Advertising
Advertising

This Is How You Turn Business Cards Into Business Opportunities

This Is How You Turn Business Cards Into Business Opportunities

Networking with business cards is not dead. In fact, the digital age has brought about great opportunities for successfully connecting and following up after exchanging business cards.

Below, you’ll learn how to develop a follow-up system and turn your business cards into business opportunities.

Here is the basic formula:

  1. get your contact’s card
  2. digitize the card
  3. create a follow-up action list for each contact
  4. establish an objective for each contact
  5. create a memorable message for each contact
  6. send an email including a video and a call to action
  7. document next steps on your action list

Use your business cards to get business cards

Think of a business card less as a representation of yourself and more as a business card magnet. Your card is the key to exchanging more cards. Simply by having one, and offering it wherever you can, you’re encouraging a reciprocal relationship to form. Instead of worrying about the font or the color of your card, practice your approach to handing over your card in a way that ensures you get a card back. This is important, because once you nail that part, you can own the process of following up.

Business card exchange tips:

Get personal. When you connect with a lot of people, it can be easy to become a networking drone, and fall into predictable patterns. Your contacts likely experience the same thing. Shake up your interaction. Connect on topics related to something outside of business, like a hometown, sports team, or your love of dogs. Bond over something that helps your contacts remember you, and you remember your contacts.

Study your contact’s card before putting it away. Associate the moment with the information on the card to help you recall it.

Advertising

Cultures outside the US expect more formal business card etiquette. You can find a good overview of other countries’ customs here.

Build a system to simplify your follow-up process

Evernote is by far the best way to automate your follow up process. It’s a free program (with options to upgrade) and it excels at making hard documents like business cards searchable. Simply use the Evernote app to take a picture of the card with your phone. Evernote will pull the information from the business card, and store a picture of the card as well.

Automating your follow-up process with Evernote

Build a ‘Contacts’ Notebook. This is where you will scan business cards into, and where you will store important information about your contacts.

Create a Follow-up Template as a note. Creating one template now saves you time later. Copy this note every time you add a contact, and name that note after your contact.

Components of your Follow-up Template:

Advertising

  • Objective: what do you want this relationship to be? A potential customer? A connection for a job down the line?
  • Follow-up action items: use checkboxes.

Screenshot 2015-07-16 16.23.17 copy
    • Notes: what did you talk about when you exchanged cards? Keep note of anything memorable to jog their memory of the conversation and establish a personal connection.
    • Next steps: paraphrase their response here. Maybe they need more information from you, or they have sent you an action you need to take. Record that information here and list further action steps as needed.

    Screenshot 2015-07-16 16.23.17
      Using Tags

      Tags are a great Evernote feature that allows you customize your data even further. You can use tags to describe the stages your contact relationship is in with “follow-up”, “intro call”, or “monthly client”.

      Tags can also be used to keep track of dates: “Followed up on 7/1,” or, “Replied on 7/4.”

      Keeping track of these dates can be useful in evaluating whether it’s time to reach out again. Tags are important when you have a lot of contacts to manage. With Evernote, you can search for multiple tags at the same time, which allows you to cross-reference your contacts.

      Advertising

      Other Follow-up Evernote Tips

      The Evernote Web Clipper is an excellent browser extension that you can use to save emails, files or webpages your contacts share with you. Evernote integrates beautifully with Gmail if you want to keep a copy of your email. Make sure you tag the email to keep it grouped with the other contact information.

      If you prefer to handwrite your notes, Evernote can be used with more than just business cards. You can take a picture using the Evernote app and your handwritten notes will be searchable, and you can also tag them.

      The three parts of a successful introduction email

      Now that you have a system in place, it’s time to focus on the most important part: your introduction email. There are three parts of a successful email:

      Know your purpose. Networking without an objective is a waste of your time and your contact’s time. Know exactly where you want this relationship to go. Are you looking for a client, a mentor, a connection at a company? Use this objective to shape your introduction email.

      Advertising

      Create a memorable message in your email. Chances are you’re business card was one of many business cards your contact has collected. You’re likely also one of many people to follow up after providing their card to the contact. You want to be distinctive, increasing your likelihood of a response. Shari Alexander records a two minute video to send to her contacts, and with this process has achieved a 100% response rate. A simple video will not only stand out, it will remind them of who you are, especially if you include a personal note in your video.

      If video isn’t your speed, try a picture with a handwritten card, such as: “Great to meet you at Sales Con, John.” You are still benefiting from the ‘face to face’ connection, but without the time requirement of making a video.

      If their business card includes an address, you could forgo the email completely and write a handwritten card. It’s a lovely call back to the days of business past; it’s a showcase of how much you valued meeting them, and it’s a treat for them to receive something so personal in the mail.

