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Business card exchanges have declined in popularity. They once served a good purpose. They still can.
These meetings in the past were a focal point for business people. Attendees gathered and exchanged business cards. It was meant to get the word out about what businesses did, what they could do for each other, and extend the reach into the community.
Business card exchanges still have their use. But the use is limited--unless you've kept up with changes in the culture.
Example: Takisha is a caterer. She decided to attend a business card exchange to get to know some prospective clients. She went to a big gathering, thinking that she would have many opportunities. Instead, she found people rushing around, pressing their business card into first one hand and then the next. She passed out most of the 50 cards she carried with her, and she collected as many from others. Back at her office the next day, she systemically flipped through the cards. She could not place a single face with a card. But she called some likely prospects anyway. No one remembered her, but she was able to make a few good contacts and appointments. It was similar to cold calling.
Example: John is a plumber. He was invited to join an organization that held monthly business card exchanges. Because of the rules, he was the only plumber in the group--no competitors. He thought it was a good idea to meet some new clients. The problem turned out to be a self-limiting one. Once he had picked up a client or two from among the other members of the group, it was pretty much over. He dropped out of the group.
Example: I have myself attended many business card exchanges in the past. I learned that the best way to increase the effectiveness of the meeting was a simple one. Instead of pressing one of my business cards into every hand, I concentrated on targeting 4 or 5 people. I would introduce myself, ask questions about them and their business, engage them in a 10 or 15 minute conversation. The talk inevitably turned to what I did in my business. In other words, the two of us got to know each other--and then we exchanged business cards. Meeting a small number of people turned out to be much more effective than simply passing out business cards.
Card exchanges can be a good way to extend the reach of your business. But it is much more than simply exchanging business cards.
People want to know the person they are doing business with. A brief conversation with a few people can turn a quickie business card exchange into a valuable marketing tool for you.