Even though technology has made it incredibly easy to connect with people online, there is still a real world out there where people meet face-to-face and swap information using business cards. In this article, we’ll cover some best practices for collecting business cards and email addresses, and then making the most of your marketing automation system.
The first few tips will cover ways to get organized. Then we’ll cover some things you can do when you actually meet someone.
These tips are useful for anyone, but if you’re an Infusionsoft user, I’ve taken the additional step of sharing some tips on how to incorporate them into your marketing automation and CRM efforts.
Step 1: Categorize
Before you begin collecting business cards, it’s a good idea to create a list of the different categories of people you might meet. At a minimum, I recommend the following:
- Leads: People whose primary value to your business is as a customer or client
- Referral sources: People who are in a position to refer your clients or customers
- Vendors: People who sell a product or service you are interested in
- Competitors: People who offer a product or service that competes with your own
Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking that everyone is a lead. True, just about anyone might buy your stuff. But, this exercise is about finding someone’s primary role in your contact list.
And, if you do this right, the roles should be complementary. For example, if someone is a vendor to you, then you ought to be a lead to them. If someone is a referral source to you, then you should be a referral source to him. The same goes for competitors.
Messing this up can result in hurt feelings and lost opportunities. Several years ago, a life insurance agent scheduled a meeting with me. At that time, most of my business referrals came from life insurance agents. I’m certain he knew that. Naturally, I assumed that we were meeting to discuss working together as colleagues.
But, when we sat down, he began trying to sell me an expensive life insurance policy. When I realized that he was treating me like a lead, I couldn’t get out of his office fast enough.
If you’re using an automated follow-up system, it’s easy to make this mistake by accident. Just drop the wrong person into marketing campaign designed for prospects, and you have just automated the process of alienating someone you’re trying to connect with.
I recommend using these categories in the Person Type field. But, I prefer to set them by applying a tag. That’s because the application of a tag can trigger a marketing campaign. One of the first actions in the campaign is to set the Person Type field to appropriate value.
I strongly recommend that you manually opt your competitors out of receiving marketing emails. (You can do this in a campaign sequence.) The only exception is when you intentionally market to your competitors for some reason. And, then I recommend having two categories—friendly competitors and hostile competitors. Then, you would opt-out the hostiles.
Step 2: Always have a next step
Never just collect a card and put it in your pocket. Doing that will just create piles of orphan business cards that sit on your desk, mocking you and your lack of planning. Instead, you should always have a next step that you discuss with the person at the time you collect the card.
It helps to have a short list of possible next steps that you’ve decided on in advance.
I’m a Book Yourself Solid Certified Coach. In the BYS program, we have what we call the “Always Have Something to Invite People to Offer”—aka “AHSTIPTO.” Ideally, this should be something you do on a regular basis for people in your network.
For example, I used to host a networking and education event each week. It was always on the same day of the week at the same time. We would arrange a speaker, go through the steps to qualify the presentation for continuing education credit, etc. We would serve wine and light refreshments. We sent out invitations, but people also knew they could stop by on that afternoon and we’d be there, doing our thing.
That way, whenever I met someone, I could tell them about the events and promise to send them an invitation. (You’ll probably want to host separate events for leads and referral sources.)
Doing this does a couple of important things. First, it creates an agenda for the relationship. The next step is for the other person to come to your AHSTIPTO event. Your follow-up communication can revolve around that purpose.
Also, it helps you triage your follow up. There will be times, for example, large conferences, when you meet so many people that it is impractical to follow-up with everyone at once. Having an AHSTIPTO event lets you follow up with everyone as a group. Then, when they show up to your event, you can target them for one-on-one follow up.
Lastly, it gives you a way to stay connected with people who may not be an ideal fit.
If your business model or budget makes it difficult to host an in-person event, you could still do the same thing through an online meetup, a conference call, or just about anything that brings people together in an interactive way.
To make the point, this is not inviting someone to sign up for a newsletter or some other form of nurture campaign. It needs to be something that allows actual interaction so you can create a live human connection.
Of course, you will meet some people you want to connect with immediately. There is some urgency or importance that suggests a one-to-one meeting is needed.
I use coffee and lunch, but it doesn’t need to be about food and drink. Really, you just need to have some sort of short-format and long-format introductory meeting. I recommend this approach because it lets you create a loose-format agenda that you can
Not all businesses will be able to use an AHSTIPTO or a one-on-one meeting. In those cases, you might consider having some sort of premium you can send to people. This doesn’t need to be your best lead magnet. After all, you’ve already met the person and are in the process of exchanging business cards. Instead, this should be the most appropriate next step after a first meeting.
