I collect quite a few business cards in any given month. I attend several networking groups regularly in three different towns/cities, and I get to events when I can. I put the business cards I want to have handy for referrals in a binder. Those are my referral partners. You are probably picturing that binder as huge and overflowing. It’s not. Want to know what happens to that huge stack of cards I collect? I’ll tell you.
When I bring home cards from new contacts they go into my holding spot. You see, someone has to earn a spot in my binder. So, the first time I meet you, unless we had a huge connection or your business is absolutely unique, you haven’t earned that spot.
Come to a networking event once, and I’ll be happy I met you. Come a couple of times, and I’ll consider you a business acquaintance. But, you won’t make it into my binder.
Every couple of months I go through those cards in the holding spot. If you’ve become a part of that networking group and we’ve gotten to know one another, you move into the binder. If I haven’t seen you since that first meeting, but we’ve been corresponding or connected through social media, you move on to the binder. That binder goes in my van almost every time it’s on the road. I keep a few copies of each business card in there, and they’re categorized by location. That way I’m all set when someone asks if I know someone who does ___________.
If I’ve haven’t seen you since that first meeting, but I’ve only had your card for a couple of months, it goes back into the holding spot. If I’ve had it for several months and haven’t seen you, or I’ve only seen you a couple of times, you go into the recycle bin.
If we’ve become true referral partners, if I’ve gotten to know you in a way that makes me comfortable not just referring you but recommending you to the people who trust me, then you move into my purse. This is prime real estate. I have fewer than 10 business cards that I carry with me.
You see, in order to earn a referral, I have to know, like, and trust you. People trust me to send them to people who are good at what they do and run an ethical business. It’s nothing against you, but if I’ve only met you once I can’t honestly tell them that you’ll treat them well.
Every year I go through the binder. If I’ve lost contact with someone in the binder, their card is removed. If I’ve had a bad experience with that person’s business and it wasn’t handled well, the card is removed. Only current good referrals stay in the binder.
Oh, and if you walk up to my table at an event and toss your business card on it without asking me if I want or need it, it won’t even make it to the holding spot. It goes directly into the recycling bin. If you don’t take the time to find out if I want your business card before tossing it my way, I can’t imagine that you’ll listen to a prospective customer to truly find out his/her wants or needs either.