      Include a call to action, and make it easy. Do you want to set up a call with your contact? Do you want to meet them for coffee? Do you want to invite them to your event? State this call to action clearly, and compel them to act by making it irresistible. Propose some dates and times, or link to your calendar. Eliminate any barriers for your contacts choosing to act. A memorable message will help prime them to say yes, so make it incredibly easy for them to do so.

      Act Now

      Most people won’t act on this advice. Why? Because it can seem like a lot of work. But if you make the time now to set up a system, following up with your contacts won’t be a lot of work at all. It will be a snap for you to stay on top of all your connections and stand out as a networking superstar.

      So what are you waiting for?

      Featured photo credit: flazingo.com via flic.kr

      More by this author

      This Is How You Turn Business Cards Into Business Opportunities

      Trending in Work

      1 How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business 2 20 Inspiring Vision Statement Examples (2019 Updated) 3 How to Quit Your Unfulfilling Job and Lead Your Dream Career 4 8 Critical Skills for Workplace Success and Career Advancement 5 How to Find Work Motivation When You’re Unfulfilled at Work

      Read Next

      Advertising
      Advertising
      Advertising

      Published on March 20, 2019

      How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

      How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

      Have you ever felt lost in the minutia of your job?

      As a business owner, I can relate to getting bogged down in the day to day operations of my business. Things like inventory, payroll, scheduling, purchasing and employee management take up the bulk of my day.

      While these things are important and need to get done, focusing too much on the details can make you lose sight of the big picture. This is why having a good mission statement comes in handy.

      What is a Mission Statement?

      Put simply, a mission statement is an internal document that provides a clear purpose for the organization. It provides a common reference point for everyone in the organization to start from.

      In other words, after reading your company’s mission statement, managers and employees should be able to answer the question “What are company’s main objectives?” For example, Southwest Airlines mission statement reads:[1]

      “Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

      In this single statement, Southwest conveys the company’s goals of providing the highest level of customer service as well as providing a good working environment for their employees.

      Mission Statement VS. Vision Statement

      While the mission and vision statements are related, there are subtle but distinct differences the you should be aware of.

      First of all, a mission statement is designed primarily as an internal company document. It provides clarity and direction for managers and employees.

      While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your company’s mission statement with the outside world, its intended audience is within the company.

      While a mission statement provides a general framework for the organization, the vision statement is usually a more inspirational statement designed to motivate employees and inspire customers. Going back to Southwest Airlines, their vision statement reads:[2]

      “To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”

      This statement inspires good feeling from the customer while motivating the employees to achieve that vision.

      What Does a Good Mission Statement Look Like?

      When coming up with a mission statement, it’s important to take your time and do it right. Too often, people (especially entrepreneurs) just write down the first thing that comes to mind and they end up with worthless or (worse yet) a generic mission statement that is utterly useless.

      Advertising

      Remember, a mission statement should provide a common framework for everyone in your organization.

      When writing a mission statement, you should always try to incorporate the following;

      • What we do?
      • How we do it?
      • Whom do we do it for?
      • What value are we bringing?

      Now, you can see how tempting it is to just come up with something generic that ticks off those four boxes. Something like “We provide the best widgets available online for the consumer.”

      After all, that did check off all the boxes:

      What we do? Provide widgets.

      How we do it? Online.

      Who do we do it for? The consumer.

      What value we bring? The best widgets.

      The problem with this mission statement is that it could apply to any number of companies producing the same widget. There is nothing to distinguish your company or its widgets from any of your competitors widgets.

      Compare that mission statement to this one:

      “We provide the highest quality widgets directly to the consumer at an affordable price backed up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our clients aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll make it right.”

      What’s the difference?

      Both mission statements answer all the same questions of what, how, whom and value. But in the second statement, they are differentiating their company from all other competitors by answering the question “what makes us unique”.

      Another way to read that is, “Why you should buy from us.” In this example, it’s because our widgets are of the highest quality and we stand behind them 100%.

      Advertising

      You might have noticed the statement didn’t say that we sell widgets at the lowest possible price. That’s because we are emphasizing quality and satisfaction over price.

      A different company’s mission statement may emphasize selling widgets at the lowest possible price with little to no mention of a guarantee.

      Hallmarks of a Good Mission Statement

      1. Keep It Brief

      Your mission statement should be no longer than three sentences. This is not your company’s magnum opus.

      You should be able to distill the what, how, who and why questions into a succinct message.

      2. Have a Purpose

      A company’s missions statement should include the reason it even exists.

      Make clear exactly what the company does with statements like “We strive to provide our customers with …….”

      3. Include a “How”

      Take this as an opportunity to differentiate your company from its competitors.

      How do you provide a product or service that’s different or better than how your competitor provides it?

