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The Case For — And Against — Business Cards

The Case For — And Against — Business Cards

At a time when we can store thousands of images on our smartphones and millions of records in a server, it’s kind of amazing that some of the most critical data about our professional lives still fits neatly on a small piece of cardboard. Long before digital communications tools like email and

At a time when we can store thousands of images on our smartphones and millions of records in a server, it’s kind of amazing that some of the most critical data about our professional lives still fits neatly on a small piece of cardboard.

Long before digital communications tools like email and social media platforms like LinkedIn, business cards represented the fastest, easiest way to gather contact details and use them to build a relationship. This was true whether you were a sales rep talking to a prospect, a marketer considering a purchase from a vendor, or an employer thinking about hiring a potential candidate.

Even as companies became more sophisticated in how they approach sales and marketing, it was not uncommon for them to talk about needing “business card-level” data. This was what drove the early design of landing pages for lead generation programs, event registrations and newsletter subscriptions.

Today, it’s easy to dismiss business cards as old fashioned or out of date, given all the other ways we are able to connect with one another. To do so might be a mistake, however, especially at a time when companies are trying to be more customer-centric than ever.

The key to providing a great customer experience, after all, is by giving customers the choices they want. This not only includes a choice of products and services, or a choice of pricing tiers, but modes of data collection and communication as well.

It’s the reason companies still have printed marketing materials in addition to digital and social media ads, or why companies continue to invest in trade shows and conferences rather than work solely via online video or webinars.

Plus, business cards often contain a lot more than we realize. And you don’t have to squint to see it all. Read on:

The fine print on business cards

Beyond a business professional’s name, company name, physical address and phone number, business cards might offer:

  • Social accounts: Some business cards will not only provide easy reference to the employer’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram but also personal accounts. This is a great way for marketers and sales reps to get a sense of their interest and contribute to the conversations they’re having on these platforms.
  • Academic or professional accreditation: Business cards might help you assess the level of knowledge a contact will bring to a discussion, based on the courses they’ve taken or degrees they’ve achieved. If they belong to an industry association, it might be one you want to join or learn more about to find similar connections and prospects.
  • Company slogan or mission statement: The better you understand a brand’s purpose, the more likely your conversations with an employee of that brand will resonate. Deconstruct these slogans to look at the pain points they might be experiencing in trying to live up to their mission, or just how they’re trying to serve their own community.
  • Awards and recognition: If a company wins a ‘best place to work’ award, they might put that on the next business cards they print. If they’re a market leader, they might boast about their number of customers or the breadth of their locations. This is all information that can inform sales and marketing strategies.
  • Additional online resources: Some companies will go beyond adding their main website URL and have links to their flagship products. Others might have a QR code on the back which can be scanned with a smartphone to see a specific landing page or even a video. Don’t ignore anything you see on a business card, because it was put there for a reason.

Why (and when) you can leave business cards on the table

One of the problems with business cards, of course, is that they are easily lost or misplaced. You might find some important ones in a jacket pocket months after meeting a contact, and if you don’t spell their name correctly (or don’t remember their surname), they might be hard to find online.

This is why, instead of avoiding business cards or trying to live life without them, the emphasis should be treating them as just another channel, or touchpoint for data. That means capturing them in a secure way, analyzing them and putting what you learn into action.

Few companies formalize this kind of process, but imagine what might happen if you trained your staff to take a picture of every business card they get, the moment they’re given one, with their smartphone?

Then, mandate that whatever details are found get entered immediately into a CRM like Sales Cloud. When you stack a bunch of business cards together, all you get is a stack. When you enter business card data into a CRM, though, business growth starts to happen.

Building off business cards to a data-driven strategy

You can obviously put that CRM data to work in nurturing an opportunity, of course, but that’s not all. In your next sales, marketing or corporate strategy meeting, discuss what wasn’t included on the business card.

Most likely, a business card won’t indicate whether or not a company is in the market for a particular product or service. It won’t spell out their budget or their purchase process. The business card also likely leaves out how the person who gave it to you would prioritize their contact preferences: whether they prefer a phone call as a follow-up, for instance, versus an email or a text.

You don’t have to keep business cards in your wallet or desk forever, but they can be a way of brainstorming the gaps in your CRM data and other digital tools that help your business thrive.

It might also be a way to rethink how your own company approaches the design and use of business cards — what do you want people to have in the palm of their hands every time they walk away from that initial meeting? How can you empower them to take the best next step, particularly in terms of transitioning to the digital channels where the relationship is most likely to evolve?

As surprising as it might be to say this on the eve of the year 2020, the answers to all these questions might be in (or at least on) the cards.

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