What’s in a Business Card?

Business cards have been a staple in professional environments for decades, but it’s only been in the past 10 years that we’ve seen a swift change in the way people use them.

With the onset of digital printing companies, business cards have also become cheaper and easier to get. Every piece of direct mail come with a business card or two, and if you attend networking events you can expect to leave with dozens of cards in your pockets.

Many are expecting for business cards to turn virtual in the next few years. And with people embracing online business profiles like Linkedin, and new devices like Poken, the market for virtual business cards has opened up. This article, by Mashable contributor Josh Cantone, titled Why Your Next Business Card may be Virtual, talks about the growing trend of swapping information digitally, and if the business card is truly dead.

As the article points out, it’s true that virtual business cards can be more cost effective than paper cards, and have the advantage of being constantly updated. Cantone quotes an events manager who says, “If I’m connected to someone on Linkedin, I’ll always have a way of finding them. If you rely on a business card and the person moves on, you’ll get nothing but a bounced e-mail.

Popular blogger Chris Brogan weighs in in an article titled Make Your Own Business Cards, saying that while it’s important to keep up with the times and maintain virtual contact information, he doesn’t “think we can manage our identity transfer ONLY online.

Another indication that times are changing, the main purpose of collecting business cards and information is shifting. Many marketers will now tell you that a majority of the business cards they collect get put on a mailing list, or an email newsletter list, and aren’t collected with the intention of making a direct and active connection. Opinions vary on this, some expressing extreme displeasure with being “spammed” by emails after every networking event, while others recognize that the landscape of sales and marketing has changed, and this new tactic is just a fact of life.

Whatever your opinion, understanding or angry about email blasts, pro or con virtual business cards, it’s still important to be prepared for change in the industry. My two cents? Don’t throw away all your paper business cards, it will still be a long time before people let go of that tradition. But start looking into virtual business cards and business profiles, because it will only become more important to demonstrate a knowledge of new business practices.

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