After spending much time deeply immersed in the high-tech, heavily wired world of virtual networking, it can become easy to overlook some of the “old school” networking tools. Front and center among these time-tested tools is the business card.
I often host networking events designed to connect savvy professionals seeking to build their networks and create opportunities to? collaborate with one another. Given that people come expecting to meet many people for the first time, it always surprises me when people arrive without business cards. When this happens, it isn’t that the cards were inadvertently forgotten on the desk in the made dash out the door. Most of the “card-less” networkers, including small business owners and job seekers, explained that they didn’t have business cards at all.? This caused me to wonder if others felt similarly, that the business card had become as obsolete as the typewriter I still have in the garage. And, if the business card was still relevant, how has its use changed?
Among the changes I’ve incorporated to my own business cards are:
I no longer include my address or location. As more and more business is done virtually, our location becomes less relevant.
In addition to my own site URL and email address, I include URLs to find me on LinkedIn and Twitter. Granted, sharing the link to your Twitter feed may not be for everyone, but every professional should have and promote their LinkedIn presence.
I use card stock with a flat finish, which allows notes to easily be written on the back. I frequently jot down where and when I met the person for future reference. Hoping I’ll retain this information in my memory just isn’t enough.
I asked a few of my Twitter friends for their thoughts and suggestions:
David Bisset includes his LinkedIn, Twitter and Friendfeed links on his new cards. Many of his business contacts are active social media users.
Kim Smith feels the back of the card is “valuable real estate” and should be used, but cautions against using glossy card stock making it nearly impossible to write on the card.
Russell Tripp pointed out that cards of an irregular shape are difficult to handle. (The internet is loaded with examples of 3D and irregularly shaped cards, but I think you need to think through the desire to stand-out with the practical matter of how someone slips the card into their pocket for future reference).
Barry Motlz summed up much of the input I received about the relevance of business cards with, “Business cards will always be important since virtual relationships will never replace having an in person meal with someone.”
Busy networkers like Barbara Bailey, who hands out thousands of buisness cards at events every year, consider them an essential tool which one should never be without.
Some, including Gerry Bourgeois, prefer more high-tech methods of sharing contact information. Gerry uses a service Drop Card which he demonstrated by sending his contact information to my email address from his phone.
What do you think about business cards? So necessary or so over? If you have cards, how have they evolved over time? Have a better solution for exchanging contact information?
Timely blog. I attended several events last week and was surprised at the number of people who do not have business cards. I routinely carry mine and share my information along with offers of assistance and requests for help. When someone gives me their card, I routinely write the date, where I met them, what they do – if not already included on the card, and any other pertinent information on the back of the card. I meet so many people that, even if I had a photographic memory, I would never be able to remember the person’s name let alone where I met them and what their line of business is.
It may be viewed as old fashioned in our virtual age, but business cards are an invaluable tool that anyone who wants to be remembered must have – and graciously share!
Interesting topic, Irene. I still like to exchange business cards. The paper someone chooses, the design, typography, and the info they choose to include tells me something about them. If they don’t have a business card with them – i.e., have forgotten it, run out, not had time to get one made – I think of them as less than professional. And if someone doesn’t have a business card because they insist on sending me their info via email or whatever, I would feel that they are trying to impose their leading edge sensibilities on me rather than taking into consideration what my needs might be.
But then, I still love receiving paper mail with a handwritten address and an interesting stamp!
I like business cards! They are great for connecting with people face-to-face, and can be a great marketing tool, too!
Here’s an old article I wrote about using them for marketing–http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art36756.asp
I will add social info to mine when I re-order, though–great tip.
But, in my offline circles, most are still not into social media. Hard to believe, but true. So, for that reason alone, still necessary in my world.
I’d love to get your thoughts on cards with photographs! I am needing to get some cards made shortly, and have read that a good photograph is a plus. I thought, “wow, that’s a big change” — but then there’ve been a LOT of big changes.
@Susan – I agree with how we perceive someone without cards, they seem unprepared or less than serious. I don’t think it is old-fashioned, cards have changed, but they are still a must-have tool.
