by Lea Schneider
It’s a pretty sure bet that somewhere on your desk is a business card that’s not your own.
While some might tell you that keeping contact information stored in your smartphone is the only way to stay organized, there are a billion reasons why that isn’t true. Actually, there are 10 billion reasons — the number of business cards printed in a year. Clearly, the exchange of business cards isn’t a dying art.
While working as a professional organizer with small business owners, I absorbed a lot of lessons about business card usage. Tucked into desk drawers, under keyboards and wrapped into bundles with rubber bands, they often represent lost opportunity.
As we’d sort paperwork and files, creating a sense of desktop order, I’d find business cards and set them aside. Eventually, we’d work to organize all of those contacts. As we went through the cards one by one, the reaction varied from joy over finding a possible business contact they’d forgotten to not being able to recall who gave them the card or why.
Business cards provide an opportunity for business growth. The more you network, the bigger your circle grows. The more it expands, the more contacts you meet and the more chances you have to build relationships and clients.
A business card’s effectiveness as a marketing and networking tool depends on how well it is organized. Try some of these professional organizer tips for getting your cards out and managing incoming ones:
Get Your Message Out.
- Keep business cards on your person and in your vehicle. It’s hard to fit a stack into a wallet, so get in the habit of carrying a business card holder.
- Keep them displayed in a holder on your desk or reception area for clients to grab.
- Exchange business cards in twos. Give one for your new contact to keep and one for them to share.
- Attach them to printed material. Tuck them into letters you send and affix them to packages.
- Customers hang on to a colored card 10 times longer than a white one. Consider that as you create and print your card’s design.
Manage Your Collection.
Keep in mind that gathering business cards is not a game where the person with the most cards wins. The winner is the person with the most information. If you can’t remember who the card is from, why you wanted it or when you got it, there is no point to keeping the card.
- As you receive a card, take a moment to jot a note on it. Add a keyword that will remind you later if the person is a potential client, vendor or employee, or what it is they were knowledgeable about that might help you. You can also add notes that help you remember the person by noting if you met them at a particular event or were introduced by an acquaintance.
- Follow up on cards. Take a minute back at the office to shoot off a fast email. It only takes a second to say you enjoyed meeting them and offer your services.
- File cards based on the keyword you added to the card. Potential client cards become a pool that you contact again with a special promotion, follow up in a week, reach out to on social media or invite them to follow your company. Having a file of vendors or sub-contractors to turn to is handy. Being able to quickly turn to a particular category is key to using the cards.
- Don’t hesitate to toss cards that don’t relate to you. If the card seems to be a dead end, let it go. It takes enough time to keep up with the contacts you have already.
- While you can add business contacts to your smartphone, doing so can get time-consuming. Considering there are billions of cards out there, you may be taking up valuable time and data to store information you may not use. Try limiting your digital contact info to only those people you actually do business with.
- Store business cards in card file boxes and add dividers to separate them. If you plan to reach out to a person several times, create divisions in the box for first, second and third contact. Move the cards from space to space to keep track.
- You can also scan business cards and store them electronically. If you intend to follow this method, be sure to set up a regular time to scan and store. Because your electronic files are not as visible a reminder as a paper file box, set up an electronic reminder for following up with contacts.
- If you’re not good with names, consider storing the card by what you remember about that person. If you remember that they are a plumber or graphic artist, write the job title on the top of the card and file accordingly. For example, file graphic artists under “G.” A consistent routine of this will soon have all your graphic artists’ cards in one spot.
There are many ways to store and organize cards. The right way for you is one that helps you actually use the wealth of knowledge you have acquired. The only wrong way is just creating piles you eventually toss.
Lea Schneider is a professional organizer who helps people manage their personal and business lives. She has a toolbox of tricks and tips to help you organize your office, which includes desk organizers and storage bins. Visit The Home Depot to find all your storage needs.