I recently had USA Today small business columnist Steve Strauss on my radio show to talk about important developments impacting small business people in 2008. Many of these are probably familiar to you, such as the challenging economy, going green, and search engine optimization. But the No. 1 trend Strauss identified was the growing importance of social media and its impact on leveling the playing field for small businesses.
He used the term Networking 2.0 to explain how we’ll need to expand our efforts to form business relationships to include Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social sites, in addition to local mixers and chamber of commerce events. And anyone who’s read this column over the past months will know that I am totally in agreement with using social media to make it as easy as possible for people looking for the products and services you provide to find you. But as important as Networking 2.0 is, it’s not a replacement for Networking 1.0–good old-fashioned face-to-face contact. Here are a few important tools to increase the effectiveness of your in-person networking efforts.
Business Card Scanner
I speak at a lot of networking events, trade shows, conferences, etc. and throw business cards around like Frisbees. I guess I should say like boomerangs because for every one I give out it seems like I get five in return, and come home with upwards of 100 business cards from some events. That’s the good news, the bad news is that in order for me to follow up with these folks with an e-mail, I would have to manually type in all that contact information from each card. And more times than not, I just wasn’t up to the task, so who knows how many business opportunities I lost out on because of laziness? I’m glad to say this doesn’t happen anymore thanks to the CardScan Executive card scanner. Now all I have to do is plug the Executive in to the USB port on my laptop and feed the cards into the unit. The CardScan software reads the cards and very accurately creates contact records that are easily exported into Microsoft Outlook.
Once cards are scanned, I can quickly send out personalized e-mails or use standard templates to do e-mail blasts to everyone I met at a particular event. The Executive also comes with CardScan At Your Service–a free online back-up service for your contact data. Not only does your contact data get backed up, but you can access your data from any Web browser by using your login and password.
Multimedia Mobile Device
For the last few out of town trips I’ve had to take, I left behind my laptop. I wanted to see how I would make out with just my iPhone. And I must say I didn’t miss lugging the laptop with me much at all. The cool thing about using my iPhone as my computing device for these short trips is that it allowed me to take pictures of things going on at events, which I