Technology potentially eliminated the need for a common business tool
While working on marketing and branding for a business, I started on the business card, which got me to thinking, “Does anybody really use business cards anymore?”. I get why they’re handy, obviously, but when we are living in a society that you could just as easily add someone’s contact information to your smart phone as you could be taking their card, are they worth the hassle? I took a dive into business cards to prove (or disprove) their relevance.
So, we know that business cards have been used amongst business professionals for a long time, but I never guessed how long. Did you know that forms of business cards have been traced back to the beginning of the 17th century in London, England? Originally, they were called trade cards. Seems crazy, right? I thought so too, but it just goes to show the power of connectivity over the years.
Speaking of connectivity, we live in a world that is more connected than ever. We can find almost any of the information that we need to with a quick Google search. So why would we need a business card? If you have the name and/or company that you’re looking for then you have most of what you need to find out contact information for that person or business using tools of today. Not to mention, we have a dozen and one ways to connect with a person nowadays. Email is becoming one of the most reliable ways to communicate with other business professionals rather than just picking up the phone. Connecting with your peers is easy through other mediums such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. The average internet user has five social media profiles. That’s five additional ways to reach out to others that weren’t available twenty years ago.
Let’s be honest, your smartphone is never far from your side. I find it so sad that when I don’t know where my phone is it sends an almost panicked feeling throughout my body. (Pathetic, right?) We feel this way because we are used to the feeling of being available to everyone all the time. Checking our social media profiles, reading the news, texting our friends for a Saturday dinner, emailing a colleague about a deadline, and so on. Fact is, we have that thing glued to our hand. When it goes to reaching for someone’s business card, isn’t it more natural for us to simply get their name and use our phone to connect with them instantly? If it’s someone that you’re seriously planning on doing business with you’re going to take the extra 10 seconds to add them to your contacts rather than risk losing their business card with all their information.
So, we know why business cards might not be relevant anymore, let’s focus on why they are still relevant.
Plain ole advertising. While digital is taking over, older practices aren’t always synonymous with irrelevant. Using your business card to get your name out there is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to promote yourself and your business. I know someone that leaves his business card at almost every business he visits. Whether it’s leaving it with the check or putting it up on a bulletin board in the bathroom, he makes sure that he increases his potential audience wherever he goes. Can he say that he’s gotten a deal every single time that he’s left his card somewhere? No, of course not, but just like a billboard or some other public-facing advertising he is building his exposure and ultimately building the number of people that are calling on him and his business. That might be 1 out of 100 cards left, but that’s one more than someone who didn’t leave one at all.
I’ve spoken a lot about the rise of the Digital world and the importance that it has on our personal and professional lives. While this remains true, sometimes getting back to the basics is just the niche that you need to build rapport with your potential customers. Handing your business card is a soft invitation to allow them to explore your business and the value that you can add on their own time and consume the information that they want to consume. Educating the buyer and injecting into their buyer journey at the right time with the right information is the entire point of inbound marketing.
Business cards are an expression of creativity. If you are working in an industry that thrives on creativity and ingenuity than having a business card that symbolizes how unique you are can be a large asset for yourself and for your business.
Ultimately, I have found that business cards are not irrelevant if the person using them keeps them from becoming irrelevant. Making sure that the design and information are kept current, making it a habit of carrying some cards on you, using the cards when you have the opportunity and following up on those that are given to you are all ways to ensure that this practice doesn’t become out of date. Using the tools that you must increase awareness of yourself and your business is never out of style.