© Jan Jasper; 2001-2012
Get Rid of Those You Don't Need
We collect business cards and wonder what to do with them. We're afraid to throw them out.
But there's little benefit in saving them in a jumble in your drawer. First, remember that the information on the
cards is important, not the physical cards. We need to organize this contact information so we can use it.
Ask yourself "Would I really need this again, and if so, why - and when?" Be firm; get rid of cards from
people you are not likely to contact in the future. If you have a great many business cards, it can actually
backfire - the more cards you have, the harder it is to find a specific one when you need it. Less is more - It's
easier to keep them in order, and easier to find when you need them. And remember, the point isn't to collect the
cards, but to manage contact information so you can use it.
Jot Down Useful Details While The Person is Fresh in Your Mind
When someone hands you their card, immediately jot a note on back stating where you met the person and what
you might contact them about. This is especially important if you return from a networking event
with a pocketful of cards - otherwise when you come across the cards later, you'll have no clue as to who these people are.
Different Ways to Store Your Business Cards
Now that you've culled your cards and made notes on them, you're ready to think about how best to store this information.
In the pre-tech era, I never liked Rolodexes, or those plastic business card books with a dozen or so slots per page. The
problem was that the person's name may not be how you're most likely to remember them. Now that most of us use technology
to store contact information, it's no longer on a card with a fixed location in a binder of Rolodex. Digital storage
is tremendously easier because you can sort your contacts in a variety of ways.
Using Software for Effective Contact Management
The alphabet is effective for people whose names you can remember - but what about the names of service providers you won't
need often, yet you want to keep their information for future use? This is where technology is light years ahead of the Rolodex.
Let's say your friend Jane Smith recommends a great attorney named Joe Moon. This software usually has a space where you
can type your own notes. Create an entry for Joe Moon but in case you don't remember his name, in the notes section type
Lawyer and also make a note that Jane Smith recommended him. Now you can find him by searching for Joe Moon, lawyer, or Jane's name.
Do the same for plumbers and accountants and anyone else you might do business with.
You can type a note of when you last talked to them and
about what. The software can also save a record of e-mails you sent to or received from them. Used fully, contact management
software (also known as CRM software) keeps a record of all your dealings with each person. While Microsoft Outlook* is not really
a contact management program, it can be used for many of the same functions.
Keeping these notes does more than
supplement a faulty memory. It permits you to slice and dice your data in a variety of ways. You could search
for all referrals who were sent by a certain person, all the prospects who phoned you in July, all clients in a
certain zip code, all clients who spent over a certain dollar amount, etc. Try doing that with a stack of business cards!
Should You Buy a Card Scanner?
If you have a great many cards, you may not want to type them all into your software. There are small scanners
made specifically for business cards that capture all the text information on the business card (name, company name address,
phone, fax, and e-mail address) and feed it directly into your contact management program. Many are designed specifically
for a particular program (iPhone*, Outlook*, etc.) This could save a lot of time if you
collect tons of cards, for example if you attend trade shows and plan to follow up by doing a big mailing. But they can be
thrown off by graphics, unusual fonts, or speckled card stock, so you'll need to proofread after inputting.
Beam Me Up, Scotty
If you meet someone and are ready to exchange business cards, the newest and fastest way to get their contact information
into your iPhone* or Droid* is to beam it wirelessly between your handhelds. You'll still need to proofread the results for
accuracy. And, just like with the old-fashioned business card, you'll want to add notes to the beamed contact information
as to where you met the person, who introduced you, what you discussed, etc. Until we have silicon chips
implanted in our brains to ensure that we never forget anything, you'll need to record some details or the contact
information will be of little use to you. Remember, the point is not to just park the contact information somewhere,
but to make it easy to use in the future. If you don't expect to use it, they why save it at all?
*The usual disclaimers apply. My mentioning these products is not a guarantee of any sort.
Obviously, you should not change anything until you've completely backed up your files.
You already do that, right?
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of Take Back Your Time: How to Regain Control of Work, Information, & Technology (St. Martin's Press)."
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