Are Business Cards Still Relevant?

In the time-strapped, cashed-strapped reality that many small business owners work in, business cards may not garner that much attention- that is, until an opportunity for networking presents itself. Then that little piece of cardboard suddenly appears on the scene to become a reliable, silent partner in our exchanges and relationship building.

Business cards for small business ownersBut over the past few years, as platforms such as LinkedIn gain in reach and prevalence, many have been quick to proclaim that business cards will go the way of the dinosaur. In an effort to cut costs and avoid looking out-dated, many small business owners may wonder if they should bother spending precious money on business cards, or for that matter, other printed marketing materials, such as brochures and fliers.

After all, there are many ways to exchange that data virtually at a fraction of the cost it would take to design and print those materials. Why bother with fliers and posters when you can install a digital sign, or send a mobile advertisement, and why not just cut the whole business card thing out altogether and rely on the fast-growing crop of data sharing mobile apps? Just bump phones or just scan in their, ahem, business cards and you’re done. Besides, you’ll save a few trees in the process.

The answer of course is that business cards et al. aren’t going anywhere anytime soon and with good reason. Though the argument can be made that exchanging marketing material and contact information electronically is more efficient, it at the same time creates a kind of disconnect- which is the exact opposite of what we’re trying to do in a marketing or networking context. Think about it. The simple act of physically passing a personal business card or some branded, promotional item to another person creates a connection. It’s a tangible thing in our increasingly virtual world that can be seen, remembered, and, yes, held onto.

Moreover, for those who are creatively inclined, the business card in particular can also be a powerful expression of identity and brand in a way that can simply not be transmitted via contact information alone. Just do a little research if you haven’t seen this for yourself first-hand. You’d be surprised by the design versatility of that little piece of cardboard. Finally, if you still crave the convenience of an electronic exchange you could always incorporate a QR code or something equivalent into your card that would take mobile users directly to your public LinkedIn profile.

In short, don’t expect business cards to make a disappearing act. They are a vital, real element in an increasingly virtual world.

Comments

  1. says

    Thanks Adam! Until really recently I had no idea how great business cards could be. To your point about branding, at a recent conference I was amazed at how many people said, “Love your logo”… not sure how that translates longer term, but it has got to be good even if it was just a way for them to really say, “I like you”. Also, the first thing I did when I got back from the conference was go through all my business cards and “follow”, “friend” or “email” everyone who I though might be a great connection. Cheers, Quinn

  2. Adam Gottlieb says

    Hi Quinn,

    Exactly, they help to establish a connection. Plus, another benefit to giving and receiving business cards is that you have to go back over them and actually remember who was attached to each card.

  3. says

    People like choice. For those who are kinaesthetic, arty, and possibly (ahem) older may prefer hard copy. Minimalists, enviro-conscious and total/”digitalites” would want the thin air version. I think giving them the choice could be seen as part of your business savvy. Thanks for introducing the discussion, I have been wondering about it.

  4. says

    It’s an interesting argument the whole “they are irrelevant” vs “they are still useful”. I wrote a post on my blog a year or so ago with some tips about creating useful business cards. The big tip I have is to make the card valuable and by that I mean include a call to action or offer on it – anything to prevent people from throwing it away. Preferably something to get them to act quickly to either buy from you or make contact. We all know that most business cards just get filed away… or thrown away. So making the card itself a coupon or voucher is one way to extract maximum value from it.

  5. Adam Gottlieb says

    Hi Christine,

    Having both options is definitely a good idea. That way, you can change your approach depending on who you are speaking to.

  6. Adam Gottlieb says

    Hi Greg,

    That’s an interesting idea, and I can definitely see how it would help with follow-up. The only downside I could see with this is having to reprint cards more often so that the offer is relevant and fresh.

  7. Allison Hubble says

    I use my cards all the time. I own a retail shop so my card are focused on what’s at my shop, hours, location. When I’m talking with a fellow swim mom or run into someone I know at the store, I can just hand them my card so they have all the info. For those who don’t want to have to hold onto a card and are more digitally minded, you can always add a QR code, they can scan it, get linked to your website and have it on their phone when they need it.

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