Design companies and printing companies will tell you that without a business card, you're ruined. It makes sense; business cards are cheap to make, easy to sell, and have large profit margins. You'll also hear from many other business owners and professionals that having a card is an essential part of networking.
However, this isn't 2002. You don't need a business card in today's world. In the past, business cards were a great way of holding onto someone's information if you didn't have a cell phone and needed to call them later. But today, there are many other options for getting in touch that is easier and way more effective.
Essentially, business cards are outdated.
If you're like me, when you think of business cards, you probably think of briefcases. When was the last time you saw a briefcase? Don't buy the business cards.
A business card is a simple tool for sales or marketing, and, like any tool, it should be used with intent. But most people throw their cards around, giving them to anyone, hoping that others will keep them and someday call.
But they don't. If we are being honest, they haven't called for a long time.
They get home and throw the card aside or put the info in their contact list and forget the people who gave them the card in the first place. Yes, even the cleverly designed or expensive-looking cards rarely serve as a reminder of their source.
Think the time, money, and effort put into something that's going to either be thrown away or forgotten. You can use your resources more effectively than that.
If you look carefully, you'll see that most of the articles saying you need business cards are the ones selling them. Business Cards are cheap to make, and with more and more businesses going digital, printing companies are trying to hold on for dear life.
The dairy industry is going to tell you that you need to put cheese on everything, the tobacco industry is going to encourage you to smoke more, and printing companies are going to tell you that you need to print hundreds of business cards.
They have too much skin in the game to give you an honest answer. We don't. You don't need business cards.
When you are networking, you are looking to connect with people who can help you. They might be potential customers, connectors, mentors, or other people of value to your company. But not everyone in the room is worth your time. You want to build a relationship with those who are. And business cards rarely get that relationship started.
If you're networking and someone asks you for your card, you already know they have some interest in working with you. This interest provides you with an opportunity to connect in different and memorable ways. Ways that aren't going to end up crumpled up in the bottom of someone's sweaty pocket.
For example, LinkedIn has a feature that allows you to trade information quickly. You can add this person to your network. Or, you can send your contact information right to them in a text message. Connecting with people this way is much more direct and doesn't cost you a cent.
After all, dating and building business contacts follow pretty similar strategies. Whether you're at a conference, a bar, or a coffee shop, a lot is going on. You don't have a lot of time to speak to anyone, and there's a significant chance you'll forget most of every conversation you had.
Sure, you could scribble down your number on a napkin or hand out your business card. But the person could accidentally throw it away, or it could be forgotten at the bottom of a purse or pocket. If you just met the love of your life or business contact that is going to change everything for you, would you leave it up to them to follow up?
No, of course not. At least you wouldn't if you didn't want to leave things up to chance. You'd put your number in their phone, and you'd text or call them so you could follow up with them at a later date.
Now that you have their LinkedIn, their number, or the very least have exchanged email addresses, it's time to follow up.
When you're exchanging information, it's always a good idea to initiate further contact with them by following up on your initial conversation.
Maybe it's to send them an interesting link or article about the history of the coffee shop you met in, or it's more information about something you discussed.
If you want even to ask permission to send a follow up as you're saying goodbyes, that's even better.
If you take this approach, you have an advantageous opportunity for three reasons:
This third element is critical. You have the opportunity to make a real, lasting impression and develop a relationship. Please don't blow it. Here are three ways to keep things moving forward after you've made the connection:
As you can see, there are many different options and routes to take than a standard, forgettable business card. Make a stronger first impression by putting in my effort.
Please make your first impression count by initiating communication with prospective clients by truly showing them your personality, rather than a card they're more likely to throw away.
Ditching your business card may lead you to more meaningful and successful relationships for your company. But don't tell the printing companies that, I'm sure this article isn't going to make them happy.