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The Secret of Successful Business Card Exchanges

Conventional “guerilla marketing” wisdom holds that you should print on both sides of your business card to maximize your use of the white space available. I’ll go out on a limb and suggest the guerrillas should rethink this idea.

A few weeks ago, while I waited in the lobby of a secure building where I’d be meeting the point person for a workshop I was teaching there, a nice gentleman stopped to offer help. He noticed I’d been sitting there for a while (it was too early for the lobby security desk to be open) and offered to help locate my contact wherever she was in the secure portion of the building. When he learned I was there to teach a workshop for a conflict resolution association, he told me he’d been thinking about a conflict management workshop for his own department. We exchanged business cards and agreed to have a conversation about it. Wow, I always love a little serendipity in my day!

But I didn’t just hand him my card and take his in return. I took a moment for one more key action first.

Before I handed my card over, I took a moment to jot down a quick note on the back. In this case it was, “Thanks for stopping to offer your help in the lobby! I appreciated your professionalism and kindness. – Tammy” When I handed him the card, I deliberately delivered it with the note side up. He glanced, then smiled, and said, “I really look forward to chatting with you some more.”

After we parted ways, I took a quick moment to jot down, on the back of his card, a summary of key things he’d mentioned. That would serve as my memory jog when I got back to the office the next day and called to follow up. I mentioned this part of my business card exchange strategy a few weeks ago in my post, Article Clipping for Clients.

If you follow conventional guerrilla marketing wisdom and print on both sides, you miss a good opportunity to personalize your card exchange in a way that makes your meeting memorable. This is particularly important if you’re exchanging cards at a business social or other networking event…how will you help them remember you when they pull out a stack of 10 or 20 cards they received? For good mediation marketing, use both sides of your business card, but don’t print on both sides.

What kinds of things might you write on the back of your card before handing it over? Think “how to make following up with me easy” and think “resource.” Some examples:

  • A short thank you that reminds them of your brief meeting.
  • Your cell phone number as a special “here’s how to reach me anytime” if you don’t include it on the printed portion.
  • The date and time you agreed to phone them, if their PDA isn’t handy. Don’t leave memory to chance!
  • For a business event of some kind, print up small stickers with the URL of a good article you have on your website, something that’s relevant to the folks at that particular event.
  • The name of a resource (good book, website, or professional, for instance) that you recommend based on your conversation with them.
  • The name of a great restaurant in a city you were discussing, or the directions to a good dog park, or…you name it. Essentially, anything that demonstrates your willingness to serve as a resource.

What additional ways do you maximize your business card and act of offering it to a prospective client? Leave a comment to share your own good story or idea!


Tammy Lenski

Dr. Tammy Lenski helps individuals, pairs, teams, and audiences navigate disagreement better, address friction, and build alignment. Her current work centers on creating the conditions for robust collaboration and sound decisions while fostering resilient personal and professional relationships. Her conflict resolution podcast and blog, Disagree Better, are available at… MORE >

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