It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a career or operating a company, business cards are a critical part of branding yourself.
If you don’t have some already, think of them as miniature resumes — giving the recipient a glimpse into who you are and what you might be able to offer them. Although they are one of the most old school networking tools in the game, business cards are still incredibly effective.
Here are three tips for maximizing the reach of your network with business cards:
1. Make it an exchange
Say you’re at a networking event and you bring a stack of personal business cards. You hand them out to nearly everybody, but by the time you get home to follow up, you realize you don’t have anyone’s contact information.
When you hand someone your business card, it’s critical — if they don’t offer it themselves — to ask for their card, as well. That way, you both have each other’s contact info so you can follow up.
And you can take it a step further by writing down memorable bits of the conversation on the back of their business card so you can bring it up when you follow up with them. This shows the employer/client you genuinely care and have an interest in them and their services.
2. Never leave home without it
We’re obviously not talking about American Express here — keeping a dozen or so business cards on your person at all times when you’re in public is a great way to maximize your network.
Say you’re at a sports event and meet a person you know you’d love to do business with. You want to have a card on you so you can hand it to them and show your interest in pursuing a professional relationship.
If you think you’ll have trouble remembering to bring them, simply keep as many as you can fit in your wallet or purse — they’re small for a reason! That way, when you experience a chance encounter like the one above, you’ll always be prepared.
3. Make it captivating
Having business cards is great and all, but these days there seems to be such a thing as “too professional” when it comes to how they’re designed. Most of them have the same boring format, which isn’t memorable if you’re giving it to someone who gets dozens a day.
Instead of using a template, design your own business card and make it personal to you. The more personality your business card shows, the more memorable it will be to a future connection when they go through the pile at the end of the day.
Don’t make your business cards too unprofessional, lest people will take one look and you’ll lose some of your credibility (unless you’re a circus clown, in which case the more unprofessional the better!).