The way we network and make new business connections has changed.
While a decade ago, you might have had a drawer full of business cards on your desk, now you'll likely keep them for no longer than the time it takes to add the contact on LinkedIn or scan the card into your phone. Or, you might just do all of your networking online.
Despite these changes, business is still about human connection. The internet has made it easier than ever for anyone in the world to start their own business, but who you know — or who you can know — is still important. Business success still depends on winning the attention of the right people, whether they're employers, employees, investors, suppliers, partners, or customers.
As the business adage goes (which also happens to be the title of a book by startup advisor Porter Gale), "your network is your net worth."
With the right people by your side, you can optimize your career and elevate your brand to reach more customers, markets, and opportunities with the strongest product or service.
Here's what you need to know to get more business contacts in today's world, organize them with digital systems, and turn the relationships into opportunities.
The Importance of Business Contacts
With each new valuable contact, you take an extra step to future-proofing your career and business against unpredictability and fast-changing markets and demands.
As a professional, the right business contacts can help you develop your career, reach new opportunities, and leverage your personal brand.
For your company, business contacts are necessary to share or exchange resources and power up your products or services with integrations from other businesses. New contacts also impact your business' brand awareness, the growth of potential leads, and the enrichment of your customer base with more people from your target market.
People you interact with can also become providers and help you find solutions to problems or risks you're facing. These contacts are key to optimize your team, product, or service.
How to Find Business Contacts
So, you know that business contacts are important. But where can you actually find them?
Even if you're working from home rather than attending key industry events or networking events right now, networking hasn't gone anywhere. It just looks a little different.
As music to every introvert's ears, networking is no longer just about in-person or face-to-face human interaction. In fact, it's never had to be exactly this. We can look back to 1982 and a catchily-titled book called MegaTrends, in which John Naisbitt defined networking as the opportunity to "exchange resources, contacts, and information" and create "linkages between people."
Networking has simply adapted to how we exchange resources, contacts, and information today: online. From direct messages to virtual events and the simple email thread, the opportunities to find and reach out to like-minded business contacts are more abundant and cost-effective than ever before.
Some of the best ways to find business contacts include:
There's an assortment of networking applications out there. While some of them offer specific services such as business card creation or scanning, other apps allow you to locate and contact professionals from specific industries or even companies.
LinkedIn is one of the biggest networking apps in the world by serving more than 700 million people. That makes it a must-have for networking.
Social media has become one of the most direct and impactful communication channels for companies of any size. Next to that, it has an important role as a networking tool.
Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are just some of the countless local and international social media channels through which you can reach out to new audiences in an organic way, or via paid promotion.
Event & Conferences
Attending in-person or virtual events and conferences related to your area of interest or industry is an effective networking opportunity. There are great events out there where next to networking, you'll learn about your sector's latest trends. Don't be afraid to introduce yourself, interact, and create new connections.
Speaking at conferences or sharing thought-leadership articles are also effective ways to find new business contacts and build up your personal brand.
Groups & Communities
Joining groups and communities created for your industry, role, or market helps you create solid business connections. Through these channels, you have the opportunity to position yourself as an expert in an area by providing opinions and facts.
Question-and-answer websites like Quora, are increasingly becoming networking spaces.
In most groups and communities it's advisable to avoid being overly promotional. As most members will be there to get information, solutions, and consistent reviews.
The Best Way to Manage Your Business Contacts
Finding new business contacts isn't the end goal, it's just the beginning. You need to maintain your business contact data and the relationship in order for it to be valuable long-term.
While you can manage your network of personal business contacts via a social network like LinkedIn or your email inbox, these options probably won't cut it for contacts you're planning on doing business with, such as customers or partners.
To avoid unruly business contact data, the easiest way to organize your business contacts is with a CRM, or customer relationship management platform. A CRM is optimized for handling large volumes of information about the people that your business is in contact with — whether it's subscribers, leads, customers, or business partners, or suppliers.
You can think of your CRM as the biggest (and hopefully most organized) address book your business can have.
To optimize your CRM for strong business relationships, make sure your business contact data is:
- Up-to-date and online instead of stuck in offline systems, spreadsheets, or business cards
- High integrity, or accurate, complete, and consistent throughout its lifecycle
- Accessible and transparent to the right people in your business
- Automatically synced between different apps and devices, so you can view or pick up the conversation anywhere
Optimize Your Apps for Collecting Business Contacts
There's still a time and place for business cards, but it's essential to add them to your digital systems as soon as possible. It's a big no-no to collect a business card, put it in your desk drawer, and forget all about it until one day when you need to reach out and they have no recollection of who you are. Here are three options to quickly store your business cards digitally.
How to scan business cards into HubSpot
With HubSpot as your CRM, you don't need any additional apps to scan your business cards — all you need is the HubSpot mobile app, which has free built-in card scanning. You can transform your business cards into CRM contacts in a matter of seconds, so they're exactly where you need them to be for safe storage and sales and marketing outreach.
How to scan business cards into Google Contacts
If your business collects contacts in Google Contacts and you have an Android phone, you can use Google Lens to quickly add business cards to your contacts. This is especially useful if you have an automated two-way sync between Google Contacts and another app, such as your main CRM.
First, check if Google Lens is already built into your camera app. If so, you only need to click the Lens icon in your camera app, hover over the business card, and click the search icon. You should then see an "Add contact" option, which pulls the name, email, phone number, and other visible information into Google Contacts.
If the Google Lens icon doesn't currently show when you go to take a photo, you can download the Lens app on the Google Play Store and follow the same process as above.
How to scan business cards into Outlook contacts
If you're using Outlook as your phone's address book, you can use the Outlook mobile app to scan your business cards with the built-in Office Lens functionality.
All you need to do is open the Outlook app, select the search icon on the bottom bar, and tap "Create." Next, select "Scan business card." The app will then transform text into a new contact card, which you can adjust if necessary before confirming.
Strengthen Your Organization with Business Contacts
It's an unpredictable business landscape out there, but the good news is that you don't have to go it alone. With high-value business contacts, you can future-proof your career and organization by sharing resources, contacts, and information that strengthen and nurture both sides of the relationship. And with digital networking, there are fewer barriers to finding new business contacts than ever before.