Everybody knows that handing out your business card is one of the pillars of networking 101. It’s why you order them in bulk and keep a bunch of them on you all the time. You just never know when you’re going to meet a potential network contact!
It’s a good habit and it has a pretty solid history of success, but it isn’t without its problems. For example, business cards are easily lost or damaged. Also, at the rate people give them out and receive them, it isn’t just possible to get lost in the proverbial shuffle, it’s a given. If you want to really stand out to potential clients, you have to do more than hand over your business card–especially at big events where people are getting literally dozens of cards a day.
So, what can you do? One of the reasons that business cards are great is because you can buy hundreds of them for a few dollars at a time. What other networking tool can offer that?
Use the Useful
What do the people in your audience actually need and use all the time? Can you put your logo on it and buy it in bulk? This is what you should be handing out to people and sending them in the mail. This is why companies used to send out wall calendars. Another good example of this is the notepad or sticky note. You can order these in bulk from any stationer and give them out at events and send them to clients (current and those you hope to land) in the mail. Every time that person has to jot something down, they’ll think of you.
A better, and more contemporary, example of this is the flash drive. More and more companies are using these as a way to promote their business and their products. Musicians, for example, will bulk order them pre-loaded with their music catalogs and sell them right next to CDs and Tshirts. You can buy bulk USB drives at memorysuppliers.com and then hand those out to people. Everybody needs more file storage space, right?
There are lots of great ideas out there. The trick is to cater your offering to your clients. For example, a landscaping company might give out packets of seeds in branded envelopes. A baker might give out cookies with branded frosting (yes, seriously!). One company, mentioned in this article in The Week, had great luck with, of all things, branded soap.
The point is: if you can put your logo on it and order it in bulk, it’s a great alternative to simply handing out paper business cards.
In addition to finding something to hand out besides business cards, it is important to find a good way to trade contact information digitally. With smartphones being as ubiquitous as they are, being able to share your basic “business card” information digitally is incredibly important. After all, a business card might get lost in the bottom of a bag or get put through the wash, but information stored digitally is forever (well, mostly).
One of the most interesting and promising ways to trade information is to use Twitter. According to Entrepreneur, TwitBizCard is a twitter app that, after you’ve linked your account to the app’s service and input your own contact information will allow you to send that information privately to any other Twitter user when you use the #twtBizCard hashtag. With Twitter being so common these days, why not use it in place of your paper business cards?
Another promising app is SnapDat (also mentioned in that same Entrepreneur article). Not to be confused with SnapChat, SnapDat is a way to trade virtual business cards with anybody else who has the app and, importantly, keep them indefinitely. If you encounter someone who doesn’t have the app yet, don’t worry! You can still use the app to send a vCard to that person instead.
The point is this: business cards aren’t obsolete…yet. They also aren’t the best way to trade information anymore. Yes, they’re cheap and easy to buy in bulk and trading them is incredibly easy. Nobody blinks about trading cards anymore–it’s almost weirder when you don’t. The problem is that they are too common. If you want to be sure that your information doesn’t wind up in some giant stack of “sort through later,” you are going to need to find a way to stand out from your competitors. These are just a few of the ways to start doing that. What are some of the other things you’ve seen?