Are Printed Business Cards Obsolete?

The conference was fantastic.

I attended lots of sessions where I learned new things, I got a good sense for where my industry is going, and I had lots of great one-on-one, eyeball-to-eyeball conversations.

In the past, my first activity when I returned home from a conference was to place a giant stack of business cards on my desk, and enter the information into my contacts.

This week, it hit me that I came home with only a small stack of business cards, and most of them were from vendors I spoke with in the exhibition area.


What has changed?

  • A shift toward authentic connections, rather than business transactions
  • Social networks now contain the vital contact information
  • The world moves too fast for print; we all have half-full boxes of cards with old titles, phone numbers, and emails
  • People change jobs and companies more often
  • More online networking than offline…no need for thousands of cards

But there is still a place for printed business cards.

The Case for Business Cards

They provide a tangible reminder of a moment in time. I know some who jot down a quick note on the back of business cards, either to remind themselves of where they met or some physical characteristic of the person to aid in remembering their name later.

Personality/branding and succinct messaging. Your business card can sometimes give a more precise and quick summary of your business than you can, off the cuff. For situations where an elevator pitch isn’t feasible (in an actual elevator, for example), a quick handing over of the card and “please call/email me when you have a moment to talk” might work.

Stand in for your physical presence. When I bought my last car, the salesperson handed me several of his business cards to give to my friends/family who might be in the market for a car. Handing out business cards can make it easy for your customers to refer people to you, and ensure that your messaging isn’t mangled in the translation.

The Case Against Business Cards

Startups can save money. Cards aren’t really that expensive, but if you add up the design time, printing, and reprinting, along with the waste, it might be an expense that a small startup can skip.

You may work harder to make an impression. My friend Lisa Jenkins told me once that, “if I can’t remember you without a business card, you didn’t make a very big impression!” I like the idea that the force of your personality or the strength of your connection will leave a memory stronger than a piece of paper.

Save trees, resources. I probably have a full forest worth of old business cards in my office. The move toward paperless communication is leaving printed business cards, brochures, and other detritus of the old system behind.

Where do you stand? Are you still handing out paper business cards? What do you do with the ones you bring home?

Author’s Bio: Rosemary O’Neill is an insightful spirit who works for Social Strata — makers of the community platform. Check out the Social Strata blog. You can find Rosemary on Google+ and on Twitter as @rhogroupee

Featured image via Flickr CC: Geoffrey Franklin

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