Business Cards: Still Useful or Obsolete?

Not long ago, business owners attending a convention or industry trade show walked away with dozens of business cards to file away in their Rolodexes when they got home. These cards were a typical part of any business transaction — the first exchange of information between a vendor and a prospective client.

Now tech innovations threaten to render the once all-powerful business card obsolete, or so the argument goes. With digital media to mobile devices, people are connecting faster than ever before. Smartphone users can snap pictures of and digitize paper cards on the spot or use an app to “bump” their phones together and instantly exchange contact information. And that doesn’t even include all the networking done via email, LinkedIn, Facebook, and the like.

Conventional wisdom says that Gen Y and other young entrepreneurs have abandoned paper business cards in favor of ever-improving digital alternatives. Just as with other print products — books, newspapers, and magazines — the writing is on the wall.

But does that mean you should you ditch your card holder? Not so fast, say business card proponents. There are still plenty of good reasons to keep business cards in your networking arsenal. For example:

  • Paper business cards are a quick, easy way to introduce yourself and your services — no batteries, smartphone, or cloud required. You won’t waste anyone’s time spelling out your name and email address. And who wants to stand around watching a group of people text contact information to one another?
  • Software changes frequently. When it’s time to upgrade your smartphone, crucial data may get lost. This won’t happen if you have actual business cards as backup.
  • Business cards help to build your brand at industry networking events, chance encounters at Starbucks, and parent-teacher meetings. The quality of the design, as well as the card’s texture, are expressions of your brand.
  • You can tack a business card on a bulletin board or leave several behind, so people can take one at their convenience (even if you’re not there) for handy reference later. Special introductory offers, or a map to help people find your office or store, can be printed on the back of the card.
  • Cards are ideal for businesses that rely more on direct contact than technology. This may include consultants, tutors, and gardeners, for example. Cards can provide a personal touch and tangible “proof” that your business is here to stay.

So, while the debate rages on, some business owners are opting for a sensible compromise — adding a QR (quick response) code to their business cards. It’s a free, easy way to transfer contact information into another person’s mobile-phone database and, some might say, the perfect marriage between tradition and innovation.

About Lee Polevoi

Lee Polevoi is an award-winning freelance copywriter and editor and a former Senior Writer for Vistage International, a global membership organization of chief executive officers. He writes frequently on issues and challenges faced by U.S. small businesses.
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