Business cards are “irrelevant, wasteful—and just plain lame.”
Or so wrote LA Times contributor Matt Stevens in a recent article that misguidedly weighs in on the role of business cards. With this decline of interest in business cards, many printers are feeling the loss.
IBISWorld Inc. found that printers reported $211.1 million in sales in the business card segment, a 13% drop from 2006. Business cards have fallen on hard times in a digital world that values electronic connectivity over old-fashioned personal contact.
And yet—Stevens’ gloomy article notwithstanding—business cards still retain their importance in international business, conferences, and, believe it or not, our digitized world.
In Asia, business cards have a strong cultural and ritualistic importance, as well as a strict etiquette. They are more than a contact exchange; cards serve as a first impression. If you’re dealing with overseas clients at all, especially in Asia, you should have a proper business card.
In the Western world, people are getting creative with their business cards. From paper to ink, textures to graphics, business cards are evolving into something much cooler than contact information.
Cards and social media accounts (such as LinkedIn, About.me, Twitter, and Facebook) are often said to perform the same function: turning meetings into business connections. But a professional can benefit in different ways from both networking tools.
History Repeats Itself—Business Cards Reconnecting with Their Social Roots
Business cards have been around for a while: first as visitor announcements, then as mini-advertisements, or trade cards, and now as contact information carriers. At the peak of their popularity in the 1890s, trade cards were a collectable, premium advertising for businesses; they attracted attention because they had something that magazines didn’t: color.
Vintage-inspired Business Card via agbeat.com
As the adage goes: history repeats itself. Business cards have fallen behind mobile technology as the most efficient way to exchange contact information; however, they can provide benefits no online profile—no matter how fancy—can hope to match. They’ve become an outlet for personality and an alternative kind of marketing. Some of the business cards of today will floor you with their creativity; a card that is restricted solely to contact information should be burned for misuse.
Unlike a social media profile like LinkedIn, a business card is a tangible reminder in a digital world. Notifications get lost in new interactions. Emails end up in spam boxes. But a card, which someone will invariably study at least twice, can at least serve as a reminder before being thrown away. And if the card has the right style and information, it leads to further interaction.
Think back to the last business card you were handed. What did you notice about it first? What do you remember most about it? A QR code, perhaps? Shoddy design? Quality of the paper? A humorous blurb? Maybe it folded into something related to their business?
The sky’s the limit with what you can do with a business card. And it will leave a lasting impression about your personality, what you do, and how you do it.
Social Media in Business Networking
via The New York Times
Social networks are the great gauge of our time—they analyze what people are talking about and sharing; they connect us on a personal level.
Tons of platforms exist solely to build your image. Whether you’re job seeking or looking to connect, there’s nothing like a great online presence for a potential employer or contact to find and explore. No one will argue that. But there are some things technology can’t do.
We’re in a generational shift, where people who grew up with the power of business cards and people who grew up with mobile technology share the workplace. LinkedIn is a great place to forge connections, but a great many connections start at conferences or in the everyday world.
Don’t be Afraid to Mix Eras
By CameraGeek 2.0 via Flickr.com
Times are blurring. Some people still read newspapers, others get news tweets on their phone. Another might more readily pick up a Kindle instead of a book. It varies by person, age, and personality. In the business world, you’re bound to at least meet one person who prefers a business card to a LinkedIn request (and vice versa).
Business cards and social technology shouldn’t be individual networking techniques—their natures complement each other. Using both keeps your options open with whomever you meet.