@CJ – Design is important as it does tell us something about the impression the other person wants to make. Finding the balance between being memorable and being over-the-top is a tough one.
@Deb – Good point about it being important to know your audience. If they are not into social media, including a bunch of links may be more or a distraction than helpful information.
@thelittlefluffycat – Personally, I’m not yet a fan of photos on business cards. It’s not that I’m shy, my photo is now on a zillion different sites online. I know others are beginning to add a photo as part of their branding, but I’ve seen very few cards with photos so far (except for realtors, that is, lots of photos in that category).
Thanks for the mention. I love MyDropcard.com! Many ‘Tech types’ do as well.
I still carry traditional business cards as well (and some non-traditional print cards too). The Dropcard is just another weapon in the arsenal! 😉
Irene, this is so timely (I also need to have new cards printed). MyDropcard is a great tool but for all the occasions when asked to leave a card, the other comments reinforce maintaining an updated card as you suggest.
Not only do I think business cards are still important for real-world exchange, but with the rise of personal branding (driven not least by social networks and the decline of employer/employee loyalty) personal calling cards (as per the Victorian era) will come back into vogue for some. You are much more than your position/title/employer. How to present that offline?
@Gerry – I’m so glad that you shared MyDropCard.com. You are so right that having yet another way to easily connect with others is an excellent tool.
@Faith – Another MyDropCard fan! You’re so right that cards are also needed, depending on the situation.
@Trevor – I like the “personal calling card” connection that says who we are and how to find us. If we were defined by our jobs and employers, what does that say about us when we’re between jobs?
I like business cards, too. It’s handy to be able to build a business through the internet, but if I’m talking to someone, or putting a follow-up note in the mail, a business card is a good and handy thing!
I believe that buisness cards are an invaluable tool for my business. I use them at networking events and offer them to clients routinely (I am a counselor). Perhaps some have become so attached to connecting online that they have miscalculated one of the tools necessary in one-to-one networking success. In addition to my pertinent contact information on the front of the card, I have a message about and URL for my blog site.
Most have summarized well so I will just weigh in.
I no longer carry business cards, nor do I collect them unless someone insists I take one.
I carry a Blackjack which I record something if I need to. If I meet someone new I record email or twitter etc.
Most pre-arranged meetings have had some form or electronic communication anyway.
When I do large group meetings I simply put my email on the overhead.
I don’t want anyone calling me unless we have spoken electronically so I leave the phone number off. It’s third rate technology (the phone) anyway.
I think you underestimate the phone. One of my biggest assignments came as a result of picking up the phone and speaking to a magazine editor directly. Also, when selling advertising, the info@ addresses are often useless. Calling the reception/switchboard and getting a name and a personal email address is invaluable. Fourth-rate technology (i.e. walking into a business premises) can be even more effective.
I think business cards are still relevant. I just ordered cards from MOO after reading a social networking article. I included my LinkedIn information and my city and state, though not my street address. I find that letting people know my city is still relevant sometimes because we may do face to face events. I also wonder – when someone has no business cards and wants to give you their e-mail contact, what do they write it on? That’s where a business card comes in handy.
Until everyone on the planet is electronified and no longer uses a phone, a business card is SO important, even if it’s just-in-case…
A business card is still required to be able to connect and remain connected but putting a linkedin link or facebook or other link reduces clutter and makes the card smaller and cuts less trees!!
I use business cards and enjoy getting them, especially when they’re graphically interesting. My big problem is what to do when I get home! Most of the cards I get fall into the “maybe I’ll run into this person again” category, and I don’t use or need a full-on contact management program.
Alphabetical organizers are iffy because they require me to remember the person’s name or business name to find them again. So the cards just stack up somewhere until I toss them out. What’s a better solution?
Business cards are still important! A business card helps me remember the person I spoke with at an event or even in passing. It holds pertinent contact and web information that I can use now or save for later. I usually record all the information from business card aquaintances to my iphone database but, most likely toss the card away.
