So you walk into the room, within the first five minutes you’ve collected half a dozen business cards already, and they all came with the promise of something great!

The issue is; the humble business card is a tool, and a simple one at that, for sales / marketing, and, like any tool, it should be used with intent.  But a lot of people force cards on others, who accept out of politeness.  It’s annoying and it’s an ineffective way to build a business.

So, while we wait for the day when we can shake hands with someone and immediately be connected on LinkedIn, I’ll share an alternative technic for connecting.  So here it is:

Don’t carry business cards. 

I can see the questioning looks now…when we all work so hard to be in front of the right people and now you’ve managed to find the perfect potential client but no business card?  The answer: it doesn’t matter if they have my contact information, I need theirs.

VA Life - male hand holding old flip phone
It doesn’t matter if they have my contact information, I need theirs.

Whenever you meet someone that you would like to build a relationship with, you always want to make sure that you keep the ball in your court and be the one moving that conversation along.

Listen to the person in front of you, because you haven’t got a business card on you, you can’t force it upon them.  The chances of building a relationship increase if the person you are talking to has asked for your details.  The same philosophy can be applied to your website.  A common complaint from users is the growing intrusion of popups, yes there is evidence that they increase lead generation but equally there is evidence they drive visitors away.

The happy balance between forcing yourself on a potential client and them coming forward and asking for your details happens when you are engaging, knowledgable and confident in what you are offering.  We have seen an increase in good quality leads by removing automated popups and allowing the user to activate the popup themselves on our sites. Equally I have seen an increase in the quality of leads generated by not handing business cards out and changing how I initially capture details when I meet others in person.

So what do I do?

During that initial conversation with my potential new super client I will inevitably be asked for my business card, at this point, and without hesitation (so get some practice in with your co-worker, partner, dog, anyone that will listen really) they are told, whilst I am pulling my phone out: “I don’t have a card but let me have your email and I’ll send you my details”.

VA Life - Girl emailing on mobile phone
I then, in front of them, tap their email address in.

I then, in front of them, tap their email address into one of the many duplicate draft emails I’d written prior to the event.  This email contains:

  • Something personal
  • My contact information
  • Details about a service I offer
  • A question

Something personal
People buy from people, listen to what has been said and try to get something into the email that relates to what you have been discussing with them.

My contact information
We tend to have so many ways to be contacted these days!  Getting all this detail on a business card just isn’t possible.  So now the potential client has my email, website, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, Instagram and Pinterest (phew!) they can pick what media best suites them to stay in contact.

Details about a service I offer
Here’s an opportunity to get some extra detail, remember the person in front of you has just asked to be contacted.  Don’t go heavy on the sales front but offer something of value.

A question
A question I hear you ask…well that’s kind of the point.  This encourages them to continue the engagement.  Consider the event you are attending, frame a general question that will be relevant.

Now you’ve sent the email, ask them if they’ve received it.  As they pull out there phone and look at the notification, you’ve created a sense of obligation in most people.  They now know, that you know, they have your email, and your email is asking for a response.

Now I’m not saying every email sent will get a response, but you will get a higher response rate than by simply handing out business cards like confetti.

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