Everyone knows Networking Rule Numero Uno – Don't go out without your business card – although I'm constantly amazed by how many people don't bring their cards to professional events. (Some kind of self-sabotage, I think.) Your card plays a major role in your prospect's first impression of you, and you don't often get more than one chance.
David Salanitro, owner of San Francisco-based, Oh Boy, A Design Company (415-834-9063), has an interesting take on business cards. He believes they're essential, yet disposable, and he spreads his around like paper samples. "They're not keepers. They're scraps of paper that you throw at people. Their purpose is to create a first impression, over and over, to be there at the right moment, not to be kept as an heirloom." Here are a few tips from Salanitro for making the most of your business cards:
1. Hand them to people when you meet them for the first time. They'll remember your name better if they see it. Develop this as a reflex and don't be shy if they don't automatically reciprocate. Go ahead and ask for their card. It will help you remember their name, an invaluable marketing skill in itself.
2. Give them to people every time you meet them, not just the first time. This will avoid any embarrassment in case they forget your name. It doesn't matter if they don't keep the card; it will have already served its purpose.
3. Include one in everything you send out — intro letters, invoices, FYI's, article tear sheets.
4. Carry them everywhere you go. Put a few in your wallet, especially for those unexpected marketing moments when you meet someone with their guard down, standing in line at the bank or post office.
If networking is the most effective marketing activity – and it is – then your business card is your networking ticket. (In fact, Salanitro's card looks like a theatre ticket.) So whether you're walking the dog or taking out the trash, but especially when you are in work mode, always carry your cards with you. You just never know who you're going to meet and what they're going to need.