By Bryan Orr

Okay, so we can probably all admit to geeking out with our first business card design. They made us feel important and official. I remember when I started my business, designing and printing business cards was one of the first tasks I completed. But here’s the thing: business cards are not actually getting you genuine customers.

We still feel fancy when we get that fresh sleeve of sleek and stylish cards in the mail with our name on it, but truth be told, you’re mostly just wasting your money on them. Making connections and networking with prospective customers and fellow business men and women is important, but if you think that all the places you’re handing out your card is bringing in leads to your business, it’s time to face reality.

While having a business card or two close by in your wallet is a perfectly good habit, let’s get to the real meat of what it means to network and make connections without the traditional business card.

Find Your People

When you’re at an event, don’t feel as if you should meet as many people as possible. Traditionally, you may have tried to shake hands with all, hand out your card to everyone, and then left the event feeling like you “did your duty.” If you’ve spread yourself thin, you’re most likely not making the real connections that you need.

Instead, tune in to a few conversations and be memorable to two or three. Spend your time with people that have mutual business interests and/or needs. Find those who are looking specifically for what you have to offer or will be a mutual support for your business/services.

Be Generous

When you’ve made a connection with someone and there is a mutual interest in moving forward together (desire to learn more about each other), make sure that the next step you’re going to take is to give something of real value. Hopefully, you shared email addresses after having a real conversation (this is when a business card may be handy, but c’mon, your smartphone will suffice just fine), and you now have a great opportunity to send something to them that will be both educational and personal. Make a short video tutorial, or some engaging post that will show others what you have to offer. Even just a business tip or hack that you’ve had success with. Others will feel that you’re genuine and trustworthy when you take these extra steps. You’ll gain true fans and supporters!

Be Approachable

When you’re networking and making connections, be the true you. Being professional is good, but don’t put on airs. Be approachable. People want to connect with those they can relate to. Make an effort to be down to earth and humble. If you’ve done the 2 steps above, you’re now gaining a list of people with whom you can continue to share what you have to offer. Build their trust by sending regular emails/blog posts that offer some humor and everyday life tips.

Networking in this way does take time, effort, and thought, but the true nature of networking is to make long term connections, and learning how to engage, give and relate to others will do a heck of a lot more than dropping a thousand business cards around town.

What is something you can do this week to build a bridge to a potential client?