The role of business cards is changing in our ever more digital world. A business card is used primarily for exchanging contact details with the aim of growing a relationship. While the form they take may change, the main purpose of making sure people remember you and your USP is as valuable as ever.
In the past, physical cards were the norm, but now digital cards are widespread and ever more popular. Some argue that digital cards are more environmentally friendly, as there’s no paper waste involved. Whatever form they take, cards are still a useful business tool.
LinkedIn vs business cards
Many people prefer to connect on LinkedIn, but a business card may add a more personal touch and can include additional information. When you need to talk with a business contact right away, it’s valuable to have their personal mobile or email. Most business cards should usually have those details.
Not everybody uses LinkedIn regularly, but they will respond to a personal email or phone call. Whilst it’s possible to include personal contact details on your LinkedIn profile, this is not something that everybody feels comfortable with.
Where LinkedIn does come into its own, is when your contact changes jobs and contact details, as you can retain the connection whatever company they are with.
What’s a business card and what’s it used for?
A business card is really about making connections easier. That could be with your existing business network, or it could be with potential clients. Traditionally it’s a piece of card, about the size of your bank card, but these days there are a host of digital alternatives.
Physical business cards
Physical business cards have the benefit of being a tangible reminder of your meeting and can help you stand out if they reflect your brand distinctively. Assuming your counterpart has a filing method (a big if!), it means they can find your details easily even if they can’t perfectly remember your name, just by scanning through their cards.
If you value physical business cards but are concerned about the environmental impact, there are now a range of business cards created from 100% recycled materials. These eco-business cards are made from various things, including recycled paper and cotton - some actually from reclaimed t-shirts.
Virtual business cards
The beauty of a virtual business card is that it can integrate into your digital ecosystem (and doesn’t rely on the recipient having a physical filing system). It can also convey a lot more information in one go - including your website address and link out to your social media profiles. It’s also usually very easy to customise the design and edit the information. You can share it by email, QR code or SMS. Some include an option to generate a smart button link on your email signature.
Hybrid business cards
Finally, there’s a hybrid busiess card. For these, the physical card has a QR code included in the design. When you want to share your details, the other person just scans them in off your card, with a tap of their phone and QR reader.
Business card layout and information
Both physical and digital business cards are usually offered with a wide range of templates and design build. The virtual kind can also offer the option of including additional content, even for example a short video. Bear in mind that you want your contact details to be easily accessible and not buried in overly complicated and fancy designs.
Business cards can be a great way to get across the personality of your business and brand, whether that’s through the logo, brand colours, language or value statements. Whatever you choose though, keep it simple.
What to put on your business card
Your business card should contain information that you’re happy to share and would normally consist of:
- Your name
- Company or business name
- Office number
- Mobile number
- Social media profiles
- Business address (less common these days)
What to do with the business cards you receive
Digital business cards are usually very easy to save. You can often export the cards directly to Google or Outlook, or your CRM (customer relationship management software). You could generate CSV files. Some digital card apps are actually able to scan a physical card into your contacts. If the cards are physical, then a simple file card box could work.
In terms of data protection regulations, many interpret these to mean that you personally can contact the person who gave you the business card - that’s why they shared the card. But you cannot use their information for marketing purposes, or include them on a client mailing list. For all those cases, you’d need to get their clear consent. It’s quite common to ask someone if you can use their details to send your regular e-news, but remember to keep a record that permission has been given.
Good business cards, when used well, can help mark the start of a profitable relationship for both parties.