Many of my clients have a box of business cards (or sticky notes with contact information written on them) they plan to input into their contacts file just as soon as they have enough time, money, or correct scanner to process them efficiently. While my clients are waiting for that perfect day, I’ve come up with a plan of action for dealing with those symbols of success and connectivity.
Step 1: Are they as valuable now as when you collected them?
Set a timer for five minutes and grab a stack of business cards. Ask yourself: Do I remember this person, business, or service?
If yes, go on to the next step.
If no, toss them. Trust your memory and know that if they were important to your life or business, you would remember them. Also remember that your time is highly valuable so if they hold no significance, you should not be wasting your time storing information on the slight chance you might need it.
You probably can reduce your stack significantly by doing this exercise in 5 minute chunks, especially if your business card collection was started more than a year ago.
Step 2: Divide Quickly
Grab a couple of empty shoe boxes and put a sticky note on the front of each one using the following labels (or make up your own categories – but no more than 3 – 4):
- VIP – any important person/business/service that is vital to reach for business or personal use
- Action – someone (or thing) you need to call, reach out to, network with, follow-up, etc. You could split this category into sub-groups like business to business, potential clients, or personal or into actions such as Call, Email, Mail, etc.
- Reference – cards of businesses or services you plan to use in the future or would recommend to others
- Design (optional) – some of my clients love the look of a card and keep it for future inspiration
Quickly toss the cards into each category. This is a rough sort and does not need to be perfect. If someone is a VIP and there is an action associated with it, put it in the VIP box to get processed first.
Step 3: Make an appointment with yourself
If you think these business cards are valuable, then commit a small chunk of time each week to enter them into your contacts list. At minimum, you should process the cards in your VIP box. In the meantime, send your Action, Reference, and other boxes off to a bulk scanning service such as Shoeboxed.com to get the rest of your cards scanned and put into a CRV database to import into your choice contact management system. It will be easier to add notes to the contacts once they are in a manageable database.
These threes steps will quickly help you turn your business card collection from an intimidating to-do into a valuable asset.