Baseball cards, tea cozies, stamps—humans love to collect things. Even time pressed entrepreneurs may find the time to acquire a collection of antique dolls or ceramic frogs. Business cards, however are not simply for collection. After you leave that networking event, it is essential that you follow up. Otherwise all you’ve done is stuff your pockets, purse or briefcase with worthless bits of fancy paper.
Keep your promises: If you say you’ll go read someone’s blog, view their website or download their free ebook, then do it. By doing so you not only learn more about them and how to deepen your connection, but you demonstrate that you can be trusted to do what you say you’ll do. This is a quality we all want in potential contacts. Leave a comment or send an email about what you found interesting or useful.
Don’t start by pitching: Unless you’ve been specifically asked to do so, don’t make your first post-meet and greet email a sales pitch or plea for a favor. Instead thank your new contact or send some information of interest and value. Follow through on “let’s get together” chats with a specific invitation.
Get social and digital: Spend time exploring your new contact’s online presence. Follow them on mutual social media platforms and continue your initial discussion by engaging them there. Do a bit of research. You may find accomplishments your new connection was hesitant to mention like awards or publications. Show genuine interest.
Trust your instincts: Sometimes we meet folks who pass out their business cards like candy. They have no real interest in deep connection and haven’t yet learned that networking is not a numbers game. When you sit down after an event to do your follow-up, don’t be afraid to throw away some cards. An entrepreneur’s time is limited, so aim for quality connections and not a card collection.