Networking: It’s Not All About Collecting Business Cards

Networking Not About Collecting Business CardsHow many networking events have you been to where someone comes up to you, says “hello” and immediately either hands you their card or asks you for yours?

I was at a holiday business party once and, upon checking in, the woman in front of me said “I’m going to hand out fifty business cards tonight.” That was her goal and I thought to myself, “Really? How about saying you’re going to connect with fifty people?”

You see, networking is NOT about collecting or handing out business cards left and right. It’s about beginning to nurture and build relationships!

My colleague and business growth strategist Patty Farmer (aka the Networking CEO) said she lives by this quote, “strive to be a people connector not a business card collector.” It’s definitely advice worth living by.

Your first question shouldn’t be “may I have your card?” Ask thought-provoking questions and be a good listener. Keep in mind that when you show a genuine interest in others, they’ll find you interesting.

As a young salesman Harvey Mackay, author of Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive, developed the Mackay 66(TM) — a 66-question customer profile that focuses on what makes people tick. For instance:

  • What are they proud of accomplishing?
  • What’s their life like outside the office?
  • How do they want to be seen by others?

If you want to see the exact 66 questions, simply click here.

Here are four characteristics of successful networkers from Jeffrey Gitomer. He said you need:

  • A heartfelt introduction (what I call the “30-second spiel”) that engages and encourages listeners to ask more.
  • A willingness to dedicate the time it takes to network and be good at it.
  • A plan of where and when to network.
  • To know what events to attend where your customers and prospects are likely to go.

When you’re at a networking event and take time to get to know someone, the moment may naturally come when you do exchange business cards. When it does, be sure to follow up. After all, how will you develop a relationship if you just tuck that card in a drawer?

On the back of the business card write down 1-2 points from your conversation and, after the event, do one (or more) of the following:

1. Send a handwritten note. People will appreciate the time you took to sit down and write. Perhaps they talked about their child’s soccer game or a vacation that is approaching. Mention it again in your note.

It’s rare for most of us to receive personal “snail” mail these days so it’s quickly noticed in one’s mailbox. You can send them an email, but I find the handwritten note makes a lasting impression. And, with so few people doing this, you’ll stand out from the crowd.

2. Connect with that person on LinkedIn. However, please don’t send them one of LinkedIn’s generic invitations. Take the time to personalize the invite and reiterate a point you discussed when you met. It’s a great way to continue your conversation and start building on the relationship.

3. Check out their website, read their blog and see if they’re on other social networks (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, etc.). If so, connect with them there as well. Or better yet, do what Patty Farmer does.

When meeting someone for the first time and obtaining their business card, Patty asks that person how they like to connect. She then folds a corner of their business card to represent their preferred social network. If they say Google Plus, she folds the upper right corner, Facebook is the lower right corner, Twitter the lower left and LinkedIn the upper left. Later on, she’ll take out the business card and connect with that person according to their preference. A great idea you can implement right away.

You may have heard the saying “it’s all in the follow up.” So when you get back to your office, be sure to continue connecting by following up.

What networking tips do you have? Please share your ideas in the comment section below because I’d love to hear from you. Thanks and here’s to your sweet success.

P.S. This is an excerpt from my upcoming book Millionaire Marketing on a Shoestring Budget(TM) due out in January 2015. Pre-order your copy here.

Debra Jason

Marketing & writing with heart, not hype at at The Write Direction
A recipient of the “Creative Person of the Year” award, Debra educates and empowers creative solopreneurs and enthusiastic business owners to create a lifestyle business that provides them with the flexibility, fun and freedom to do what they love. She also inspires you to communicate your marketing message in a way that captivates and converts your prospects into loyal, raving fans - even if you have been struggling with how to transform your ideas into words in the past.


