I’m sure you’ve attended networking events where people shove business cards into your hands, even though you haven’t asked for them, or perhaps they have asked you for your card, although you don’t seem to have anything in common. Other times, you’ve meaningfully exchanged cards with people that you’d like to get to know better and/or work with.
The result of these card exchanges is a drawer full of business cards. Looking at my desk drawer filled with sad, forgotten cards, I wonder: are business cards a relic of the past or still a requirement in today’s day and age?
Where did they come from?
The main predecessors of business cards were bearer cards, calling or visiting cards, and trade cards. These cards denoted social and business standing, as well as used for advertising purposes.
Calling or visiting cards seem to be the closest to the business cards of today. Used in upper echelons of society, visiting cards were used to announce someone when they visited a household. They were also used to make introductions. Further detail can be found at GreatFx Printing. These past exchanges have evolved into our modern conception of the card swapping ritual that amounts to a business introduction.
Over time, technology has seemed to be slowly phasing out the use of the physical card to a minor degree. That being said, cards are still frequently exchanged, despite some people strongly advocating against their relevance.
The jury is out, but I still use business cards…
I still carry business cards, hand them out selectively, and accept cards from others. Other than receiving a cursory look, they go into my business card case to be reviewed later and used to connect on LinkedIn. After that, they go in the darkness of my desk drawer, rarely to be viewed again…
Other people in my network enter their business cards in a Customer Relationship Management system or scan them into a business card app on their phone then dispose of the card. In any event, the physical exchange of the card is still essential to the introduction process.
One of my coaching colleagues refuses to hand out or accept business cards. I suspect he actually doesn’t have any printed! He will ask people if they are on LinkedIn. If so, he searches them on his phone, asks the person to connect, and viola, he has all their information. No business cards to carry, review, store or enter into another system. Some people might find this practice impersonal, but most wouldn’t necessarily have an opinion on the matter until they were exposed to that situation.
In the future, I think that our paper business cards may become a relic, but for the time being, I believe they serve us in many ways. Here are some of them:
- True, they provide us with information that can be found in other places, but here it is in one convenient place – name, position, company name, address, phone numbers, email address, and website.
- They are a company’s first impression. Very creative cards with bold colors tell you something different than white, traditional, card stock with conservative colours. They convey the company’s brand through logo, slogan and colour choices, as well as the words the company chooses to put on the card.
- Along with being the first impression of a company’s brand, a business card can also convey a first impression of YOU. Having your contact information available via business card represents you as prepared, professional, and confident in your position. Searching for a pen and scrawling your details on an available scrap does not present you in a particularly positive light.
- Having been presented with a business card helps remember the person’s name. I am notoriously bad with people’s names, although very good at recognizing faces.
- Along with #4 above, if you are exchanging a card you are face to face with the person you are trying to connect with. Completing an introduction with a card and a handshake is still far more personal and memorable than an impersonal digital exchange of information.
- Business cards can be reminders. When I find that card in the bottom of my case, it is a reminder to contact that person.
- Cards can now be used to add value. If you are providing a particular product or service, cards can contain codes giving discounts, special perks, you name it. This encourages face-to-face interaction, and is a way to make you and your brand more memorable.
So should we still use the business card?
There doesn’t seem to be a “one-size-fits-all” answer as of yet… However, it seems that, for the time being, the business card is here to stay.
While the rise of technology has made information sharing a lot easier, there is still something to having that little, four-cornered, piece of card stock in your hand (and in the bottom of your case).
How do you feel about the use of the business card?