Have business cards had their day?

Business cards tend to accumulate. Our wallets are stuffed, our desk are scattered and the pockets of our jackets and trousers invariably have one or two random examples that need to be retrieved before going in the washing machine.

How many business cards do you collect that actually make it into a folder or organised system to be accessed later? Do you diligently capture all the contact information? Or do you casually add them to the pile until that moment six months later when you realise you need a consultant and vaguely remember exchanging details with one?

If the purpose is to easily pass on your contact information to new people, surely there are more efficient methods than a piece of printed cardboard?

“Let’s connect online”

These days, many people have far more LinkedIn connections than they do business cards in their collection. Even when meeting in person, whipping out a smartphone to connect on social media can be more effective than swapping cards. After all, a social media connection gives someone access to a lot more information than could fit onto a small card.

Once connected on LinkedIn, you not only have access to contact the person again, but also detailed information on their work history, skills, portfolio, recommendations from colleagues and an insight into their ideas through reading their updates.

Instead of handing out business card to everyone in a room, a conference speaker is more likely to put of a slide with their LinkedIn, Twitter and/or other relevant online profiles for anyone to connect. Cheaper, more efficient and no printing required.

Of course if you do use this method, only connect on networks you use in a professional capacity. Do your business contacts or prospective employers need to see your cat photos on Facebook or your favourite recipes on Pinterest?

A memorable impression

Business cards do still have a place, though. Used well, the business card can be extremely effective in making the right impression, helping you to stand out from the hordes of other bits of card or social media connections.

My favourite business card was given to me earlier this year by Jay Baer, content marketer and author of Youtility. His business card is metal and doubles as a beer bottle opener. This handy card stays in my wallet and has come in extremely useful at parties and barbecues. By being useful, it demonstrates the central theme of his book, while also ensuring I never lose his details. In fact, I’ve shown it to so many other people (often when opening their beer) that Jay has achieved extra word-of-mouth exposure beyond a single connection with me.

Naturally, a metal die-cut business card is more expensive by the thousand and probably isn’t an option at your local printers. But by putting a bit more thought into how your card can better represent what you do might make it more memorable and relevant beyond a generic job title and email address.

Quality, not quantity

There will always be situations where a card is the most convenient way of exchanging contact information, particularly if the other person doesn’t use the same networks or digital tools as you. So the question is probably less about whether or not you will use business cards in the future, and instead about how you can use them so they count.

How do you capture relevant information from the cards you collect in a way that provides value? For example, there are various smartphone apps that can scan and capture business card info and add them to your contacts list for handy reference. If your business captures a lot of cards at conferences, the right software could quickly transform each one into a lead within your sales platform.

Plus your own card has to compete with hundreds of others, so it needs to stand out in a way that will be remembered beyond the two-second transaction of exchange.

After all, business cards are for far more than just dropping into bowls to enter a prize draw.

What do you think - will business cards become obsolete or will there always be a place for them? Do you still use business cards?

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