be saved forever or at least until you find the box and realize you have business cards from people you met one time at a networking event three years ago whom you have never contacted.   Unless of course you have some strange desire to sell them on ebay 20 years from now there is no point in this.

Don’t worry you can save yourself from this tragedy!  How do you do it?  First look at the cards on your desk.  Is there 25, 50, or 250 business cards?  Using 50 for an example quickly look at each one and decide if this is someone you would like to connect with to explore a more meaningful relationship.  Once this is completed pick up the phone and explain to the contact your new found mission!  At this point you might be thinking to yourself mission, what mission?  The mission is to not collect business cards, keep them on your desk for months, and then finally years later throw them away.  Why not call them and say something like “Hi Alan, we met last month and a networking event and I have decided to take a new approach on the business cards I collect.  What I would like to know is how I might help you in your business?”  Or you can say something like I discussed in my previous post “I have to talk to the person again?”.

Imagine what you can create by simply engaging the people whom you have collected all these cards!  Jordan Adler, a networking master and expert in collecting business cards talks about the value of one business card in his recent book Beach Money.  Jordan Adler discusses how he turns one little square piece of paper into thousands of dollars.  How much business could you expect from one lifetime customer?  The answer will depend on your type of business.  In the book he asked a group this same question and the answers ranged from $2,000 to $300,000.  Jordan believes when he collects 100 business cards it is his job is to turn some of them into lifelong customers.  Each time he takes action the chances of one or more of those business card contacts turning into lifelong a customer increases.  Examples of actions to take are making a quick phone call, sending a greeting card, buying each person lunch, sending a gift, sending the contact business, staying in touch, and with some contacts doing all of these things.  So what is the lifetime value of YOUR customer?  Jordan does not look at a business card as just a card.  He looks at them like $100 and $1,000 bills.  Would you ignore $100 bills stacked up 3 inches high on your desk? 

Simply commit to call 3 or 4 of these cards each day until the stack is gone.  Once you have made this connection add these people into some kind of database.  You can use Outlook, ACT!, GoldMine, salesforce.com, or even index cards.  The database you choose is not important.  What is important is that you take notes on what you talked about and add them to your database for future reference, referrals, or business opportunities.  Once these cards are in your database THROW THEM AWAY or GIVE THEM AWAY!  Just don’t leave them sitting on your desk.