1. Never leave home without them. Before leaving home, your checklist should be expanded to include business cards, as part of "do I have my wallet/money, house keys, driver's license?" Any "per chance" meeting is an opportunity to give out a business card. A morning run or a quick trip to the local store could be an opportunity to network. My wife and I always ask each other "do you have business cards", before leaving the house. Make it a habit to carry business cards.
2. Insert a business card when mailing bill payments. Bills contain advertisements. Why can't you advertise your skills or services the same way? Insert a business card with your payment. You may not think a person in South Dakota who opens your credit card bill payment can help you. Never underestimate the power of networking. A movie, entitled "6 Degrees of Separation" points out we are 6 people away from knowing someone of influence. You could be 6 people away from knowing the President of the United Sates, your favorite movie star or someone who is in a position to hire your skills or services. Each of us knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone etc. Developing this powerful networking attitude will be a fundamental source of continued success.
3. Use proper business card etiquette. Whenever you give a business card, ask for a business card. When given a business card, don't just take it and place it in your pocket. Make the person feel important by looking at their card for a few seconds. You might see something that could be a topic of discussion. Write comments on the card such as date, location and common points of interest. These comments will prove valuable when following up with that person. This also demonstrates a sincere interest in the other person. Then place it in your wallet. This lets them know they reside in a special place with you. "Skill with People" by Les Giblin is a book that expands on this approach. Make people feel important, in order to make yourself important to them.
4. Be generous. Give business cards out to everyone, including family and friends. Don't let vanity stop you from giving out your last business card or giving 2 at a time to each person. I have met many people who have totally missed the purpose of a business card. I once asked a person for a second business card, so I could refer his services. His response was "I only have a few cards left and I need them", as he looked again at his name on the card. Hoarding your business cards only makes your wallet feel full, not your bank account.
5. Ask for referrals. When giving a business card, people feel more comfortable when you ask; "I would appreciate a referral, if you know anyone that could use my services". Don't make people feel like they are on the spot. This approach disarms people much better than asking them, "is your company hiring?" People naturally like to do favors for people. Saying "could you do me a favor by referring my services to someone". This always places you in a better position with them. They will feel better about helping you. Give them 2 cards.
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6. Maximize every "per chance" meeting. You never know when you might meet someone who can help you. Family or friends social events could produce unexpected encounters with people. Don't discount those events. So you're going to a birthday party for your friend's kid. You never know who you might meet. At a family holiday gathering last year, I met someone that has been instrumental in developing our business this year. Who would have thought this could happen by giving him a simple business card.
7. Place yourself at the right place at the right time. Have you been to a job fair or business conference and been disappointed with the networking results? Turn the tables around. Consider volunteering to help out at the job fair or other types of events. This puts you in a better strategic position for presenting your resume or business card. Company representatives might view you differently, if they know you are willing to go the extra mile in helping them make their presence easier to manage. Get involved by visiting Eventme.com, TheLunchClub.net, Craigslist.com or view the calendar of events for JacobJavitsCenter.com to place yourself in opportunities for giving out your business card. Volunteering for events has been a very successful resource for my business partner and I to expanding our business. Zig Ziglar, one of the most successful sales trainers in the world says "if you help enough people get what they want in life, you will get what you want in life".
8. Use "In Your Face" follow up. Did you ever have a job interview or meeting with a recruiter, potential client or employer and wonder why they never called you back? "Out of sight, out of mind" is the operative phrase to remember. Today's economic climate dictates you might be competing with 20, 50, 100 or more other people for the same position or contract. It's quite a task for people to keep track of each individual meeting. So it's up to you to give a person a reason to call you back. Immediately after a meeting snail mail a hand written note thanking the person for their time. Insert your business card. Now you're in the driver's seat in standing out from other people. If you get no response, do it again. Patience and persistence pays off.
9. Use promotions to promote YOU, Inc. Newspapers often have stories of people being promoted to high levels in different organizations? This is an opportunity for you. Consider getting some invitation size blank greeting cards. Use the Internet's search capabilities to find out the address of the company's executive offices. Send the blank invitation type card with a hand written note sincerely congratulating a person on their promotion. Insert your business card. For the cost of a 37-cent stamp, you have just made someone's day and may create an impression that makes a person feel compelled to respond back to you. Make it a habit to do this once a week. Remember "6 Degrees of Separation". You just never know . . . People open invitation type envelops faster than any others.
10. Brand yourself with a slogan. Print a slogan on your business card that answers the question "Why should I hire you? Or "What makes you different from everyone else?" A catchy phrase or slogan insures people ALWAYS associate a company name with their product or services. People remember even after the commercial is over. That's called branding. Companies pay big bucks to advertising agencies to come up with these lasting slogans. Consider doing the exact same thing on your business card. This is your insurance people remember you, after you meet. Don't just put Hortence Smiley, Accountant on your business card. Add something like "Financial Services With Integrity". A slogan makes all the difference between getting hired or not, because people will remember you long after a meeting.
Happy trails networking . . .
In addition to hosting WIIFM Success Radio, C.E. Reid advises small businesses on Internet Business-2-Business opportunities. He has also helped many people successfully advance their careers and start businesses with 15 years as a part time Business & Career Coach. His consulting clients have included IBM/Lotus, JPMChase and Citicorp, to name a few.