It might be an e-book, a checklist, a guide, etc. Whatever you decide, it needs to be something you can work into a conversation naturally.
I once met a guy who, in the very first conversation, told me that he would send me a copy of his master’s thesis on agricultural development in third world countries. I’m sure that it’s a very nice report if you’re into that sort of thing. (I’m not.) But we met at a sporting event and had a great conversation about our mutual love for baseball. In that context, it was just weird. Don’t be weird.
Come up with something that you don’t have to work to introduce. Maybe have several different things you might send.
You can use Tags to trigger your next step. But, I prefer and recommend that you use Templated Notes. That lets you add more information and store it in the contact record. And you can still use Notes to trigger a campaign or follow-up sequence.
Consider creating a short “warm-up” sequence to be sent in the days leading up to a coffee/lunch meeting. You can use this to frame the agenda and make sure that you don’t spend the entire meeting swapping information about your education and employment histories.
Also, consider a post-meeting follow-up campaign. Have one for each potential outcome —e.g. don’t call us, we’ll call you; let’s do this again; etc. You can trigger each of those follow-ups with a different Note Template, which could be applied at the conclusion of the meeting.
Step 3: Look for a bonus
Having a generic next step is important, but it’s not the most powerful way to connect. Instead, you’ll want to look for ways you can immediately provide value to that person.
Is there someone in your network that would be a good fit for this person? Do you have some resource they could benefit from? Obviously, the range of options here is endless and depends on the individual. But that’s the point. You always want to look for ways to take someone outside the ordinary, generic box and treat them as a unique human being.
It wouldn’t be a bad idea to make a list of the “connection points” that you might share with someone. For example, my own list includes my religion, my sports interests, my hobbies, etc. When I meet someone who has one of these traits in common, I make a note of it on the back of their business card. That way, if I have something to share—e.g. “Wow, that was a great game yesterday”—I can send them a quick email
For each of the “connection points,” create a tag and apply the appropriate tags to new contacts. Then, when you have something significant to say on a topic, you can do a quick search and send a broadcast email.
Step 4: Capture the information immediately
However you store your contact information, don’t wait till later to capture your new contacts. Take the time at the event to get them into your system. If you wait and procrastinate, you’ll often forget or lose precious time.
If you are not already using the Infusionsoft app on your smartphone, get it right now. (I’ll wait.) The business card capture feature is a “must have.”
It’s simple enough to use, but here is where the above steps really become powerful. When you collect a new business card, use the Infusionsoft app to take a picture. When the card is ready for review, you can approve it, and then apply the tags from the steps above. That will kick off the appropriate marketing campaigns and sequences.
If you collect a business card with information on both sides, ask for two cards. Place the cards on a table so you can see both sides—e.g. laid out vertically, front on top, back below it. Turn the camera sideways and capture both sides of the card at the same time.
CAN-SPAM rules still apply to contacts you meet in person. Make sure that you ask permission to send emails. (By the way, step two is a great way to set up that question.)
Step 5: Respond immediately
When you meet someone new, you want to respond right away. Brevity and sincerity are the keys here. This isn’t the place to recap your life story, your accomplishments, or the eight ways you can save the guy money on his car insurance. Just say it was a pleasure meeting him and that you look forward to getting to know him more in the future.
That doesn’t mean you can’t sneak your sales pitch in through the back door. Make sure that you have a complete and up-to-date LinkedIn profile and invite the person to connect with you on social media. If they’re interested, they’ll check out your profile on their own. You’ll get all the benefit, but without coming across like a spammer.
There is nothing wrong with sending this introductory email as part of an automated marketing campaign. Automation doesn’t mean you lack sincerity. However, use a plain template for your email.
Step 6: Organize
The last step should be a daily ritual. It’s especially important for conferences and networking events. At the end of each day, go through your new contacts and update their record to reflect where you met them. Make any notes and apply any tags that you missed earlier. You can also take that moment of reflection to identify any high-value contacts that may be worthy of additional attention.
You can record how and where you met someone in several ways. And, I’d imagine that there are as many different theories as there are consultants. But, my approach is to use the Lead Source for events or groups that I frequent regularly (e.g. Chamber of Commerce), Note records for people I meet at specific events (e.g. ICON17), and Tags for contacts that I collect in bulk (e.g. cards dropped in a fishbowl).