As technology gains momentum we probably won’t need anything but a PDA to record voice, view and info to our databases. But for now, I like to keep my biz cards circulating!
@Deb – Including a card when sending a follow-up letter is a great idea.
@Mark – Good point that connecting in person will always be important, even as we become more and more accustomed to virtual networking.
@Pollack – I appreciate you weighing in to share a different point of view. I’d imagine that you primarily deal with a very tech savvy group who are comfortable with your approach. I’d love not to carry around a bunch of cards, but am not able to do without them – at least, not yet.
@Barbara – Heard about MOO from someone else, too. You’re right, sometimes knowing a general region matters, even when a street address doesn’t.
@Mo! – Electronified? 🙂
@Pad – I think we can all get behind reducing paper and cutting fewer trees when it makes sense.
@Claire – You must have seen my desk – piles of cards all over. Found a great solution on your blog – CardScan.
@Kristine – You’ve got a great approach, although I sometimes feel a little guilty tossing fancy cards I know were rather pricey to print. (I get over the guilt really quickly!)
Hey, thanks for checking out my blog! Scanning is indeed a nice, neat way to store card info and be able to search it. But you still have to remember that all those people exist and what they do and why you’d want to contact them again! Perhaps I’m just easily overwhelmed, which is why I’m motivated to stay organized ;).
I agree that utilizing the backside of a business card is well worth it.
Anything that would help sell your product or service would be great to put on the back.
Thanks for this post, Irene! I’ve been wondering about this lately myself. I’m graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill in May, and I know I need business cards but wasn’t sure what to put on them. Now I know! I’m curious what you think about including your address on resumes – is that necessary now with remote work?
I always have a business card when alot of people don’t. I don’t mind having my website/email or twitter on it. I am redesigning to incorporate haha
The Back of the Card:
When I was an independent consultant, I took advantage of the back of my business cards by making it a tool for networking, analog style: As you’d expect, the front of the card was all about my contact info, brand, etc. The back of the card had the word “Notes” in my brand font at the top, and the remaining area had faint lines (in brand color) like ruled note paper. This encouraged the person taking the card to note how we met, what we talked about, etc.
Ooh, one of my favorite topics! On the subject of headshots, if you work in marketing/advertising/PR/HR/sales/service or any other industry where you constantly meet people, trade information, and hand out your business card as liberally as you shake someone’s hand or sign a contract, then it is a must to have your picture.
Especially if you’re involved in social media.
I wrote a blog post on this last year, which you and other readers may enjoy: http://ariwriter.com/2008/11/why-my-face-is-on-my-business-card/
I think business cards are essential. However, I think far too often people forget who was behind the card at events where a lot of cards are exchanged. The solution seems to be including what you or your company actually do on the card, rather than just a title.
I’m with Trevor. I believe we need to focus on the ‘calling card’ rather than the ‘business card’. It was in 1998 that I learned the true significance of our own ‘identity’. Laid off from MCI I was getting out of bed at 5:30am every morning and ‘working’. My kids couldn’t understand. I explained to them — I do what I do and sometimes companies pay me to do so (at that time I was working on some research and relished the use of my notebook computer that still belonged to MCI so I was trying to get it done before I had to turn the machine back in).
Indeed, while at EDS, I was not recognized for the identity I had already created in the industry so I rarely used my ‘business card’, and relished the card that represented a holding place for my identity in the industry. While my ‘face’ is not on my card, as Ari well suggests (the ones I use currently were provided and paid for by others), I do typically put my Twitter logo and ID on the back via a sticker, something I’d likely do when I have to make my own.
@Jerry – Front, back, it’s all valuable real estate.
@Kelly – Glad to know the discussion is timely for you. Networking, job-seeking college grads need cards, too. At least city and state should be on a resume because many employers will want to know up-front if you’ll need to relocate to fill a job which requires you to work on the premises.
@Jerlyn – Cutting edge to add Twitter. Will those receiving your card know what to make of your twitterstream where only your half of the conversation is visible? (Not advocating against it, I’ve recently added it to my own card.)
