One of the challenges I've faced, given all of the networking events that I attend, is what to do with all of the business cards I receive. Without some sort of system, I would quickly have been overwhelmed by a landslide of little pieces of cardboard. So far I've got a few rules/techniques I follow to try to keep things under control.
- Take only what I need. In general, I try not to ask for a card unless I think that either the other person or I (or preferably both of us) will benefit from a closer relationship.
- Take notes. At the event, after speaking with someone, I try to note down anything I remember which might be of importance to me at a later date. "Needs website", "Interested in online database", or "Introduce to Bob Smith", might be some of the short phrases I would use. Usually I try to tack on the event and the date, too.
- Review and reduce. When I get home, I try to review the cards as soon as possible. There are always folks who will give you their card whether you ask for it or not. These will often go right into the garbage. It may sound a bit ruthless, but, if I can't remember them (and I didn't make any notes on their card), then I am unlikely to want to talk with them in the future. There's no need to clutter my desk with unwanted cards. Most of the ones for which I've made notes, I will keep.
- Take action. With the cards left over, I schedule calls to be made over the next couple of days, possibly with action items in order to provide that person with something which I may have promised them. I'll usually put these cards in a "holding pile" for the short term.
- File. If a person gets back to me and it looks like we may be on the way to establishing even a loose relationship, I will file their card under their last name in my business card three-ring binder. I also make a notation under their business name so I can look up a person either way.
- Purging. Periodically, I will go through a few pages in the binder. Those with whom I've not spoken in a while might get re-entered in step four above.
So, how do you cope with business card glut?