Business cards are one of the most powerful networking tools on the planet – and one of the most abused and underused. Most people go to networking events and just collect a bunch of business cards that never get contacted.

This is a terrible system. If you don’t have a good system for organizing your business cards, you’re flushing money and contacts down the drain.

==> Rule #1: Write on Your Business Cards

Whenever you meet someone new, write some notes on the back of the business card. For example, if you get a business card from a graphic designer, write “Knows tech execs, may be good for networking, also great designer for Fred, brown hair, tall.”

Next time you look through your business cards and come across that card, all you need to do is turn it over and read your notes. You’ll instantly know who it is and what your next to-do is regarding that card.

==> Contact Them within 48 Hours of Meeting

Even if you don’t have anything you want to do with them yet, always follow up within 48 hours.

Even if your follow up is something as simple as “Ben, it was great meeting you last night – Let me know if you ever need help with X.”

This opens the dialogue and opens a channel of communication. Later, when you want to make real meaningful contact, they’ll remember who you are.

==> File All Your Business Cards

People often don’t file business cards the same way that they file other important papers. Something about the small size of the business card makes it seem somehow less important.

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It’s not. Filing business cards is just as important as filing any other crucial business document.

File your business cards by networking event, by category of services or by how you’d like to connect with them in the future. Go through these cards every couple weeks to see if there are people you’d like to connect with.

==> Throw Away Cards You’ll Never Contact

People often feel guilty about throwing business cards away. It feels rude, as if you were disrespecting someone else’s business or a potential connection.

The reality is, if there’s a card that you’re never going to contact, it doesn’t make a difference whether it’s in your drawer or your trash can.

Having cards you’ll never contact in your business card pile makes it a lot harder to figure out which cards are actually valuable.

Getting in the habit of writing on your cards, contacting people quickly, sorting your cards and tossing the ones you’ll never use is one of the most valuable business habits you could develop. This is how you meet potential clients, investors, employers, employees and partners.