So you got a business card – what’s next?

The business card is a beautiful thing. It’s small in size and concise in content, but it’s perfectly complete for its purpose. When someone gives you their business card, they’re saying that they may want to work with you and inviting you to take the next step.

But what is the next step?

The first time I exhibited at a trade show for my greeting card studio, Things by Bean, I collected stacks of business cards. But I didn’t know what to do with them! I tucked them away in a business card album, proud to have them but totally unsure of what to do with them. Six years on, I’m finally valuing business cards for what they are – a very viable, very real lead. And like all leads, it needs to be carefully nurtured to convert into a real business opportunity.

This year, when Things by Bean exhibits at the Life Instyle trade show for the sixth time, you bet I’ll be doing everything I can to make the most of every business card I get my hands on.

This is my business card game plan:

1. Be sure to ask everyone if they have a business card. Most people don’t offer them to you automatically, but are usually happy to hand one over if you ask. If they’ve run out (which happens a lot at trade shows), have a paper and clipboard ready at all times. The paper should have boxes or lines for people to jot down their name, business name, position, phone number and email address.

2. After you’ve had a chat, gotten that business card and said goodbye, jot down some notes about your chat. Do it right away before you forget! You may think you’ll remember the details but you’ll be meeting a lot of people and the specifics are almost certain to escape you. Right there on the business card, write three dot points about the person and what you spoke about. It’ll jog your memory when you’re going through leads and help you give your follow-ups some context.

3. When you follow up, be specific about the chat you had. The person you’re following up with would have also had heaps of conversations at the trade show or event, so they’ll need a bit of info to remember you and your product or service.

4. You’ll probably find that the business cards you collect will fall into two categories: direct leads and indirect leads. Both are important but the former is the most valuable. Direct leads are people that could potentially work directly with your business – for me, those shop owners and buyers that may want to buy my cards in bulk as wholesale customers. You should follow up on those leads individually and in a highly personalised way. Include what you know about their business, address why you would be a good fit and be sure to extend any special offers you advertised at the trade show or event.

5. Next, indirect leads. These are people that don’t represent a big sales opportunity but could become retail customers – in my case, they may buy my cards in the Things by Bean online shop or seek them out at stocklists. For indirect leads, I recommend compiling their email addresses into a mailing list and sending out a special offer exclusively for your new friends – perhaps 20 per cent off in your online shop or something similar.

Jo Power, Director and Designer, Things by Bean

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