  1. This is a very interesting post. I agree completely. My media consultant and I discuss these very topics on a weekly basis. Good stuff!
    autismmama76 recently posted…SOMETHING DIFFERENT…ARTS AND CRAFTS BLOG TODAY!(SORT OF)My Profile

  2. Nice blog! Wonderful tips. I especially love the thought of folding the edges of the business card to correlate with the best way to communicate. Thank you for the wonderful tips.
    Tami Principe recently posted…WelcomeMy Profile

  3. well said. i believe this should also be used by affiliate marketers who are only focused on posting links and not involving in conversations. nice content

  4. I really love that tip on the business card fold. I’m so out of practice these days with offline networking but it can really pay off if done well. My other fav from your post is the reminder about handwritten cards. I do this pretty consistently.. Ok, I cheat a little by making them digital (using apps like Ink Cards) but that kind of attention is so much more memorable than an email! Thanks for the article 🙂

  5. Gwen Washington

    Networking has been the most challenging thing for me to successfully accomplish. After a 26 year career with a major Fortune 500 company, I have found that networking is absolutely necessary to get inside the next company you will potentially be working for. I typically write the event on the back of the business to card to remember where I met the person. I love the idea of adding conversation points as well. Thank you for sharing these tips as I truly needed them.

    • Hi Gwen, writing down the event where you met the person is one thing to remember. However, taking note of more than just their name is also good so I’m glad you picked up a new tip you can implement. You want to engage with people and remembering more than their name is a good place to start.
      Here’s to your sweet success,
      Debra Jason recently posted…Jim Carrey Does More Than Make You LaughMy Profile

  6. Debra,
    I really love the points you made in the article and really believe that finding alternatives to the “So, what do you do?” dreaded question will help entrepreneurs and business owners to be more effective in their networking. What I call “drive- by” networking rarely works long term. Building relationships and asking better questions in order to better serve is the key to growing a quality and ultimately profitable network. Thank you for quoting me in the blog and sharing my tip about the business cards. #YouRock

    Patty Farmer, The Networking CEO
    Patty Farmer recently posted…Each one of Patty’s action items led to direct results!My Profile

  7. This is great, Debra. When someone asks me for my card, I ask them, “Why would you like to have it?” It sparks great conversation. Also, one caveat for Asia. DO NOT write on anyone’s business card, especially if they see you doing it. It’s seen as defacing it and insulting them.

  8. I loved your post Debra. Such great advice here. I love this idea of folding the card corners and I read Ava’s comment about offending people from Asia. Thankyou. I have not yet been to a networking event, so will keep your tips in mind and refer back to this post.
    have a great week.
    Liz Delaney recently posted…Monday Musings – Spring CleaningMy Profile

  9. All very good points! I especially like the idea of a handwritten note. Living in a world where of email, text messages, and tweets, a handwritten note is sure to get the recipient’s attention. Taking the time to show that you are serious about building a relationship will help you stand out from the other spammy “networkers.” We are supposed to be professionals! Thanks for reminding us that we need to act like it.
    Melodieann Whiteley recently posted…Sep 13, way too little moneyMy Profile

  10. Great advice Debra. I have always put a great deal of emphasis on building relationships and I think that this is a huge part of networking. Even if you do not go to face to face events, many of these tips could also be applied when networking online.
    Kostas recently posted…Generating Leads through InfographicsMy Profile

  11. Great points! I think so often people forget to connect. It is the key piece in any type of successful networking, otherwise you end up sitting in someones desk drawer…forgotten. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

  12. I totally agree with what you said about networking being more than just handing out business cards, but actually getting out there and building relationships! It’s that kind of thinking that separates the successful marketers from the ones that ultimately fail. Great advice right there! Looking forward to more in the future.

  13. Debra, thanks for this advice. So much emphasis today is placed on social media networking. My fear is that young millennials are not spending enough time learning and perfecting the art of physical networking.

    P.S. I will call you soon to arrange a guest speaker spot in November, if still interested.
    Denny McCorkle recently posted…Daddy, What is Social Media?My Profile

    • You’re welcome Denny. Face-to-face connections are still SO important. Young millennials are not the only ones who are always looking down at their smartphones and/or tablets. It’s important for everyone to remember that human touch and eye contact makes a big difference when building relationships.
      Yes, I’d be happy to be a guest speaker. Let’s talk!
      Debra Jason recently posted…Tapping Into the Power of PartnershipsMy Profile

  14. This is great advice! I always try to connect with someone on a more personal level before asking for their business card. Even after that, you don’t want to be labeled as a business card collector, it’s better to be known as a business card user!


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