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#105: Have Business Cards Passed Their Expiration Date

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, August 6, 2009
I used to use a lot of business cards but not lately. Are business cards still useful?

The business card custom started a long time ago and were used in a very different way than they are used today. What we now call business cards started as "tradecards" in early 17th century England. Because there were few newspapers or public advertising, these tradecards often contained a map or directions to a merchant's place of business. Two things changed over the centuries. First, the number of businesses multiplied into the millions, with each merchant having their own cards. Second, the use of the cards expanded into social arenas and were termed "calling cards." In this case, cards were handed out to those one visited as well as would be given to someone to whom you want to be introduced. Eventually, everyone seemed to have business cards and used them liberally.

Only you can determine whether business cards create value for your business, but I see drastically lower use than even a decade ago. Part of the reason is the availability of business information through search on the Internet. Also, the "networking mixer," although still conducted, is less popular than a decade ago, resulting in fewer pocketfuls of business cards than a decade ago. Instead of handing someone a business card, you can even beam your contact information from your phone.

Tip: One practice that can increase the value of your business card is to include more than just your contact information. After a business trip, conference or large meeting, how likely are you to remember the details of each person whose card you now have? Use the reverse side of the card to list your services, explain your brand, or make a specific call to action. This will make it more likely that the recipient of your card will both remember and act on the card in the way you intended.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  marketing  publicity  sales 

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R. Mallory Starr Jr. CMC says...
Posted Sunday, August 9, 2009
I think a theme in the US is that business cards are less used. Or, more accurately they are less valued and often just ignored by many US business people. Several years ago when I went to IMC meetings and also to meetings with US business people at seminars, conferences, or just networking meetings it seemed that business cards were looked at more closely than today. In the last few years I have seen that when in meetings with internationals, cards are exchanged and often carefully looked at. This is especially so in Asia -- when you hand out a card usual protocol is with 2 hands and carefully looked at and often put on a table for reference and then later put in a pocket. Compare this to the behavior of many US business people including individuals at IMC events -- you hand them a card and it is not even looked at but is most often put into a pocket and ignored. Does this behavior project a message?

R. Mallory Starr, CMC
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Keith Thirgood says...
Posted Monday, August 10, 2009
As a marketing consultant, I completely disagree with the suggestion that consultants put all sorts of stuff on their cards, filling both front and back. You end up with a mini-brochure. In my experience, this simply makes you look hungry for business.

Successful consultants don't look or act like they 'need' any new business. No one wants to hire someone who is hungry, unless they hope to get you at cut-rate prices.

It's also a mistake to dismiss cards as irrelevant or old-fashioned. Your card is the least expensive of your marketing tools. Beaming your contact information onto someone's phone doesn't help carry your brand across. You simply become one of thousands of identical electronic listings. Whereas, a well-designed card can help reinforce your brand. (And you have a brand whether you plan to or not, but that's another subject.)

Keith Thirgood
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