There are some unwritten rules for when you get someone’s business card. There are, of course, laws you must also follow, but this doesn’t cover them because they’re few and pretty obvious.
First and foremost, you should never sell someone’s contact information to anyone. There’s a bond of trust when someone gives you their card. If you’ve networked like I have, you likely have thousands of business cards. That could fetch a pretty good price if I were to sell it, but it would also tell everyone you’re not trustworthy.
I’ve covered spam in other blogs, but it is worth repeating. Unless someone asks to be on your email list or asks you to send over some sales information, don’t do it. Receiving a business card is actually not a tacit invitation to add someone to your email list. It’s an invitation to be in a business relationship with them. What type of relationship depends on what you two discussed.
If someone gets my card and adds me to their email list, I immediately report that email sender as spam to my email provider. Firstly, because it is spam and I don’t want it. Secondly, because if enough people report someone as spam, their emails get blocked for everyone. Even if it isn’t illegal in the way someone is spamming, it can still be reported as spam. Email providers have stricter standards for what is legitimate email.
No Personal Contact
If someone gives you their business card, 99.99% of the time, it is for business purposes only. Unless the person specifically tells you otherwise, you should never use that contact information for personal reasons. That means, don’t ask someone out on a date. That’s really creepy if you breach that business relationship that way.
Generally, if you get someone’s business card, that’s their way of saying “stay in touch.” The easiest way to start that relationship is a quick follow up email that says it was good to meet them, and if appropriate, you’d like to sit down for a long discussion. Normally, you get cards in loud and crowded events. A sit down over coffee is very warranted after an event like that. That way, you show that you want to get to know them and you get that opportunity.
If a sit down isn’t warranted, it is still nice to follow up and highlight some things you spoke about and reinforce they you’d like to stay in touch.