Let me just start by saying that simply being given a business card is NOT networking. If you’re someone who likes to attend networking events, you’ve probably received tons of business cards from fellow entrepreneurs and in my opinion, attending the networking event in the first place is half the battle, so congrats on getting that far! But, if you’re taking someone’s business card and then you just let it sit in the bottom of your purse, you are not networking, you’re simply collecting pieces of paper that you’ll probably end up using to wrap up your chewed gum.

So, what should you actually do with all of those business cards you’ve been collecting? Follow these three simple steps whenever you get someone’s business card and you’ll be making lasting connections in no time!

1. Enter them into a spreadsheet
Get them out of your purse, wallet or coat pocket and enter the person’s information into a spreadsheet. Enter as much valuable information about the person as you can onto your sheet. I always include the basics like first and last name, email, phone, website and social media handles if listed. Then go one step further and list out everything you can remember about the interaction you had with that person, especially where/ when you met them, what they do, and what you chatted about.

Now you’ll have an entire database of everyone that you’ve ever exchanged cards with and you’ll remember exactly how you met them and what you already know about them.

2. Send a follow-up email
Following-up is how you take exchanging business cards from being more trash in your purse to networking and forming relationships. I think it’s best to send a follow-up email within the first 3-4 days after meeting someone. This way you’ll stay top of mind and show that you’re interested in forming a relationship.

The follow-up can be simple. All it takes is a short email that says how nice it was to meet them and that you’d like to keep in touch. Remember, this is just a reintroduction email so that they remember you. Don’t try to sell them anything or promote yourself. If the person you’re reaching out to is someone that you’d like to collaborate or work with, I always suggest offering up something to them first rather than immediately asking them to do something for you.

3. Don’t assume they want to be added to your mailing list
When someone gives you their business card, it does not mean that they want to sign up for your mailing list. This is why I like to keep all of the email addresses from business cards in a spreadsheet rather than putting them into my email automation platform. If you send any of these new contacts an email, make sure that you’re sending it from the address that is listed on your business cards and that it’s not a bulk email. You never want to come off as being spammy! If you’d like to add someone to your mailing list, ask them first!