Handing someone your business card does not mean you will be added to their contacts. After all, digital contacts are available on every device, which makes it easy for others to get in touch with you. Here's how to go beyond paper cards and get into someone's real contacts list.
The traditional business card is not yet defunct, but people rarely delete anyone from their contact list once added. Plus, paper business cards can be lost or misplaced easily. It's in your best interest to be added to someone's digital contacts. We've talked about how to build a good professional network, but now let's talk about how to make staying in touch easier. After you exchange business cards, you should immediately share a digital card. All it takes is some preparation.
Create a VCF Card
Variant Call Format (VCF) cards, also known as Vcards, are recognised by almost any mobile phone and email service, which makes them the best digital cards to share. But don't just share your number from your own phone book, you need more finesse than that.
There are plenty of tools to create your own Vcard, but we'll use Gmail to illustrate. Go to your Gmail's Contacts page and create a New Contact. Fill in your name, phone number, email address, and add more fields for your company and title, instant messaging, internet call, LinkedIn profile, social networks, as well as any other details you think are relevant.
It's important to upload a recent photo of yourself, and one in which you look professional. Think of what you would use on your LinkedIn profile. It jogs the recipient's memory, and networking is all about being remembered, says marketer Don Crowther:
You go to a convention, and you come home with 55 cards in your pocket. If one or two cards have photos, you'll remember those people.
After filling details in Gmail, go to More > Export > vCard Format > Export to download the contact card to your hard drive. Of course, you needn't have only one card.
Make Multiple Cards with Different Details
Create more than one Vcard with details tailored to who you are sending them to. For example, I like to keep two cards — one with all the details mentioned above and a second that is just my name, phone number, email, company and Twitter. Why? As Savvy Sexy Social puts it:
Those are all the bare essentials for getting a hold of me and if I give you more options than that, I won't know where to expect your inquiry. Keep it simple, stupid.
This second business card is what you should share with important or super-busy people so it's easy for them to get in touch with you. The first business card, with that about.me page and all other details, is for networking.
Use the Notes Field to Add Context
Adding context on the back of a business card to remember a person is nothing new. Digital cards don't have a back, but that's what the Notes field is for. You could leave it empty for the recipient, but Saul Wyner suggests making cards interactive by asking the recipient to fill in blanks on the back.
To apply this in your Vcard, use the Notes field. All you'll need to do is write sentences that ask the recipient to just fill in blanks. For example: "I met Mihir at: ______"
The front of Saul's card states clearly that the recipient is expected to interact. Convey that with your email.
Write an Actionable Email
Vcards doesn't always work smoothly when sent via text message, especially when sharing between different platforms like Android and BlackBerry. Email is a better option because you don't want the first impression of sharing a digital card to be, "Oh, hey, this didn't work, let's try something else." Everyone now has smartphones with synced email accounts and address books, so just use email.
Your email should clearly state the action needed. I prefer to go with "Add Mihir Patkar to Contacts" as the subject line, which is also the name I give to the Vcard attached in the mail. I've found that people tap on it instinctively if that action is laid out clearly.
The email body is where you add context, briefly telling them in one line where you met them and what you talked about. If you're using the Notes field to make your card interactive, this is where to write that too.
Prepare a few of these email drafts before an event and have them ready to be sent. Since you know the event, include that. Here's what it can look like:
It was great to meet you at . Click or tap the attachment to instantly add me to your contacts.
P.S. Write what you remember about me in the Notes field.
If you use multiple cards, replace the "XYZ" with the type of card to distinguish between the drafts. So I have "Hi Basic" as the start of the draft with my basic digital card, and "Hi Everything" as the address for the draft with the card that has all amy details.
Use Shoot to Share Rich Contact Cards
You can make multiple contact cards, each with different information. Just add your details (name, photo, company, website, phone number, email, social networks) and save it. When you want to share this contact card with anyone, Shoot will send all this information in a rich email, complete with a Vcard so that the recipient can add you to their phone book in a click.
However, Shoot does have some limitations. For example, you will have to type out the email each time to add context for the other person. Also, Shoot has limited fields and you can't add new ones.
Upload Your Digital Card for Easy Sharing
While this works perfectly for emails, it's not as easy on social networks or LinkedIn since you can't send attachments. That's why you should also upload your digital card to the cloud and shorten the URL to remember it easily.
Use any cloud storage service to upload your Vcard and change the settings to anyone with the link can access it. Next, make the long link memorable with a URL shortener that lets you make custom URLs, like is.gd or bit.ly, or even make your own shortener. So your end result could look something like "bit.ly/MihirPatkar".
The next time someone on Facebook or Twitter asks for your contact details, just send them this link and tell them to download it on their phone. In a few taps, your contact card will be in their phone book.
Add the Digital Card to Your Paper Business Card
You are going to exchange paper business cards anyway, so don't ignore it. Use that to also encourage your recipient to add you to their phone book.
One option is to print a QR code on the back of your card, which links to the digital card you have uploaded. You could also use webapps like goqr.me with built-in QR code generators specifically for Vcards.
But again, make sure you have actionable words on your business card. Don't just print the QR code, write something with it. For example, "Scan this QR code with your phone's camera to add this card to your contacts."
Push the Person to Add Right Away
Now that you have made it as easy as possible for the other person to add you to their phone book, gently push them to do it right away — but remember, gently, don't overdo it. My experience has been that when you request to be added immediately, most people will comply because they have their smartphone with them. The success ratio of being added to phone books is lower when you aren't still talking with the person, so use that opportunity to try and get in.