Let's say you just had a job interview or attended a professional event. Perhaps you struck up a conversation with someone on a plane or connected with a fellow guest at a dinner party. You've now got the person's business card ... but that little piece of cardboard is essentially worthless if you don't put it to good use. Herewith, a game plan.
After speaking with someone (repeat: after, not during), take a minute or two to jot down a few notes about the person and your conversation. You can often do this directly on their business card. And the more details, the better. You never know when their spouse's name, alma mater or favorite foods could come in handy.
Make sure to reach out a day or two after your initial meeting. Simply say that you enjoyed meeting them and try to reflect back on a point or topic from your conversation. You might also remind them of what you can do for them. This is your opportunity to briefly outline your potential in whatever goal you're looking to accomplish, be it a job opening or collaboration.
Michael Port, a business coach and author of "Book Yourself Solid," says having a strategy for managing your potential contacts "may be the most important marketing strategy you'll ever use." In the book, Port suggests taking the time to create a system for keeping in touch. "If you don't have a systematized and automated 'Keep in Touch Strategy' in place, you may, as the old saying goes, leave a lot of business on the table." Of course, you've got to create a system that works for you personally, but we'd recommend making a file on each contact, programmed with reminders to check-in every other month or so. Include information about how you met and what you've discussed in the file. When the reminder pops up on your calendar, reach out. You could set up a meeting to catch up or simply send along something that might be of interest to them (like a great article or an invite to another event).