Is it time that the business card went the way of the fax machine?
I met with some potential clients and partners at a content marketing event last week. I came home with about half a dozen business cards in my inside jacket pocket. I have folder in my office where I store these things.
As I was depositing the new arrivals with my existing collection of business cards, I realized that I know who very few of these people are – and that I have never opened that folder to look for someone’s card in order to contact them.
So, what are these things for, and are they accomplishing that goal? Presumably, they are to help people acquire new contacts, be memorable to those they meet for the first time, and make it easy to keep in touch.
In all cases, no. They don’t accomplish those goals. Comparing the newest cards I’d collected, I found five things almost universally wrong with them.
Here’s the problem with your business cards.
You have a business card. If you hand your preprinted card to someone, that is an excuse for them to forget about you. They don’t need to remember you, because they have your name, title, and contact info in their pocket.
The trouble is, that card is either going to be thrown out, lost, or filed in some index of business cards never to be seen again.
If you actually want to keep in touch with people you meet, be memorable. Have an engaging conversation, and end it with, “let’s connect online.” When we want to connect with our peers and partners, we look them up. We connect with them on LinkedIn.
Your information is probably out of date. I told you that I collected six business cards at the CM event. Two of them, that’s one third, had information updated in pen. One was a new phone number, and the other had felt the need to update his job title.
A hand-edited business card doesn’t look great, but that’s not the real problem. When I looked at the folder of business cards I’ve collected, I realized that even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t use these to get in touch with someone. There’s too great a chance that they won’t have aged well. People change jobs frequently. Contact information, phone numbers, job roles, all move around. I would get much more up-to-date information by looking people or companies up online than I would from cards I collected last year or even longer ago.
It has two phone numbers. Every one of the business cards, that’s 100 per cent, had two phone numbers. They all offered a land line and cell phone number. That’s too many options. If you prefer to be called at your desk, then just put that number down. If you want calls on your mobile phone, then give people that number.
The natural inclination is to call a land line first. It’s the top number. But when you don’t pick up, should I leave a voice mail? Does anyone check voice mail messages anymore? Or should I hang up and immediately try your cell? Is that too pushy? Did you list it just for emergencies when you are away from the office, or is it an equally legitimate contact method?
All of this uncertainty is annoying to potential contacts. Just give them the one phone number you’d prefer they call, and end it.
It has a fax line. Four out of the six business cards – over 60 per cent – included a fax number. Now, that’s three things that look like phone numbers on a small piece of cardboard. Not only is that a lot of numbers crammed into a small space, but really, it’s 2017, is someone really going to fax you?
In my entire life, nobody has ever faxed me. I think I may have sent one or two, but not in the last decade, and even then, I thought the offices that required them were dinosaurs.
Say hello to all the spam I want to send you. I don’t actually mass email people, nor do I want to. But I could. For as long as you are at the particular email address printed on the card you gave me (which admittedly probably won’t be that long), my company and I can email you as often as we like.
Why? Because while Canada has some aggressive anti-spam laws (CASL – The Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation), giving someone your business card constitutes written permission for them to contact you by email. It can be the same as subscribing to all of their communications until you unsubscribe yourself.
Skip the business cards. Connect with your contacts online. You’ll be able to put a face to the name, see each other’s social media posts and insights, your contact information will always be up-to-date, and you can keep in touch with your network throughout their career transitions.
People say that social media friends aren’t necessarily real friends, but they’re still more genuine connections than passing a piece of cardboard to someone in a crowded room.