      4. Talk About the Value You Bring to the Table

      This is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition. This is the “why” customers should buy from you.

      Do you offer the lowest prices? Fastest delivery? Exceptional customer service? Whatever it is that sets you apart and gives your particular products, services or company an advantage talk about it in the mission statement.

      5. Make Sure It’s Plausible

      It’s okay to shoot for the stars just to settle for the moon, but not in a mission statement.

      Being overly ambitious will only set you and your employees up for failure, hurt morale and make you lose credibility. You will also scare away potential investors if they think that you are not being realistic in your mission statement.

      6. Make It Unique and Distinctive

      Imagine if someone who knew nothing about your business walked in and saw how it was operating, then they read your mission statement. Would they be able to recognize that mission statement was attached to that business? If not re-work it.

      7. Think Long Term

      A mission statement should be narrow enough so that it provides a common framework for the existing business, but open enough to allow for longer term goals. It should be able to grow as the business grows.

      Advertising

      8. Get Feedback

      This is very important, especially from managers and employees.

      Getting their input can clarify how they currently see the company and their role within the organization. It’s also a good way to get people “on-board,” as studies show that people are more likely to go along with an idea if they feel included in the decision making process beforehand.

      9. Review Often and Revise as Necessary

      You should review the missions statement often for two reasons.

      First, as a reminder of what the essence of the company is. It’s easy to forget when you are in the day to day grind of the business.

      And two, to make sure that the mission statement is still relevant. Things change, and not everything can be anticipated at the time a mission statement was written.

      For example, if a mission statement was written before the advent of the internet, a company that use to sell things door to door now probably has a website that people order from. You should always update the mission statement to reflect these changes.

      The Value of Mission Statements: Why Go Through All of These in the First Place?

      It may seem like a lot of work just for a few sentences that describe a company, but the value of a well written mission statement should not be discounted.

      First of all, if you are an entrepreneur, crystallizing the what, how, whom and value questions will keep you focused on the core business and its values.

      If you are a manager or other employee, knowing the company’s basic tenants will help inform your interactions with both customers and colleagues alike.

      Strategic Planning

      A relevant mission statement acts as a framework for strategic planning. It provides guidance and parameters for making strategic decisions for the future of the company.

      Measuring Performance

      By having the company’s mission in a concrete form, it also allows for an objective measurement of how well the organization is meeting its stated goals at any one time.

      Management can identify strengths and weaknesses in the organization based on the criteria set forth in the mission statement and make decisions accordingly.

      Solidifying the Company’s Goals and Values for Employees

      Part of a well run organization is nurturing happy and productive employees.

      As humans, we all have an innate need for both purpose and to be part of something larger than ourselves. Providing employees with a clearly defined mission statement helps to define their role in the larger organization. Thus, fulfilling both of these needs.

      Advertising

      Now I’m not saying that a mission statement can overcome low pay and poor working conditions, but with everything else being equal, it can contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.

      To Hold Management Accountable

      By creating a mission statement, a company is publicly stating its highest values and goals for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting both the public and your employees to to scrutinize how well the company lives up to its ideals.

      So if you state that you only provide the highest quality products, and then offer something less, it’s fair for both the public and the employees to question, and even call for a change in management.

      If management doesn’t take the mission statement seriously, no one else will either; and the legitimate authority that management rely’s on will be diminished.

      To Serve as an Example

      This is the opposite side of the coin from the previous statement. If the highest levels of management are seen taking the mission statement seriously and actively managing within the framework of the statement, that attitude filters down throughout the organization.

      After all, a good employee knows what’s important to their boss and will take the steps necessary to curry favor with them.

      Finally, use the company’s mission statement as a way to define roles within the company. You can do this by giving each division in the company a copy of the mission statement and challenge the head of each division to create a mission statement for their respective departments.

      Their individual mission statements should focus on how each department fits in and ultimately contributes to the success of the company’s overall mission statement. This serves as both a clarifying and a team building exercise for all parts of the organization.

      Final Thoughts

      Developing a mission statement is too often just an after-thought, especially for entrepreneurs. We tend to prioritize things that we perceive will give us the biggest “bang for our buck.”

      Somehow, taking the time and effort to sit down and think seriously about the what, whom, how and value of our business seems like a waste of time. After all, we got in the business to make money and become successful, isn’t that all we need to know?

      That mindset will probably get you started okay, but if you find yourself having any success at all, you’ll find that there really is such a thing as growing pains.

      By putting in the time and effort to create a mission statement, you are laying the groundwork that will give you a path to follow in your growth. And isn’t building long term success what we are really after?

      More Resources About Achieving Business Success

      Featured photo credit: Fab Lentz via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Southwest Airlines: About Page
      [2] Fit Small Business: 10 Vision Statement Examples To Spark Your Imagination

      Read Next