How I increased my LinkedIn Connections by 36% with Old Business Cards

Do you have a stack of business cards you have collected from networking events? Are they collecting dust because you have no idea what to do with them? Before you throw them away, I am going to tell you how you can easily and quickly increase your LinkedIn reach using these cards. Here is how I increased my community and reconnected with everyone from vendors to potential customers.

90 Business cards helped me increase my LinkedIn Connections by 36%.

Recently, I opened my top desk drawer to find a huge stack (see picture) of business cards. Over the past several years, I had collected business cards and threw them in a drawer. Whether I want to admit it or not, I often connect with people at events, find them very interesting, and then do absolutely nothing with their business card the next day. Sure, I have good thoughts of sending a thank you note, but I don’t always have time when too much time passes. (See blog post The Power of a Personal Note)

I was missing an opportunity to build my community. Yes, I missed the first opportunity by not sending a “nice to meet you,” email or letter, but was there anything I can do to reconnect with the person. I figured it was worth a try. So, I took the stack of cards out of the drawer and went through each one, recalling how and when I met them. Some I could remember, some I couldn’t.

I sorted the pile into three new piles: trash, already connected, and not connected on LinkedIn. I had 90 cards with available connections. It was a mix of designers (my primary audience), lots of vendors (can be useful to my business for several reasons), and contractors/public officials (i.e., building department contacts). I took out the public officials for now but kept the contractors.

Craft a Personal LinkedIn Message

I then crafted a quick note allowing slight customization for each. Remember, when connecting to someone, you can customize a short message before you send the request. Do not use the standard language provided by LinkedIn. You should always mention why you are reaching out. Making it personal will improve your connection rate.

A quick message might say, “Hello, {Name}. I found your card in my drawer and realized we have not caught up since we met at the {Event}. I would love to reconnect.”

You can add another sentence such as “When we met you were with {company}, I see you have moved companies. I would love to hear about your {products/position}.

It is that simple. LinkedIn allows you 300 characters to write a quick note. Personalization is key, by reminding the person where you met, it will jog their memory. You are more likely to receive a response.

Campaign Results

Once I got the message down, it went pretty quick.  I started posting these messages in the evenings when I had a little downtime. After the first week of completing the messages, I had over 100 new connections. My connections increased by 36% — not a bad return on a few hours of work.

Here is the even better part; every invitation I sent to connect, LinkedIn provides me with a list of additional people that I may know. This gave me opportunities to connect with a larger group of people. I created a second message customized to this audience and started reaching out to those folks as well.

This message read something like, “Hi. I am an educator and interior designer in the Denver area and would love to connect with you. I am actively expanding my network to help connect with the industry.”

Here is a caveat, don’t hit the connect button below the name, rather click into their profile by clicking the name, then hit connect. Now, add a personalized note rather than using the prepopulated text. Personal notes will help increase your connection rate. Also, when you go into the person’s profile, take a few minutes to catch up on who they are and what they do. You may find some interesting information that you have in common.

If you are not using LinkedIn to build a community, then check out my blog post, “Why LinkedIn should be a part of your social media strategy.” In the blog post, I cover all the opportunities LinkedIn has to offer for professionals. Yes, it is primarily a business-to-business social channel, ideal for commercial designers, but it can also be important to residential designers.

It is increasingly important to build a community. Even if you are a solo-entrepreneur designer or just an introvert like me, you still need others to help you promote and grow. Connections can help you when you face a challenging situation, need to do research, looking for a new employee, or just wanting to talk to someone. Don’t be afraid to connect with others in the industry. You will be surprised; even vendors can be very helpful.

Couple things to note:

  • Initial connection message is limited to 300 characters, use them wisely
  • LinkedIn allows you to send 100 connection requests per hour

To help you get started using LinkedIn to grow your design business, I have created a LinkedIn Strategy Plan for you to download for free.

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