For SMB professionals, business can depend on our ability to build and maintain our network; driving new conversations with existing customers as well as generating new leads. Often the most impactful way to develop the business is to establish and strengthen relationships.
To build your business, especially if you are self-employed, you need to become a pro at establishing a connection with someone quickly, collecting contact information, and capitalizing on the follow up. You know what that means…business cards. Though the initial conversation is important, it is what happens in the following days, weeks, and months that can make a difference for your business. Like any relationship, creating genuine connections within your professional network takes time. Read on for tips on how to ensure the business cards you collect convert into new leads and resources for your business.
It’s easy to gather a stack of business cards and toss them in your desk drawer following a networking event or business trip, but doing so is a huge missed opportunity! First, add useful notes and details to the card. The context of the meeting and key discussion points will be immensely helpful for future conversations.
Next, digitize them! Scanning business cards helps eliminate clutter, it preserves the information, and, with the right tools, seamlessly integrates the data into your contacts. Some scanners, like Fujitsu ScanSnap, integrate with repositories like Salesforce, or can send contacts to Outlook. If you’re simply scanning to PDF, make sure to use OCR (optical character recognition) and add keywords to make the files searchable – that way, you can search quickly by name, company, industry or any other category you decide to tag it with.
Send a thoughtful follow up
Keep the momentum going after a great in-person meeting with a thank you email or handwritten note within a week of meeting. Be upbeat, recap a highlight of your conversation, include a call to action, and be sure to provide your contact information again on the chance that they lost or misplaced your card.
Connect on social
Invite people to connect on LinkedIn to keep you and your business top of mind, as well as give yourself ammunition for future follow ups. Further, the information shared on these channels will keep you informed of professional news and milestones, providing reasons to reach out.
Be a useful and valuable connection
Networking is certainly a two way street, and the best relationships are those that are mutually beneficial. Offer your expertise, services or other resources when they will add value to your network. Pay it forward to build a strong, positive, personal and professional brand.
Implementing and practicing these tips after attending tradeshows and networking events will help foster lasting personal and professional relationships with new colleagues and contacts. They can also help support business growth by driving sales, increasing brand awareness and finding the right vendors, partners and advocates. Word of mouth and friendly referrals are valuable beyond measure for businesses of any size, but are especially crucial for SMBs.
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