@Trevor – Excellent way to ?suggest? that someone might want to take notes on the back of your card.
@Ari – I have a strong feeling you are ahead of the pack by adding your photo. It can be important for branding and, most importantly, to be remembered. Thanks for link to your blog post, heading over there to check it out.
@John – I’ve seen many cards which give no clue what someone does or hopes to do. Often, I’ve been told this was done intentionally as a conversation starter. Have seen mixed results with this approach.
@Rotkapchen – Interesting sticker idea, allowing you to add (or not add) Twitter information depending on the context.
@Irene, I think the benefit of the “what you do” is not during the event, but after. If they don’t write on the back, 2 days later, how will they remember? Headshots might help, but a key reminder on the card should help.
A great topic, Irene!
Your business card is the most important asset you own. It is your advertising tool. Without this card, how do you give your phone number? Write it on a piece of scrap paper? NOT!!!
Your business card should always be immaculate. No dog-earred corners. No changes inked in. No food stains. No make up. Least of all, no one else’s phone number scratched on it! That would be most tacky.
Your business card should always be easily accessible, and not hidden in the deepest reaches of the purse or amongst all of the other business cards collected or jumbled in the wallet. I would see this person as being very unorganized. Not sure I’d want to conduct business with him.
Thanks for this question, Irene!
Business cards continue to be very important and an expected networking tool in Corporate America. In fact, I have about 2-3 client meetings per week, the first thing that is pulled out after uttering “Hi, nice to meet you” is the business card. At that point, in their mind, your customer creates their first validation of why they agreed to see you in the first place.
After reading all these comments I would have to say, business cards have become even more important than ever before and even though I have never used a picture on mine before after using cards for many years, I am going to get me some shiny ones with a good picture now, thanks!
I don’t see business cards being obsolete, I don’t think that will ever happen, but they have evolved and need to reflect more of who you are. Give people a portal to who you are, starting with that little piece of paper you hand to them. Good thoughts!
Business cards are very valuable. I don’t owe a smartphone, so beaming my card or receiving them is not an option for me, and a lot of people don’t do this anyway. I usually put a sticker at the back of my cards my links to whatever I’m presenting and my social networks information. See this link:
@Ari: Never thought of the face thing… Might try it next time.
I think of business cards as “Jacks or better”. What I mean is, if you are in business you should not even be playing the game unless you have a business card. I always carry an 10 or so clean business cards in my suit jacket side pocket.
Periodically, a nice bit of business has resulted from sharing my business card.
I’m not using business cards as often as I used to, but I’m not ready to give them up just yet. When I meet someone in person who I really think can be a potential client or project partner, giving/exchanging business cards has a way of taking that great first impression and solidifying it a bit more. I’ve opted to leave the back blank as I look at it as prime area for personal notes from our meeting. Great post Irene.
Wonderful discussion you have going here and lots of great comments.
I agree with most of the posters here that cards are important these days especially for events. Without cards it’s difficult to pass along contact information for networking down the road (sure you can exchange emails but sometimes you just need to know who the person is).
I also agree that business cards need to be useful with the right information and format. Crazy cards get tossed, normal ones stay in a stack. Cards with a social networking id (i.e. twitter) get an immediate connection and that’s huge value.
And yes, a card needs to be made of something I can write on so I remember why we talked and what the follow is.
One day the need may not exist for cards but until we really do drop paper I see a lot of value especially from people who use their card as a contact point to leverage into a social media tool.
I like your idea of dropping the address and using the real estate for my twitter, facebook and linkedin links.
A very savvy friend this week also suggested that I put something unique (a USP I guess) one liner that sets me apart on the back of the card.
I think less emphasis is on the business card now “to get business”. Business people expect business cards that look good and say the right things – but they are nothing more than “a calling card”.
Business cards are also important when dealing with people from certain cultures. It is considered bad manners in some Far East cultures to pocket a business card without first looking at it and the card exchange is something of a ritual. If you didn’t have a card, I can only imagine what they would think of you.